Father’s Day is a conflicted day for me in many ways. I love being a father and grandfather; my daughter, Mikkel, my son, Lex, and my granddaughter, Reagan, are such beloved parts of my soul I can only be humbled with gratitude to have them in my life. I pray for them and thank God for them daily.
But talking about my own father, Bob, isn’t so simple.
I’ve written about my family history of depression and suicide, and that includes my father. He suffered from both alcoholism and bipolar disorder, and constantly went on and off his medication throughout his life. My mother and all of us kids were targets of his unpredictable mood swings and heavy drinking.
He would drive dangerously, curse and smash things in the house, and throw heavy objects.
And yet: He was generous with those in need. I never once saw him treat any animal on our farm or in our family with anything but a soft touch and voice. He always called out the vet to care for our farm animals, even an aging dairy cow who almost any rancher would have deemed “not worth it.” Our dogs were house dogs when not a single other family in our farm community would have dreamed of such a thing.
I’d go so far as to say that the animals were all that kept my father stable in his dark times, although in the end he took his own life.
So today on Father’s Day, I want to honor the good in him, and pray that the cycle of mental illness and suicide will be broken at last in our family. I wish for everyone who is struggling with their own darkness to find the comfort and help my father never did.
God bless you all, and if you’re reading this and suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts of any sort, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK; 800-273-8255; suicidepreventionlifeline.org). It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter what problems you are dealing with, people on the other end of the line will help you find a reason to keep living.