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Reflections June 2014

Suddenly Single Father of Four

By Teresa Ambord

Soon we would start quarreling amongst ourselves, and we’d look around for our chief problem-solver. “Dad!” we’d scream, almost in unison. Then we’d burst into his room to tattle, and always find Dad kneeling by his bed, praying.

My dad probably never envisioned becoming a husband and father by the time he was 19. That was a lot of responsibility, but it was nothing compared to what was to come. Leap forward 11 years, and he and Mom had four daughters. With their combined incomes, my parents bought a big new house. We moved in, but just a few months later, their marriage fell apart, and Mom moved out, forever. That meant Dad not only had to raise four daughters alone, but he also had to pay for a two-income house with one income.

Becoming a suddenly single parent is always a struggle, but much more so for a man trying his best to raise girls. As in most families, Mom had done most of the nurturing. Dad knew little about cooking and less about housework. He hired babysitters and housekeepers, always with disastrous results.  So, in the end, the five of us winged it. In the morning, I’d walk myself to school across the street. After school, I’d walk home and wait in the garage till my older sisters got home. I never told them that I was afraid to go into a house that had been empty all day.

Long after dark, Dad would arrive home. He was exhausted from 10-hour days, and though I didn’t realize it then, he was also deeply troubled by the breakup with Mom. Even so, every night after work, he’d stop to spend time with us. We’d crawl all over him and tell him the complaints we’d waited to lodge against each other.

After a while, Dad would stand up and say, “Girls, I just need a few quiet minutes,” and he’d disappear into his bedroom.

Soon we would start quarreling amongst ourselves, and we’d look around for our chief problem-solver. “Dad!” we’d scream, almost in unison. Then we’d burst into his room to tattle, and always find Dad kneeling by his bed, praying.

Those chaotic days are a blur now, but seeing Dad on his knees, humbling himself before God, is a sight I will never forget. His world had turned upside down, draining his energy, but he knew where to go to renew his strength. He knew it was God who equipped him to get through another day as the suddenly single father of four. Whether he realized it then or not, he was also setting an example for his daughters.

These days if I run out of strength, I remember where to go to renew the supply. There’s a saying, “When times get tough, the tough get on their knees.” Like my dad, I get on my knees, and I feel restored.

It’s common these days to recognize single mothers and the hard jobs they have, raising kids and making a home. But more and more, it’s dad who does the raising alone, and with little recognition. When my family fell apart it was 1963. Back then – unless a man’s wife passed away – it was a rare thing for him to become the sole parent. That’s why, though he wasn’t perfect, my dad was and is, a man among men.

Don’t forget dad on Father’s Day.

 

Originally published in 2011, in "Chicken Soup for the Soul, Devotional Stories for Tough Times.”

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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