December 7, 2023

Dear Dad

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY…to all dad’s! Whether you are a biological, adoptive, foster, step or a surrogate father, you are so important in the lives of your children and necessary for the good health of our society. “Dear Dad” was first published in the Washington Times online magazine: by this author.


“Dear Dad” is a parable that is written in letter format. It is fiction that is embedded in truth. Its purpose is to stimulate your thoughts and the emotions that charge your thinking. You will attribute meaning to this allegorical story and your meaning, I trust, will influence your father/child relationship…hopefully, to be enriched. Happy Father’s Day!


Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

It’s June 15, 2014 early in the morning and I’m sitting here on this rock looking out at a huge, ugly hole in the ground. So many things going through my head― seems like so long ago. Where you been? Why you been gone so long? I’ve been looking for you all my life…and yet; it’s starting to make some sense that I’ve looked in all the wrong places. How was I supposed to know? You only know what you know, and I didn’t know what a dad looked like.

At first I thought it was like my mom’s boyfriend, but all he ever did was call me names and hurt me. Next, I thought it was the bigger kids in the neighborhood. They even told me that they were going to be like my big brother or my “dad.” It sort of felt good at first to be given some attention. I finally figured out that they were just using me. I didn’t have a choice. If I didn’t do what they told me to do, they would just hurt me, too.

As I got older I found a teacher that could be like a dad, but I didn’t know how to talk to him. I also figured out that he was very busy and he had his own kids. Before I knew it, I was skipping school and doing a lot of drugs and alcohol. All I know is that the drugs, alcohol and sex worked! I stopped looking for you. I accepted the truth…that I wasn’t worth having a father. Well, one thing led to another and I found myself in prison. Now I’m surrounded by a lot of other fatherless prisoners. How would I ever find you in a place like that?

Well dad, I got to hand it to you, life is strange. One day, an old guy came to the prison and asked if he could visit with me. As weird as it was, I just said, “sure.” He started telling me his story. He was retired from a job that he had done for 45 years. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Angelica. “Angel” was the love of his life. They had been the proud and happy parents of two kids that were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver as they were coming home from college. “That happened a long time ago,” he said. He said that he’s been looking for someone ever since. Someone who needs a dad! He then asked me if he could continue to come visit me. I have to admit, dad…there was a little lump in the back of my throat; but I still didn’t know exactly what I had been miss’n.

Well, years later, Mr. Maxwell continued to make the 50 mile trip (one-way), twice every week, to visit me. One day, Mr. Maxwell asked me to call him Max. “That’s what people call me who are close to me,” Max said.  As you can imagine, we got pretty close. He told me all about his life and what he liked about being a husband, father, veterinarian and rancher. He told me that he had learned so many things about life by taking care of animals and living off the land. “There’s a rhythm and predictability to nature’s laws. The cycle of life and death―how everything is forever connected―that’s just how people are at their best. Everything works better and is clearer when connections of life are firm and predictable. We learn the most about who we are and what we need when we’re in a loving relationship.” That sounded like a “Hallmark” card, but, “what did I know about anything?’

Max told me that he had learned the most in life by being a son and by being a father. He told me that his dad made him feel like he was the most important person in the world. He learned about what kind of person he wanted to be from his dad. Max said that his kids needed their dad…when they were right and when they were wrong, when they knew everything and when they knew they needed help and when they were feeling happy or sad. “Yes, they needed me; but, I think I always needed them more. I needed them to allow me to be their dad and learn from them and to teach them all that I knew about life, just like my dad did for me.” This was powerful stuff. I didn’t know what to say to Max.

One day, Max showed up right on time and said, “I’ve been thinking…I need a son and you need a dad. How about you call me dad and I’ll call you son? Well, I got to tell you dad, as much as I thought I was a tuff guy…the dam broke and I cried like a baby. Old Max slowly got up from his chair and walked around the table and he hugged me just like a momma hugs her baby. Before Max left, he gave me one last hug and said, “I love you, son.” I hugged him back and said, “I love you, too…dad.” That was the last time I ever saw Max. He died of a heart attack the week before I was released from prison.

So it’s Father’s Day dad, and I came here to write this letter to you before I jumped from this cliff… into this ugly hole, to end my search. But, something happened as I was looking through Max’s eyes. I’m not seeing an ugly hole in the ground. I’m seeing a beautiful canyon that has been slowly carved over time…just for me. I don’t need to look for you anymore, dad. I’ve found you. Now, I’m going to find my daughter―she’s looking for me.

Written by:

Gary M. Barnard, Ph.D. and first published “Dear Dad” on June 15, 2014 in American CurrentSee which is part of The Washington Times. Its founding publisher is Ben Carson, M.D. and the Executive Editor is Armstrong Williams.

Dr. Barnard is Author of Becoming a Power Parent: Seven Guiding Principles for Creating a Healthy Family

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