That point has just simply eluded me.
Each time I opened the laptop, my spirit closed... and I was unable to cogently place a clear thought on the compose page.
Until this morning.
I'm headed by boat into the City of Avalon, on Catalina Island. Each Wednesday the camp my wife and I are volunteering at brings the staff and campers together on the Blanche W boat and after a two mile boat ride, we dock at the Pleasure Pier, disembark and spend a delightful day in this lovely island coastal city.
That fact inspired me to write.
Dad's life was a complex one. Most of our lives fall into that category, I suppose, but Bill Mansfield's life was indeed that - to the degree that I could see it, as his third-born of seven.
I begin my brief thoughts by saying this: we can never really know our fathers and mothers. We can think we do, but our position as a child disallows us the proper balanced perspective to do so. The mere fact that we begin our lives as babies, totally dependent on them, hour by hour, day by day places them on a god-like level to the little mini-me that abides within us, long after we achieve adult status.
Our parents are simply too big to comprehend, for many years. Then, suddenly, they shrink.
I mean, really shrink - really quickly. Our adolescence falsely builds us up at the expense of tearing them down. Angry back-talking combines with surly attitudes to distance the "cool" us from the "stupid" them.
Often we see our parents for the deficits they have in their own lives. I saw them plentiful in Bill Mansfield. I began to detest him. And I enjoyed it.
How terribly sad. How terribly normal. How terribly unneeded.
That was the case for my dad, Bill, and me. Mom and I had very little tough times. Dad? Too many to count. Too painful to recollect. Too corrosive to capture.
And it never got better.
Until I was 37 years old.
My bride and I had been married for 16 years at that moment and our life had gone its own way, only occaisionally touching my Dad and Stepmom's world. Only when absolutely neccesarry. Why embrace fire, I thought. I had moved on.
But not really. My bride saw it in me - the corrosive acid was leaking out of its container onto everyone. Especially on to my kids and my sweet wife.
It was near Father's Day, 1993, and Bill Mansfield phoned us. Susan answered. When she returned from the call, she informed me that my dad would be stopping by our home in Boise on his way to his 50th high school reunion in Grant's Pass, OR.
And we'd be putting him up over Father's Day weekend.
My well-honed sarcasm was on full display.
The evening before Dad and Marilyn arrived, my bride, Susan, challenged me to write a tribute to my dad. I thought she was smoking Crack.
An argument ensued and she stood her ground.
In a fit of "I'll show you", I DID write the tribute.
When he arrived the next day, we had a great signature BBQ dinner (he was fantastic at BBQ-ing!) and I stood to read the tribute.
It was as if God came down into that dining room and healed us. Both of us. In an instant. In a twinkling of an eye.
And no one was more suprised than me. Not even my Dad. He was hoping for reconciliation with his child. All parents do hope for that.
And it happened. Susan and my kids were eyewitnesses to the change of heart, the love expressed, the ability to speak openly and the ability to receive criticism. God's hand had cleansed us.
And we were better men for it - for the next 19 years. Dad became one of my best friends. Forgiveness can do that to two men, I found. I saw him for the last time in April. We talked regularly, until Monday, July 30th, when Dad entered into the arms of the Savior who healed us.
And so I return to Avalon today. To think of Dad. To thank God for having given him to me as my father.
And to thank the Lord for changing my own heart.