A father’s duty is for life

As I think about the upcoming celebration of Father’s Day, I can’t help but dwell on responsibilities that never end.

Shortly before last Christmas, my 51-year-old son Michael called to ask if he could come live with us for a few months. As he put it, he had run out of options. His wife had left him, he had been evicted from the place where he lived, his car had broken down and had to be junked and he could no longer make the 75-mile daily round trip to the place where he worked as a cook. He would either live with us or on the street, he said.

For my wife and me, already in our seventh and eighth decades of life, it was a hard but inevitable choice. We said "yes."

Several months later, Sara, the younger of our granddaughters and Michael’s daughter, came to live with us, too. She had experienced violence in the household where she lived and decided she could not live there anymore. She also wanted to get to know her father, who had lived in another state far away. Again, we said, "OK."

Then more recently on a Saturday morning, the oldest of our three daughters called in tears. She had to vacate her apartment that day and, having only part-time work, had no money to pay the movers. She had to come up with $200 immediately or lose all her possessions. I gave her my credit card number.

Reflecting on all of this, I think that we have to be like our heavenly Father, who never gives up on us and is always ready to welcome us home, no matter how often we have failed or what disasters have overcome us.

Of course, we never know whether we will be able to live up to the challenges. A son who left home 20 years ago and seldom called or came home is a different person than the one we knew. A 19-year-old granddaughter already in college is far different from the little girl whom I taught how to ride a bike and took to the library every Saturday.

Inevitably, there are tensions, and there are times when, in a private moment, I tell my wife: "I miss the old life when we lived alone." But we are coping just fine.

Furthermore, there are many pluses. Michael drove me to the many medical appointments I had before, during and after surgery in both eyes. He has taught us how to cook better and often delights us with special meals. A man of many skills, he has also painted our house and installed new lighting where needed. Recently, he was able to get a job in the food service of a golf club.

When Sara came to live with us, I asked her if I could give her advice on where to find a job. She accepted my first suggestion and applied to a pharmacy where she now works full time, saving her money to return to college in the fall.

In doing what we do, we have to credit the culture of our fathers and grandfathers. My mother’s father raised two orphaned grandsons, and when he was old and widowed, he lived the rest of his life in our household, a family of 10 children. My other grandfather adopted two orphans, although he had 14 children of his own.

As our house is full, our hearts are full. Our son and granddaughter are moving forward and will soon be ready to be on their own. We sleep content that we can do something for them.

Sandoval is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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