“I never even knew my dad cared about me,” he said, as we snuggled and kissed good night. My heart nearly burst with emotion. How can a boy grow to be a man without knowing his dad even cares?
I had been fortunate. Divorce was a word I’d only heard. Not something I’d lived through. Not something that impacted me as it had my new husband.
But, it was what Jim said the next night – after visiting with his dad a few more hours – that really opened the floodgates of my heart. “I think my dad really LOVES me!” OMGoodness!
It was the summer of 1974 and we’d traveled to Arkansas to visit his McAllister aunts, uncles, cousins – and his dad – most of whom Jim hadn’t seen for years. We were newlyweds, and I was the one who encouraged him to make this trip. To take a chance. To reconnect. It wasn’t easy for him – not at all – but Jim’s bedtime confessions confirmed we had done the right thing!
Divorce put a very real chasm between Jim and his dad; between Jim and his cousins, aunts, and uncles, too. It was a chasm of miles but also one of hurt and disappointment and heartache. His single mom moved back to Kansas to raise Jim and his 2-year-old sister near her own family. It wasn’t easy, either, but she did what she had to do, by herself, as well as she could.
By the age of eleven, Jim was stocking shelves at a mom ‘n pop grocery store to help out – forced by circumstances to grow up way too soon. Scout leaders and uncles stepped up as male role models, but Jim was basically the man of the house from the age of four!
When we were dating we talked and sipped a soda at the Sonic Drive-In. I’ll never forget the words he said that day, either, as he told me about his family. “Yea, I had a dad when I didn’t really need one (birth to age 4) then I didn’t have one until I no longer needed one (age 16).” That’s when he and his sister (age 14) gained a step-dad…and a baby brother.
Three years later, we were married. All that ‘for better, for worse, in sickness, in health’ stuff began. Our happily-ever-after has lasted 48 years now. We laughed and cried together. We cussed (well, not really) and discussed. We loved each other even when we didn’t really like each other. Together, we mourned four unborn blessings before celebrating our two miracles – Shawna and Travis. We raised them the best we knew how and made mistakes as everyone does. Not all our decisions were wise ones. God blessed us with those awesome kids, who are now grown and have given us the best grands.
For nearly half a century, Jim spent time and effort rebuilding a relationship that was once dormant. We made hundreds of trips to Arkansas and could almost drive it in our sleep (actually, I think we did a time or two). When we weren’t there, father and son talked regularly, their phone conversations lasting an hour or two at a time.
Had it not been for that risky summer trip in 1974, our story would be much different. One little spark; a glowing ember of hope, willingly fanned by the breath of forgiveness, became a flame of restoration which burned brightly not only for us but for our children and their children who so adored their Grandpa Mac. We remain ever so thankful for the restoration which began long ago, and the memories.
Today we sit beside him, holding his hand, and watching life slip away which is much more difficult than the rekindling was. Stine Adair McAllister, we love you and will miss you, but we’ll see you again!
P.S. Stine would be quick to admit he was not without flaws – no one is – but in his last few weeks he made a decision to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior; a decision which secured his destination and thrilled Jim and me, our kids, and our grandkids!
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