Thursday, November 24, 2011

There and Back Again - Father

When I was a child, I was very shy. I do not recall there being a reason - I was just a little nervous and withdrawn. When I was out in public, I stuck fairly close to my Mom, or some other family member if she was not available. I remember hearing the words "clingy" and "scaredy cat" connected to my name. I hated the labels, but that was not enough to cure me of being bashful.

One Sunday after church, I got separated from Mom and my brother. I could not remember where the car was parked, so I decided that I had better hang on to Dad's hand while we were in the large crowd that had meandered out into the foyer. We stood in one place for a few minutes while Dad talked to some other men. I was not much taller than knee-level on most adults at that point, so the scenery was not great. I was getting tired of counting the buttons on suit coats and I looked up at Dad to ask if we could go. That was when the fear really hit me. This man who held my hand in his was not my Dad. Where was Dad? Why was this man wearing the same suit as Dad? How did I get switched up like that? How was I going to find anyone I recognized?

I'm sure that those adults that we saw twice on Sundays and again on Wednesday nights knew who my parents were and would not have let me get left behind. But I could not process that information at the time. All my mind would tell me was "be very afraid" and "you are alone". I remember taking off in a run, but I do not remember how I managed to hook back up with my parents and brother. They were probably not even fazed by me being apart from them for a few minutes.

Earlier this week, that same Dad whose hand I used to hold for comfort said some ugly and hurtful things to me. I don't think that his motives were malicious, but they were not pure either. He gets very angry when he cannot understand something and he has never understood me. I had been lulled into thinking things were different because we had been working so well together as a team since Mom passed away. I felt blindsided by some of the things he was saying. And I remember thinking, This is not the same Dad I have been dealing with since March. Where did that man go? Why was this man acting like the old Dad? How did we switch back so fast? How was I going to protect myself from this?

I'm sure that my loving husband would have stepped in to help me had he been here, but he was miles away at the time. All my mind would tell me was "be very afraid" and "you are alone". I remember wanting to run, but instead I just cried. I cried so much that my eyelashes hurt. My father did not seem to be fazed by the havoc he was wreaking in our home. He even came back down the hall and said, "one other thing I wanted to tell you was...". It was the worst of it. Should've run while I could still see straight.

Dad walked off after he told me "one other thing". He did not want to work through anything. He left early the next morning on a trip that will take him halfway across the country and won't have him home until after the new year starts. No phone call to tell me he reached his first destination safely. The old Dad seemed to have taken over again.

I have been trying to adjust my mind to this turn of events, but it is not cooperating. This was the last straw. I had already been trying to adjust to the fact that Charles and I would spend our first Thanksgiving without Mom (she loved Thanksgiving) alone in our home, away from my family (not by our choice).* I do not have any emotional energy left for more adjustments. Sadly, my sister predicted years ago that bad things would happen to our family after Mom died. She gets a point for calling it. She has not offered a prediction on whether or not we will be able to survive as a family unit. 


The day Dad left, while I was waiting for the swelling in my tear ducts to go down, a thought started echoing in my mind: "you could read that book". Not a welcome thought, mind you. Just owning "that book" is like having a caged boar in my house. It looks scary and is something I don't want to get too close to. I give that book a wide berth and in return it sits quietly on the bottom shelf of the bookcase. I was planning to deal with that book about six years from now, so why did my mind have to bring it up?

So let's not put any more lipstick on this pig (or wild boar) before we shove it out in the spotlight. "That book" is Father Hunger by Margo Maine, Ph.D. describes it thus: "The first edition of this book added the term "father hunger" to everyday language, to explain the emptiness, and resulting food and body-image disorders, experienced by women with physically or emotionally absent fathers." I do not have bulimia. I have "Eating Disorder not otherwise specified" (or EDNOS). It is a rather hard disorder to explain, but I can tell you a few things for sure:

  • I have had this eating disorder since I was a child.
  • I was officially diagnosed in 1999. 
  • I still feel shame about it.
  • My eating disorder has been in full bloom ever since Mom died in March.
  • My thought process with this disorder is very wrapped up in my relationship with/to Dad.

I was not going to write about any of this. I was going to ramble through the rolls of The High Calling members and find something interesting to introduce you to for There and Back Again

Of course, God is sneaky sometimes and He lured me in with a post called "Let's Get God Right" by Gary Ellis on his eponymous blog. Being a woman of many doubts, I thought "getting God right" was a bold claim and I was hooked for the reading. It is a short, powerful piece, and I cannot argue with anything Gary says. What let me know that God was directing this encounter were two sentences in the post:
In God’s design, it is the FATHER that establishes the sense of protection, provision, and personal identity in his children.

May I suggest that a good step in this direction is to also let your heart and mind release forgiveness for everything your earthly father may not have been.
I want so much to have a right relation to the Father identity of God. I just can't say how willing I am to have a right relation to my father. Forgiveness - as Gary suggests - seems out of reach for me. Even with all things being possible, I do not know how probable such a thing would be. I just know that God is not through with me on this subject. I have no idea how long the darkness before the dawn will last. Just please break me gently, Lord.


Finding Gary Ellis over at The High Calling and writing about his post is part of the "There and Back Again" writing project. If you want to read the who, the how, and the why, Charity has the instructions listed here. This project is enlightening and a good way to meet people at the same time. Please join us on Thursdays to write or just to read.

Don't forget to enter the Second Official Ragamuffin Giveaway! You can do that here.

*Our dear friend Mellie called today and said her plans had changed and that she would love to spend Thanksgiving with us. Her Mom died a few weeks ago, so she could use your prayers too.


  1. Carolyn - This all sounds so difficult, not at all the Thanksgiving you would choose. I am hurting with you. I am praying for you. I am trusting better times will come.

  2. Carolyn, I'm so sorry you had to go through this and at this time of the year, especially. Maybe the time apart will soften his heart. You're brave for sharing and know that I will definitely be praying for you. - Christine <3

  3. Powerful post, Carolyn. I pray the "new Dad" returns. I pray a happy Thanksgiving with your "loving husband." I pray grace to "abound all the more."


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