860 miles is the distance from Lubbock to New Orleans. The void that separates my relationship with my father is much further than that. It can’t be quantified in miles, feet, or inches. Perhaps it can be measured in lost time, anger, or tears? But, maybe it can’t be measured at all? Maybe what separates my father and I’s relationship is an object? Quite possibly an object of my own creation. A chasm eroded and shaped over the years by a river of my own un-forgiveness. A river that is destructively powerful and that flows down from the mountains of my past. I have summited the mountains, but the river still remains. I have yearned to cross this river for quite some time now, but the current has been too strong, powered by something that until recently I failed to acknowledge, powered by another object of my own creation. A Lie.
I have forgiven my father, wait no that’s not true at all. It’s a lie that I have been telling for quite some time. I need to remind myself what the truth is. I have to quit lying to myself.
Sometimes a lie can be dressed so properly that it can even deceive the tongue from which it was conceived. My father has missed just about every major accomplishment in my life. He only made it to 2 of my high school football games and never made it to any collegiate ones. He left my mother, my siblings, and I for another woman. He missed me grow as a man and has had little input, except for what not to be. I constantly told people that his lack of presence didn’t bother me and that was a lie.
My Lie was dressed in a tuxedo. It wore a bow tie, cufflinks, and nice polished shoes, and its smile was flawless. My Lie quickly took on its own life. It became real, it became true, and it would even speak to me. “Baron, you don’t need your father, you have done it without him for this long and look how well your doing. He hasn’t been there for you. Don’t let him in. He doesn’t deserve it. He will just abandon you.” I listened, I believed, and I trusted something that was dangerously deceiving.
Until Truth spoke to me.
Truth is old, and she is everywhere. Deep wrinkles are shown proudly on her face because she has seen it all, and has a lifetime of wisdom. Truth is wiser than I might ever comprehend. She doesn’t speak forcefully but gently and intently whispers. She is the old grandmother that will always tell you what you need to hear even if you don’t want to listen. She has a way with words so she speaks few. Truth speaks when you least expect it, but exactly when you need to hear her, if you only listen.
Truth spoke to me while I was driving.
I couldn’t decide where I wanted to be for the NFL draft. Just about everyone I know had been asking me to spend time with them. This would be one of the biggest days of my life! It would be a culmination of all the hard work I have poured into football over the past 11 years. It would be a special day not only for me but also for all of the people that have helped me get to where I am. I couldn’t help but find satisfaction in the fact that even though my dad had been absent for it all I had still found a way without him. Part of me wanted nothing more than to rub my success in my fathers face. I wanted to wave a banner stating my accomplishments in the air from across my river’s raging waters that separated us, while he could only watch wishing he could now be a part of my life. I wanted him to feel abandoned like I had. I wanted him to hurt.
This is when Truth whispered in my ear. “Go spend this time with your father.”
My immediate response to that thought was “No.”
“Why not?” She asked.
I had countless answers to the question Truth presented. As I drove alone in my 99 Toyota Camry I began reasoning why I shouldn’t go spend time with my father.
“Well there are too many things to name.” I thought.
“Oh is that so?” Truth replied.
“Yes that’s so”
“Ok then name a few things that bother you the most.” She said.
“Oh ok that’s too easy. I will make my case here, and then you can shut up.”
“Well for starters he left my family. He cheated on Mom. He missed all of my childhood and didn’t see me grow up. He can never make up the time lost, he was selfish with the time he had. He didn’t teach me things like everyone else’s fathers taught them. I had to grow up too quick. My childhood wasn’t fair because of him. Ok that’s why. Happy now? Go away and leave me alone.”
“I just have one more question Baron. Is that ok?” Truth calmly asked.
“What? And I promise after this my mind is made up” I told her.
“Are you really any better than your father? You two seem so much alike to me.”
“Ok you took it too far with that one, take it back!” I began to get mad.
Its funny how hearing the truth can cause anger.
Truth began to present her case.
“Baron, have you been faithful to all of the women you have been committed to in the past? Have you not wronged women that you loved? Are you not selfish with your own time more than anyone you know? Have your decisions not resulted in someone else having to experience an unfair situation? You and your dad seem very much alike from my perspective”
Her argument stunned me. I couldn’t come up with a complete sentence to argue against the point Truth made.
“I….I…well… I mean… its not….like…. I…..” I stammered. Truth had made her point and it was so…..
At that moment I realized something. 9 times out of 10 the hardest part about forgiving someone is realizing that you suck just as bad as they do. Forgiving my father would be an acknowledgement of his wrongdoings, but if I was just like my father then it would be an acknowledgement of mine as well.
I would like to ask for forgiveness from everyone that I have wronged. I’m so sorry. I never would have expected this to be pointed out to me this way. I will do better.
Its funny how Truth gets her point across.
“Go spend this time with your father, it will be special” she whispered.
Knowing that I could no longer reason with Truth I responded, “ok.”
Then and there while I was sitting in my car I Google mapped the distance from Lubbock to New Orleans.
“860 miles is a long way. I guess I better go ahead and hit the road.” I thought.
I text messaged my dad and said, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
His response “ Hanging out with you if your coming in town”
I hit the road to New Orleans. The drive was long, but I like to drive so it wasn’t too bad.
My dad frequently called and checked my location and arrival time. The excitement in his voice about seeing and spending time with me was foreign to my ears. When I finally pulled into New Orleans my dad was waiting for me and met me with a hug that I hadn’t felt in years. With a huge grin on his face he said, “lets go fishing.” My dad loves to fish, but I hate it and lack the patience to do it but I couldn’t help but genuinely smile back and respond, “lets go!”
While the insanity of the NFL draft took place I fished with my father. It was strange doing a typical American father son activity with a man that I had distanced myself from for so long. As strange as it was, it was something that I had been longing for and had missed out on. I had a blast. After fishing we packed up and headed back to my dads place.
Hours passed and my phone didn’t ring. Round after round of the NFL draft passed and it seemed like everyone’s name was being called but mine. My nerves rattled and shook as the last round approached and I still had heard nothing. Pick after pick passed and my name was still not called. I remember thinking “gees this must be what it feels like when children pick teams in dodge ball on the playground and you’re the last one.” It’s not a good feeling.
Pick no.229 passed. No.230 passed as well, and shortly after pick no.231 sailed by without my name attached to it. By this time I had quit tracking the draft on my phone and sat it down, but right before I did I said a quick prayer and it went like this. “Please just put me where you want me. Amen.” I tossed my phone to the side and began watching a movie with my dad and little brother.
Not too long after I sat my phone down it began to vibrate. I glanced over to see that it was a number that I didn’t have saved in my phone; my heart began to race and with a shaky hand I answered.
It was the best phone call I have ever received.
With the 232nd pick in the 2011 NFL draft the Pittsburgh Steelers had chosen me. They chose me! It was unreal. The past 11 years of work was wrapped and packaged into one phone call.
The poor kid with nothing but a dream and a tattered map of how to get there had reached his goal. I had been drafted into the National Football League. Did that just happen? Will I wake up? Ok, I think maybe this is real.
I turned to my dad and brother and hugged them. The hug was a hug of a lifetime, but it was the words that my dad spoke that penetrated my heart. They were words that finally set me free. Words that destroyed the lie I had been telling myself for so long. They were words that allowed me to truly forgive.
“Baron I’m so proud of you son, you have made me so proud. Thank you for letting me be part of this day”
It was a good day, a very good day.
I set out to find New Orleans to see my father but found something else entirely. I finally was able to cross my rivers torrent. Turns out what my heart had been searching for, for so long was right in front of me the whole time. It was on one side of the river and I was on the other, the only problem was that I wanted it to come to me. It was never that my rivers current was too strong for me to cross, it was just that I didn’t want to.
I set out to find New Orleans and 860 miles later I found Forgiveness.
It’s a fresh start for me now. I feel new. I guess that it’s only fitting that the same moment my father and I’s relationship was renewed I was inducted into an entire new family as well; A family that is huge, a family that is loud and crazy just like my own, a family that is black and gold. I couldn’t be more excited to be a Steeler and it’s a long road ahead to make the team. I have my work cut out for me, but I am one step closer.
My old chapter is done.
A new chapter starts now.