Lessons from Our Fathers

The child stood at the edge of the creek and waited. It was a small stretch of water, winding over rocks, but it seemed like a river. The flat rocks would skip over like fireflies, the round ones bounced to the bottom.

The father came once, calling the child by name, and then twice and three times, and they met there each week, secretly.

“Don’t tell your mother,” the father said. “She won’t understand. I’m not supposed to see you.”

“But why?” the child asked.

“It doesn’t matter why. It was a stupid time. I was stupid, she was stupid. We were young.”

They laughed and played. The sun shone brighter when the man was around, and the child loved the secret as much as the man himself.

“I won’t tell,” the child promised.

The week went by and the child fell asleep in the night, thinking of him. Dreams were filled with their adventures, and the next week the child waited at the edge of the creek for the mysterious man, the man who was larger than life.

Where is he? The child wondered. Doesn’t he care?

The following week the child went to the creek once more, waiting. Hours passed. Day turned to night. The secret would remain, forever.

The child went back to the creek every week for ten weeks, but the man never showed. As years passed, she thought about the man’s words often. I am your father, the man had said. Was it true? If it was, the child reasoned, the man must not care. The child’s heart grew cold.

One of the things that happens to us as we grow, is that our outside tends to match our inside, albeit subtly. You may have heard the saying hurt people, hurt people. So simple, but true.

When I meet an adult who was abused abandoned or rejected as a child, or even in their teen years, the walls aren’t hard to see. People who are hard and gruff on the outside weren’t born that way. We were all born innocent little infants, cooing and crying our way into the world. But the world can wound. Parents, friends, lovers, experiences, can cause permanent injury. The good news is that a cold heart can be unthawed, and old wounds can heal. Scars are won in every battle, the real trophies of this life.

What are your walls all about? Maybe you’re one of the rare, transparent people who have no walls, issues or residue at all. Congratulations! Or maybe you live with someone who needs a little love. That’s all it takes to break down barriers, and heal.

New York Times Best Selling Author