How far does "Honor thy Father and Mother" go?

Here's something that continues to "stir around" in my small, 3lbs of gray matter:

WTTW-11 (The marvelous PBS station here in Chicago) aired a program last week entitled, "Caring for Your Parents." The main thrust of the documentary was what children often encounter when one or more parent(s) become incapable of caring for themselves. It was a tremendous look at four or five different family situations, and how these people handled the complexities of aging, incapacitated fathers and mothers.

My dilemma:

My parents abandoned me when I was a baby. To be completely honest, they abandoned each other, and later abandoned me. Neither parent ever "stepped up to the plate" and rendered the care that an infant/small child/youngster/teenager should have received.

Not at any point in life.

I've not seen nor heard from my biological father in almost 16 years (the last time being at his mother's funeral--my real caregiver until I left home for college). He was drunk at the funeral home viewing, and then almost drunk during the actual funeral service the following day. He has made no contact with me. I have no idea how to find him (not that I am,particularly itching to do so), and really don't know whether he is dead or alive. I'm pretty sure he is alive--or I would have already heard something from someone (at least I like to think that I would have been contacted). He divorced my stepmother (Marie, whom I absolutely adore), and basically abandoned his three children (my two half sisters, and half brother). The fundamental difference is that these three children were pretty much grown before the divorce happened. But that doesn't make it any less painful for them.

My two half-sisters (Cynthia and Sherry) feel the same way about him. He dropped out of their lives, and has had little if any contact with either of them. When he has "dropped in" he has been either intoxicated and completely embarrassing to both of them. I feel as they do: there's no love, no hate...but alot of indifference. It's not a matter of "forgiveness" either...that has already happened, and continues to happen as needed.

But what about that "3 a.m. call" (since that seems to be the ONLY TIME that "emergencies" can possibly happen, according to the current three Senators running for the White House) that says, "Mr Hoover, we have Bobby here, and we need someone to make some decisions..." I'm almost 700 miles away, and I'm not sure how I would/could/should respond.

What obligation do I, as a Christian who wants to be obedient to God's Word and will, have to this man, if I am contacted and told that he is completely incapacitated, and needs constant care?

Do I have any ethical, moral, or spiritual obligation to "care" for someone who abandoned me early in life, and has dropped out of my life (at his own convenience) ever since?

I really do want your opinions and ideas. Please share. I will be discussing my biological mother in a subsequent post.

2 comments:

Joe Misek said...

Phil, I think you know my feelings on this one in particular. I think "Father" is not defined by biology so much as fatherhood. He never was a father, and makes no effort to make amends. You have no obligation to him, and have no idea what his wishes would be anyway if he were in that situation. So you're not the best person to make the call. Very provocative topic, Phil. Thanks.

Ryan said...

Hey man. I'm with Joe here. Honor thy Father and Mother is to honor the Father and Mother who took care of you. When God says Father, He knows what it means because He's our Father. He doesn't use the term to mean the man who donated some sperm to a woman. Having said that. As a human being, show him respect. Love him and pray for him like you would the rankest sinner you know, but in honoring him, the honor is shown by you not having extended the right hand of fellowship forcefully! lol