One of the memoirs I read last week was by Ian Morgan Cron, called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. I read it because Don Chaffer said that he is friends with Ian Cron, and that is a pretty good recommendation. I read it because it’s going to be a Discover Great New Writers selection for Barnes and Noble this fall, and I have found some pretty great things there before. And I read it because I kept reading excellent reviews such as this one.

I thought it was really fantastic, full of vivid stories of childhood, the hopelessness of adolescence and alcoholism, and moments of grace. It is his story of coming to terms with his alcoholic father (the CIA is minimal), which allows him to be more free to parent his own children. This was my favorite passage:

I would have given anything for my father’s love to not be a secret. Anything. A boy needs a father to show him how to be in the world. He needs to be given swagger, taught how to read a map so that he can recognize the roads that lead to life and the paths that lead to death, how to know what love requires, and where to find steel in the heart when life makes demands on us that are greater than we think we can endure.

A young boy needs a father who tells him that life is a loaner, who helps him discover why God sent him to this troubled earth so he doesn’t die without having tried to make it better. Most of all, a boy needs to be able to look into his father’s eyes and see admiration and delight. Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.”

To see delight in your father’s eyes is to see his belief that the party of life would be a bust without you. He may not know it, but from the moment he first glimpses his baby boy’s head crowning in the delivery room, a father makes a vow that with stumbling determination, he will try to get a few of these things right. Boys without fathers, or boys with fathers who for whatever reason keep their love undisclosed, begin life without a center of gravity. They float like astronauts in space, hoping to find ballast and a patch of earth where they can plant their feet and make a life. Many of us who live without these gifts that only a father can bestow go through life banging from guardrail to guardrail, trying to determine why our fathers kept their love nameless, as if ashamed.

We know each other when we meet.

I am married to a man with an absent father. I am the daughter of a man whose father was not around. Because of that, both Mike and I are drawn to stories of fathers and sons. My dad tried to help Mike, but we weren’t given enough time. His mentor helped, but we weren’t given enough time there, either. He is, in many ways, flying solo.

No one who knows him would be worried, though. To see him with Atticus is to know that the party has only just begun. They are already best buddies. I already believed in redemption, because my dad worked so hard to be present for us. But seeing Mike with Atticus, it teaches me every day about how strong Mike is and how hard he has worked to reinvent himself.

Atticus in July

Eleven years ago today, Mike and I started our family. Now we are three. Happy anniversary, boys.

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