I’m a few days late on this. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 15:11-32) was the infamous story of the Prodigal Son. One of my favorites, of course–no need to explain that one–but aside from the obvious (me being the prodigal son–ok there I explained it) I like the story for others reasons, too.
I’ve got two sons. If one squandered and messed up but then came back home I’d be thrilled and unconditionally welcoming. Like the Father in the story, all I would care about is that he had returned, humbled and reborn- and wanted to turn his life around. I’d probably run up to Publix, buy his favorite meal, call everybody to let them know he was back, make up his room with new sheets and fresh flowers, and take him shopping for new clothes.
But at the same time I’d be really intuitive to the other son, the one that stayed with me all along. His feelings of resentment are natural, but not healthy. And I’d figure out a way to instruct and walk him through this.
All the articles and posts and homilies on Sunday focused on one of these two characters, the repentant son or the prideful one.
My brain wants to focus on the father.
My dad is my hero. Now 80 years old, he’s lived such an interesting life. He is a great story-teller. I wish he would write all of his stories down so that I could pass them to my children. Story-telling is a terrific way to help children feel part of a “tribe,” a family. Before the advent of the printing press, most stories were passed on verbally. The stories of our ancestors in the Bible were originally passed on verbally. But today, I think it’s so important to write things down. That gives them a permanence and an accuracy. Especially if they’re written in first person.
Imagine if Jesus had written the Bible in first person? How interesting that would have been!
My dad was born in 1932 in upstate New York. It actually might not be called “upstate New York,” because it was the Catskills, not a place like Rochester or Syracuse. I don’t know much about his life before his father left them but after his father left his mother (he was I think about 8 years old) I love the stories of him helping his mother run things. A single mother and a divorced woman, I can only imagine the hardships my Nana went through emotionally and spiritually. I wish I could go back in time and hang out with her, help her.
My dad collected the eggs from the chickens, did odd jobs for the community and helped his mother run a boarding house to make ends meet. Last year, my parents took a trip and spent 3 weeks back in my dad’s hometown. They visited his old house and even spoke with the woman living there now who is renovating it. Good stuff.
Another way my dad made money when he was a boy was to caddie for the golfers at the nearby resort. In doing so, he learned the game of golf. He started playing and became quite good. The golf pro at the resort hired him to run the shop. My dad was very mature from a young age, probably because he had to be the man of the house after his father left.
The one room school house ended up being a tremendously instructive environment and my dad progressed quickly through the lessons, graduating high school at age 16. He took a year off, moved to FL to live with his father who had remarried and he played golf every day. After a year, the golf coach from the University of Florida discovered him and recruited him to play on full scholarship.
My dad really took to college life. He was a leader, not a partyer. He became president of his fraternity and president of the Lyceum Council on Campus which brought in a variety of entertainment and events to the University students.
I think he moved back home after college. And that’s when he met my mother. My mom, a true city-girl born and raised in Brooklyn, and her sister were vacationing at the resort and my Dad courted her. Those stories are priceless!
They married and he joined the army, which brought them out to Oklahoma. My mom was in culture shock! And she’d never driven a car so my dad taught her. She totaled his Jaguar. In the army, the boss discovered my father’s golfing talents so my dad’s “job” in the army was to run the golf pro shop and golf course for the officers and play on the golf team. On the golf team in the army, his teammate was the amazing PGA great Chi Chi Rodriquez.
After the army, my parents moved to Pensacola, FL and my dad ran the golf pro shop at the Naval air base. He became president of the Pensacola Sports Association (now on their “hall of fame” wall) and expanded the course from 18 to 36 holes.
Great stories from this time! Once he threw an officer out of the shop (literally, by his pants threw him out into the bushes) because the officer had belittled a private in front of my dad. My dad always looked out for the little guy—even when he WAS the little guy. They had nine children (I’m number 9!) in Pensacola, before moving to Atlanta to join an exciting venture to open a golf and country club. For fifteen years, he ran the club, had two more children and supported all of us with a very nice lifestyle!
Today, he and my mom live simply and in retirement he has gotten deeper into his Catholic faith, something he must have found difficult to do when working to support a big family. He got a PhD (or maybe a Masters degree, I can’t remember), has read all of Shakespeare’s works and every other work of classical fiction. He has made his Faith a study, reading Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and all the great works of the Doctors of the Church. He enjoys his grandchildren but I think the biggest lesson he’s taught me is the lesson of marriage.
He and my mom have been married 57 years. I’ve never seen them fight. They put each other first. Even when we were little, I always knew that their marriage was first, a priority above the children. I think this is so important. It’s something we miss in modern times because we put so much focus on the kids and neglect our marriages. But this focus on their marriage as primary taught me that marriage is a sacrament, for life, the bedrock of the family and the foundation needed to raise children.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, my Dad is the Father. Always open, always forgiving, always encouraging me to grow and celebrating it when I would. Where was the mother in this Gospel? hmmmm. Maybe I’ll write a short story from the mother’s perspective of this Gospel. That’s all for today. Time to wake the children, make breakfast and lunches and send them off to school.
- The generous father (opinion.inquirer.net)
- The 4th Sunday of Lent – The Return of the Prodigal Son (deaconcast.com)
- …Rembrandt, prodigal sons & Henri Nouwen … (rosesintherubble.com)
- 10th March – the Prodigal Son (bloggingontheway.com)