Recently, my husband David ran onto a letter from his birth father, Lester. The absent father wrote it during his son’s 18th year. When an infant, divorce split my husband’s parents and Lester went his way – never to financially support his little red-headed boy or see him other than a time or two.
David was raised by a step-father who was often brutal in his discipline, but tried, never-the-less to give someone else’s kid a chance in life.
Lester grew another family and his first born seemed to be barely an inconvenient memory.
In the long forgotten letter, Lester asked for his son’s forgiveness: “Maybe you can see it clear enough to forgive me for not writing or calling you,” it said. “It’s a strange thing to get a little older and want people to think of you and like you.” He talked about how he worked hard in his every day associations to be viewed kindly by others in his life, but then “(I) pass-by someone as special as you are to me.”
Lester’s very late effort to connect with his son concluded by asking him to come “home,” and visit — but if not — “I would appreciate a letter that would at least forgive me for being a disappointment to you.” It was signed, “All my love, your dad — Les.”
My husband doesn’t remember if he ever responded to Lester’s plea. Today, he still calls his step-father – the man who gave him a family — “my father.” He’s a man who did his best – himself a product of a broken home who, despite his own, painful world, took a little boy and called him “son.”
Fatherless children are a multi-layered problem, including the fact some men don’t understand their power as a parent. Others choose self-centeredness, then, as with Lester, they awaken to reality on the back end.
Though courts are doing better in behalf of father’s rights, research shows that the vast majority of fathers “disengage” due to the “obstruction of access by a custodial parent anxious to break the father-child ties.”
The hard truth is, mother’s revenge can create the ultimate violation to a child’s world.
And, finally, kudos to you dads who know the truth of your value to your children and hang in there no matter what.
This problem affects every single one of us. Some call the missing dad, the “One Hundred Billion Dollar Dad,” which reports say is the amount the government annually spends on programs such as child support enforcement and anti-poverty efforts to support father-absent homes.
Taking a quick look at some numbers; 24 million American children (1 out of 3) live apart from their biological fathers. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Nearly one-half of those never see their father’s again. Overall, the scene is grim. There’s a lot of hurt and for sure a lot of hate.
• 90 percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
[U.S. Department of Health & Human Services., Bureau of the Census.]
• 71 percent of pregnant teenagers lack a father
• 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
• 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
[Center for Disease Control]
The numbers are an indictment against our society — a sign of extremely primitive, deeply undeveloped, social behavior; the ultimate American crisis. Excuses condemn parents as well as the child, and years later, as Lester learned, it’s often too late.
If you need help on reconnecting father and child, an amazing number of Websites offer suggestions. It’s worth the effort, especially if your children will not be celebrating Father’s Day this month.
East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.