Embed from Getty ImagesThis is the continuation of a series of posts:
I’ve been wanting to close this short series, but I’ve been working on a number of projects and my bike keeps beckoning me to enjoy the summer weather. I could always write in the winter months. This week is unseasonably cool. Yesterday I rode to the office, and it hadn’t even touched 60 — and it’s July!!
Well, back in February, Cindy and I were making plans to visit Myrtle Beach again this summer. We thought we might try to locate my father again but in warmer months when we could enjoy the beach. I checked on the condo where we stayed last time, and they had some availability. We chose not to reserve it, though, because we learned — or at least, we thought we’d learned — that my father had moved back to Yuma.
We saw online that his latest (and newest) address is back in Yuma — in an area of town my mother said he was likely to live, where he has family. We flew to Arizona for spring break because of my sister’s wedding. We hadn’t been to Yuma in a month other than June, July, or August in quite a few years. The spring weather, especially after a long, harsh winter, was very accommodating.
With the address in hand, I made my way to his tiny apartment and with butterflies in my stomach, I knocked on the door. But it wasn’t him who opened the door. It was someone else who said Benny didn’t live there. Maybe the #6 was actually a #9. I get those mixed up all the time. So I tried that door and there was no answer.
A man, weathered by life, was sitting nearby in a lawn chair nursing a Miller Lite. He was friendly enough and asked who I was looking for. I gave him a description and he said he thought the man lived in #9 but that his car was gone, most likely at work.
A couple days later I tried again. The same man was sitting outside drinking another Miller Lite and he noted the man’s car was indeed in the gravel parking lot. I knocked on the door a few times but no one answered. “Keep knocking,” the man encouraged. “His car’s out there. I’m sure he’s home.” So I knocked further until a groggy man came to the door.
I couldn’t be sure at first if he resembled my father. He was about the same age and had similar features, which was why the man in the lawn chair had assumed it was him. But the man didn’t know anyone named Benny. Initially, I thought he might be lying, hiding his identity from the young man who stood on his stoop. I imagine my father has done it a time or two — feigned to be someone else, or rather, pretended not to be himself. But I studied his eyes and knew it couldn’t be him.
“That’s not him,” I said to the lawn chair man.
“Who’s this man you’se looking for? I mean, I don’t want to poke my nose where it don’t belong. Just curious is all.”
“Well, the man I’m looking for … I don’t know much about him or the way he looks … well, I think he looks probably like me, but thirty years older.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’m sorry. I hope you’se able to find him.”
Not that time.
Our trip was wonderful, as it usually is when we’re visiting family. Bittersweet, too — again, as it usually is with family. Though we love it here in Ohio, we always long to be close to our family, most of whom live in Yuma. The wedding was nice. It was the first I’ve ever officiated, and I was honored to do it. And I love the man Becky married. He’ll be wonderful for her.
As I flew home with the girls — Cindy stayed a little longer with Micah — I took home with me a sadness that I still haven’t been able to connect with my father. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, if I’ll ever have more than the phone conversation. I’ll keep looking, but it won’t be — and it hasn’t been — an obsession. I don’t need anything from him that God hasn’t already provided. He has been the father I’ve needed, and he has worked through older men in my life in the way that a godly father would have. And he still does.
But I want to be able to look in his eyes — the same eyes I see in the mirror each day — and tell him I’ve forgiven him, not because of anything he’s done but because of God’s grace in my life. Perhaps the grace I show will lead him to the Father’s grace. That’s the task I’ve been given, the task all believers have been given.
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NLT)