Friday, August 01, 2014

Still The Same Old Kid

I haven't grown up much. I'm 34, and I'm a bit silly, if you know me. I love to laugh, and tease my friends. The truth is, I'm incredibly sensitive, and pretty emotional. I probably don't forgive as often or as well as I ask for it. Lord, have mercy!

One thing that makes me vulnerable is the deep wounds from tragic, sudden death. It happened more than I care to recount. I lost two father-figures just this way. A high school friend. Others. You can't know what this is like unless you know.

Mixed in here was the loss of my Dad, Rick Kettinger, when I was 9. We weren't going to win an intact family award as it was, but I realize as I go that this affects me more than I would want. I've blogged about this before, but Nicole DeMille posted about her mom again, and it got me thinking. (And feeling, quite frankly.)

I think back to my favorite movies and stories, and they have Dad Issues subplots. I don't like Top Gun for the action and sex appeal; I love Top Gun because I identify with "Pete Mitchell" and the story of his Dad, lost over Vietnam when Pete was about my age. Do you remember when "Goose" died? ("Nick Bradshaw", was it?) The scene that is forever burned on my soul is when Pete meets Goose's wife after he died. She's obviously destroyed, and as a side-note, she got famous, Meg Ryan, because of this supporting role. Anyway, it's not her I remember. It's Goose's little son, sound asleep in the chair. And I think, "If this were real, that kid won't even know what hit him when he wakes up." And he won't. Worse than the pain is the mental block that just happens to a small kid, just to get through something like this, and then, you feel guilty, because you didn't feel bad enough, or you didn't appreciate Dad when he was there. I feel this every day.

I still want my Dad to be proud of me, even though he's gone. He surely can't live up to my idealized picture of him, and yet I try. They say to Pete Mitchell, "Is that why you fly like you're second-best up there?" And I hear myself say, "You're [expletive] right." Or flying against a ghost. They accuse him several times, and it's true.

I can't recall if he was speaking to the commander, "Viper," or to his love interest "Charlie." But I remember Mitchell describing his father's loss this way: "The stink of it was, he screwed up. No way. My Dad was a great fighter pilot." I feel the weight of those final words every time. All sons do it: they idealize their dads, even if they don't deserve it. Not that I would know. Yet I imagine what I would like to be as a father, and it always comes out something like wanting to be worthy of their love, even if we know only grace could make it so.

A few scattered thoughts, if I may. I hope when you sleep tonight, you can meditate on the Father's unending love for you and us, even if--or especially if--you carry wounds like mine.

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