My Dad and I Talked About Hard Things

My Dad has been gone for almost 32 years and – especially considering the times – it was surprising that he talked about so many controversial topics with me. I think it might have been because neither of us was afraid about shocking each other. He was very loving in sharing his opinions. From the time I was a teenager until he died when I was 34 we covered abortion, interracial dating and marriage, mental illness, alcoholism, what it was like to support Mom when she had cancer and what it was like after she died. And this was all before he found out he had cancer himself. He became even more tolerant after receiving the news that he had months to live – probably preparing to meet his gracious Creator. He wanted to be at least as tolerant as he believed God was.

(Note: He was never tolerant of anything having to do with Duke or – for some reason – Sears.)

If you are one of my cousins and Dad knew your family secrets, I probably know them too. I’m not sure why he confided in me, but I know some things that I’ve kept to myself. I think his point might have been that yes, people have affairs and unexpected pregnancies and transgender children and mental health challenges and financial difficulties and yet God loves us and Dad figured he should love everybody too.

Even though he talked about hard things with me, he never got over the fact that some people don’t believe in God. He considered that confounding. How can you live in this world (“It’s amazing what the LORD has let us learn!“) and not believe in God?

Dad often stopped the car and pulled over on the side of the road in Mt. Mourne, N. C. between Mooresville and Davidson to show us where enslaved people had been sold on a block by the train tracks before the Civil War. He didn’t offer much color commentary or ask “I wonder” questions, but he almost always pointed out the spot where families were separated “and that’s why it’s called Mt. Mourne,” he’d say. That history has been erased from current day Mt. Mourne if it was ever true.

But it sounded true when he talked about it. One of the largest plantations was right there by that auction block and there used to be an historic marker about the small slave market. It’s gone now.

Father’s Day and Juneteenth don’t always land on the same day, but I wonder what my Dad and I would be talking about today if he were alive. I imagine that his heart would be hurt by the fact that some enslaved people didn’t hear that they were free for more than two years after they’d been emancipated. They continued to live as chattel for two more years of their lives. He didn’t know that history growing up.

Dad was an easy crier and I think this would have made him cry if we’d talked about it.

I have only a vague idea of what happens after this life, but I pray that my Dad is with those men, women, and children who were held against their will now in the light of their Creator. And I hope God is as gracious as my Dad was.

Healing mercies to all who grieve today.

2 responses to “My Dad and I Talked About Hard Things

  1. It is good to deny Duke — they are from the Devil. Hahaha.


  2. Guy D. Griffith

    I remember reading _Waking Up White_ and being appalled by the level of sheltered life the author lived. Like yours, my father always had the hard conversations with me, especially about race and homosexuality. Although the only elected Republican judge in a Democrat Union town, he was remarkably progressive on so called “social issues.”


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