Be thankful to fathers, real or not

By Terry Pluto Beacon Journal columnist

For many people, Sunday is one of the worst days of the year.

It’s Father’s Day, and that can really hurt as we hear stories about great dads who were there for us when it mattered.

Some people say, “My dad was NEVER there.”

Or, “My father was there physically, but I never knew the guy. All he did was work and complain.”

Or, “My father married someone else. He liked the kids he had with that woman a lot better than he did me.”

Here’s something else that happens on Father’s Day — so many dads believe they are blowing it. They really are doing a good job with their families. You don’t need to grade them on a curve to give them at least an A-minus.

But down deep, they wonder if they are “doing it right.” They may not even be sure what “it” happens to be. They just sense they missed the mark.

So it’s a day with colliding emotions. A day some of us have to fight the jealousy of believing our father liked a brother/sister better than me. It’s also a day when some of us feel abandoned by our fathers. Or believe that we never measured up to what our fathers expected.

It can be a day when fathers wonder whether they are worthy of the title.

“People are much tougher on fathers than they are mothers,” said Bishop Joey Johnson of the House of the Lord.


“Because if your mother rejects you — the one who gave you birth — it’s so painful, many people just can’t go there,” Johnson said. “It’s easier to aim all the anger at the father. It can make it hard to trust any men if you feel your father did you wrong.”

Lots of fathers have made so many terrible choices with children — or bad decisions in life that tore apart the family. In some cases, it was the mother who left and took the kids — and the father can’t be the father that he longs to be.

It’s a mess.

A few fathers just die. It’s not their fault, but neither is it yours. At 10 or 12 or 17, you just know your dad is gone. Doesn’t matter if it’s cancer, a bomb in Iraq, a car accident.

I need him, and he’s not there. If there is a God, why did he allow this to happen?

That’s why this e-mail from Randy Barle meant so much to me: “I lost my dad at 16 and I was close to him. At 18, I went to work for old Fisher Foods. Your father was there and he took me in. He was morally strong and led me in the right direction. I’ll never forget that. I believe God led me there.”

Too many of us want the blessing and acceptance of a father who can’t or won’t give it. This day then feels so empty.

But there are times when other men are available. They may not be the father you imagined — or do fatherhood as you expect — but they come into our lives at just the right time.

Psalm 68: 5-6 records: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in

families…. ”

So much is made of the impact of fathers on sons, teaching them to be men. The power of older men to deal with young men is obvious when it’s done with the proper spirit.

But girls and young women desperately long for a dad, too.

“They need a safe man to tell them that they are beautiful, that they are a good person, that they matter to him and to God,” Johnson said. “Because if they don’t get that from a safe man, they’ll look for it somewhere else — and that can be terribly destructive.”

Johnson said we have to be open to some who are willing to be our “surrogate” fathers or grandfathers. You want to make sure that you know the man well. But if you do and he seems interested in helping and does it in a proper way — accept it.

Many people do have powerful stories of God “setting the lonely in families.”

Sunday should be about more than giving Dad a card, a tie or a stiff hug. It should be about being thankful — children for their fathers, biological or otherwise. And for the fathers to tell their children how much they really do mean to him.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at


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