Distant Dads

Jan 16, 2016

Distant Dads


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world.
Question #2
Rite of Passage Two -Acquisition-

Q. Did you have only a passing relationship with your dad? How is it now for your son…with you?

Did father know best?

BompaI had a distant dad. He was a man of his time born in the early 1900’s and very British. He was unable to tell me that he loved me, or to show any of his deeper feelings. He was, by no means a dour and withdrawn fellow, in fact he was the perfect genial host, much loved by customers and staff alike in the post war hotel business where he flourished.

My problem lay in his return from serving in Egypt during the war. I was seven at that time and hardly knew him. All I remembered was being sent straight away to Boarding School, which turned out to be a very traumatic experience, one that I blamed on him for the rest of his life.

I had it wrong!

Several years after his death, I discovered that I had not been sent off ‘immediately’. He had been there for my mother and me for two years before that ugly school experience.

He was not to blame after all. I now have real regrets for having been a ‘distant son’, how different it might have been for us both.

As a victim I needed someone to blame and somehow I chose to overlook two whole years of our shared life.

I almost made the same mistake with my son. I was mostly distant by being almost a blur as I galloped about trying to meet hundreds of deadlines, rather than just ‘hang out’ with him and his sisters. I even sent him and his older sister to boarding school! Fortunately this has been forgiven and we are a much warmer and less distant family.

Your story is obviously different from mine but this one thing I know; if there is still time to be reconciled with a distant parent, take a deep breath, tell them you love them and just see what may happen.

Love covers a multitude of sins…it may not be too late!

Upstreaming on purpose!


  1. Sally Says: 1:44 pm

    My father loved me, of that I had no doubt. I was the son he never had even though I was a daughter, getting scruffed with dirt on billy carts and flying foxes with him. But he didn’t know ‘girls’ and as I grew he didn’t know how to relate. I never stopped adoring him, and every small smile brought joy to my heart. He never shared anything about himself, was really just the disciplinarian for Mum, of which I was often on the receiving end. So I left home at 16 much to his disappointment. After bankruptcy plunged him into depression, he rediscovered God and started going back to Church, then becoming a lay preacher. He gradually gained a warmth and openness to us, and when I moved America it broke my heart to say goodbye to him. He’s cared for my Mum through Alzheimers, watched her pass away and then rebuilt his life alone. He is a mentor to me, an amazing father, husband, preacher and I miss him terribly.

  2. Joe Whiting Says: 6:56 pm

    Well said Graham ! I perhaps was a bit of a distant Dad to my daughter growing up. I guess I was growing up myself. Age and experience have made me a very good grandfather and a much better Dad to my adult daughter. You are right on when you say it’s never too late. We all want the same thing, and that is love.

  3. Ian Says: 9:19 am

    Both my parents were alcoholics, and while my Father never became “a Friend of Bill”, he struggled to divorce himself from his addiction while staying married to his wife (who only gave up the drink after oral cancer gave her the chance to rethink her approach to life.) He died while I was in my teens, and it was only ten years later, while beginning genealogical research, that I became more familiar with my Father than I was able to while he was alive. Fortunately, I have his stories: printed prose that gave me then (and now) some insight into who he was – and who he might have been.

  4. Larry Ashby Says: 8:04 pm

    My perspective is as a father. Maybe I did something as my kids were growing that I don’t realize they hold against me. Or maybe they think I did but, in fact, I didn’t. I’m going to ask them as I see them over the next month.

  5. John Kairis Says: 5:33 pm

    Hello From a 1970’s PBS cooking show fan. I learned to cook real food through your show and cookbook! My family still ask for your Ground Chicken Eden now and then. My wife, Barbara, just said; “Yes, that is still one of my favorites!”. I purchased two of your more recent books but they are in a box somewhere because we moved this month. Sorry, back to the post comment. My father died when I was 15, so it was a forced distance. I thought I really tried my best to always be there for my children even though I flew all over for my career. I would leave on Tuesday AM and return Friday. I’d make sure I was back for their Friday night whatever, Band, Play, Recital, etc. I only learned a couple of years ago that one really didn’t agree that I tried but things are better now. My “distant” parent was my mother. I really did not like her. She was always so miserable. I made her distant on purpose. One day it dawned on me. She was miserable because her Husband died and left her with four children to raise alone. It dawned on me after one of my daughters died. When Jennifer died, I became the miserable one and distanced myself from the other daughter. Yea, a major stupid mistake. We are getting along much better now. We moved to be near them and our new granddaughter. One day before she died I called my mother and thanked her for giving me life. I have had a good life and I wanted her to know I appreciated what she did for us, and what she went through for us, before she died. I also blog. Your post is much shorter than the ones I do. It is great to hear from you again. If I can say hear that is when reading a blog. I’ll return as time allows and read more on your website.

  6. Anne Says: 5:08 pm

    My own family is half English and half Eastern European. As a child growing up with this lot, it was easy to see which side was one of great warmth and affection (and drama) while the other (the English) was very restrained in any show of affection. I’m so happy that these days the British have become much more open with their emotions and men have now grown to embrace being hands-on parents. Still, there are so many fractured families that “distant dads” are all too common and can lead to problems in the family dynamics. So sad. Thanks for your post.

  7. Georgina Says: 10:23 am

    When i returned as an adult to the grade school I attended as a child the school and the street seemed quite small. As an adult I still had the image in my mind of the street that seemed a very long distance. I would run from my home to school and the same for the return as I was a star runner for school. I loved to run. But the streets seemed so far away. Keep in mind that life and what is experienced as a child will appear different when one becomes an adult…so do not react to childhood recollections until you meet these experiences head on as an adult. The situation may be quite different good or bad. Twitter: Geotravel and hottotrot1

  8. Jean N Sozio Says: 3:53 am

    Fortunately I had a very close family life with both my mom and my dad but, ironically, cut short by illnesses – my dad passing when I was 6 and my mom when I was 25. I will be 61 in February. What I see as the tragedy in these “distant” relationships is mere communication. Parents/adults have obligations of survival that children are not aware of – do not understand by observance. Until one is an adult, the child’s life is one of non-control – “I” have to do this or that because I am told but I have no control over my own feelings or situation. I believe this is major stress build-up behind teen suicide. If we can just take the time to explain to our kids what being an adult requires and why we must be separated and what “temporary” is then perhaps a child would be better enabled and strengthened to hang in there for the long haul. Consequently too, if we see he child is suffering emotionally then, yes, I applaud the dad who can find compromise between both their predicaments.

  9. Margie Says: 10:37 pm

    My dad was a pilot during World War II and he rarely talked about his experiences. He grew up on a farm in California in a family that was barely able to make ends meet. I always felt he resented me and my brothers; the only emotion I ever witnessed from him was anger (at us)! When I was nineteen, I became pregnant out of wedlock. I am in my sixties now and my mother recently told me that my father wept when he found out I was pregnant. I was shocked to hear this and then saddened because he has passed and I learned too late that he really did care…..If he were alive today, I would try harder to get to know him.

  10. Laura Says: 3:23 pm

    So often we fill in the blanks about the whys, whens and hows of others’ actions, and so often we’re wrong. A valuable reminder, thank you.

  11. Carl Says: 1:13 pm

    Although I had a very close and loving relationship with my dad, your message is desperately needed today. I know many men who wish their relationship with their children had been different. But it’s never too late!

    A new friend, who I have the joy of sharing with in ministry to seniors living in an assisted living facility, has a remarkable story of reconciliation … forgiveness … and salvation. For years, this brilliant and successful educator was estranged from his son, who had left home to pursue his law degree, and subsequently achieved great success in a prestigious law firm in the mid-west. Sadly, this son turned to alcohol, and soon found himself homeless and living on the streets in Minneapolis. In his despair and hopelessness, God reached into his life through the witness of a street evangelist, and he committed his life to Christ. Within days, he knew he had to make contact with his dad … ask for forgiveness … and seek reconciliation. It had been over 10 years since they had contact with one another, and although my friend was still angry and resistant to reconciliation, he could tell that something remarkable had changed in his son’s life. After several repeated contacts with his dad, and a request to see him, my friend agreed to meet his son. That meeting resulted in my friend seeing his need for salvation, and praying with his son to commit his life to Jesus.

    That was 10 years ago, and today, both he and his son are engaged in full-time ministry in sharing the Good News. His son in a street ministry throughout the country, and my friend, here in Bremerton, with seniors.

    To God be the glory!

  12. Bradley Campbell Says: 12:00 pm

    Graham, my relationship with my father was 180 degrees the opposite. While he worked long hours to support my mom and I during the 60’s and 70’s, he was there for me for the important things. As I grew older, we grew even closer, and he honored me and my bride Pat by being my Best Man at our wedding. We lost him 25 years ago at the age of 59 – and a day never goes by that I don’t miss his laughter and wise counsel. Your point is so well taken, as so many of my friends have not been blessed the way I have. Thank you so much for sharing with us – you were one of my role models in the 60’s, and continue to be so 50 years later. Blessings and prayers!

  13. Don Wortham Says: 10:04 am

    Thank you for such a great illustration. Our present often colors and fixes our past without us realizing it. So important for God to constantly be in our present to properly “reveal” our past and perfect our perspective.

  14. Mike . Says: 9:50 am

    My mother and father were divorced in 1969 when I was four. My mother remarried in 1970 and my father in 1976. Soon after my father remarried, his wife isolated him from my brother and me. His weekend visitations became less and less frequent and phone calls ceased altogether. We saw him once in a while, such as at the grocery store, and talked to him for as long as we could before our stepmother grabbed him by the arm and commanded, “Let’s go!”. Regular contact with him stopped altogether by the time I turned 13.

    Believe it or not I see him all the time at the gym where we both work out, but he doesn’t know who I am. I am now 50 and he is 70. We talk in the locker room about this and that, but he knows me only as a gym member, nothing more. I can tell from his face though that I should look familiar to him, but he can’t place me. He once asked me if we had met somewhere. I was so taken aback by the question that I said no, I don’t think so.

    Should I tell him who I am? If so, how should I proceed?

  15. Bob Toombs Says: 9:31 am

    Thanks Graham. This was SPOT on for me.

  16. Ross Christensen Says: 8:50 am

    I am a distant Dad. My ex-wife and daughter are in California and I am in Wyoming. When offered a job in Alaska my daughter begged “I don’t see you enough as is Daddy, if you move there I will never see you”
    So I didn’t take the job but being a chef I rarely get time off anyway. I am trying to find a way to see her more now. My birthday is January 22nd and I’m just hoping for a phone call more than anything else.

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