My father was a restless, illiterate, hard-drinking man who was the third youngest of fourteen children.
As the story goes, his parents ran out of names when he was born, so one of his older sisters decided to name him Noah. Probably due to this scarcity he did not have a middle name.
I never had the opportunity to know my father very well. He was never around, but I heard stories of him wandering from job to job and town to town finding work on farms, driving trucks, or whatever menial job he could find. With a third grade education, the jobs were usually blue-collar and he never stayed long.
As a result of this wanderlust, my father was not present at my birth and therefore my maternal grandmother gave me my absent father’s name along with her maiden name. However, to avoid confusion during the rare moments when my father’s name was mentioned, I was called by my middle name. It was only when I became a Christian at the age of twenty-one that all my friends decided to call me by my first name and have now called me Noah for the last thirty-three years. Since I never liked my middle name anyway, I was very happy to be called by my first name. It means comfort and rest. Something my father never gave me.
When I was entering my ninth year of life, my mother decided that I was too much of a burden for her and sent me to live with my wandering father, who at the time was living with one of his older sisters in Swainsboro, Georgia. . I never held it against my mother. With her rudeness, she couldn’t even take care of herself. How could she take care of a small son?
After a few months of living with my father, he also decided that I too was too much of a burden. However, the real reason for this decision was that he was having an affair with a one-armed married woman and had no time for the responsibility of raising a child, so one night he took me to a road and left me there. . on the side of the road with a one-way bus ticket to Tampa, Florida. I guess I was hoping my mother would accept the responsibility of taking care of me.
When I got back to Florida, my mom was living with a man who didn’t want a little boy hanging around, so he turned me away saying he had no way to take care of me.
I had nowhere to go, so I spent the next six months living in a dump, eating out of garbage cans, stealing bread and milk from the porches of nearby houses, and begging on the streets of a Cuban neighborhood known as Ybor City.
Fortunately, God was taking care of me. Eventually a social worker found me and placed me in an orphanage and I was given an opportunity that I never would have had if my father had supported me. I would have been a restless, illiterate, hard-drinking man like him, instead of having four college degrees and a profession of helping others deal with the suffering in their lives.
It was by the grace of God that I not only survived, but thrived despite my parents’ neglect.
Now I have three children who are almost adults. One of them is a son who just finished his first year in college.
When he was born, his mother gave me the privilege of naming him, so I named him Noah Scott. Growing up, we always referred to him as Scott or “Scotty” to avoid confusion.
Since high school he has been using his first name and now everyone calls him “Noah”. Thus, the three generations of men named Noah in our family.
As my children grew up, I had no idea what I was supposed to do or be a parent. The only guidelines he had were what he wanted in a father when he was a child and young man. I so longed for a father that I would gladly give anything just to get an older man to take an interest in me.
Being a movie buff, he was also heavily influenced by the “father figures” in classic movies like “Les Miserables,” as the bishop who saved Jean Valjean from a life of harshness and cruelty by his incredible act of kindness.
I was a caring father. When I wasn’t in class working on my graduate degrees or later helping people in my practice, I was at home playing with my kids or doing things for them.
We had happy moments, especially Scott and I. It wasn’t that I loved him more, it’s just that he and I shared more things in common. He was very bright and he liked to do some of the same things that I enjoyed. But more importantly, he favored me over anyone else. He was definitely a “daddy’s boy” and he wanted to be with me all the time. However, since I loved all three of my children equally, I tried very hard not to show any favoritism. I played with my oldest son and my daughter and gave all three of them my time, attention and love. In my heart, I knew that I was born to be his father.
However, Scott spoiled me. He always thinks about being with me. He made me feel like a “hero” because he shared my hobbies growing up and we went on special trips together even though I tried to do the same with my other children. I knew they enjoyed me being his father, but they didn’t exuberance for me the way Scott did.
Scott and I had many wonderful adventures together and he always seemed grateful to have a devoted father who was usually there for him, a friend, a loving and playful father who taught him many things growing up. We even traveled to Spain for an international karate tournament where he won a silver medal and helped Team USA win an overall championship. There are too many adventures and fun things that Noah Scott and I did to mention here, but they were the best years of my life.
However, there is an interesting ending to this story.
I heard a couple of years ago that my father was dying of emphysema and lung cancer that was spreading all over his chest. He was weeks or days away from dying in a hospital somewhere in South Georgia.
Although I felt no obligation to my father after a life of abandonment, I still felt something. I wasn’t sure what it was until I realized that he might not accept Christ as his Savior and would never see him in heaven.
I quickly began researching the internet to find a nearby minister who would come to my father’s bedside to witness to him and urge him to accept Christ before he died. However, before I could find someone, I heard silent words in my head “Don’t send a stranger to do what a son can do.” Needless to say, this shook me upon “hearing” these words.
I immediately discussed it with my wife, but this conversation came to no conclusion because she knew it would be difficult for me to call him and try to testify to a man who never cared enough about being my father.
Again, as I was walking down the hall to my office, I heard the words “Don’t send a stranger to do what a son can do.”
I suddenly realized that God was trying to tell me that my father cannot answer to a stranger, even a minister, to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ that would save him from eternal separation from God.
Flustered, I picked up the phone and dialed the number I had already found in my Internet search. I called the cancer unit and asked for my father, explaining that I was his son. They connected me and he answered, sounding weak but quite alert.
We talked for a while and when I mentioned that I wanted to thank him for leaving me on the side of that road all those years ago, he didn’t believe me. I told him that I meant it from the bottom of my heart and went on to explain that if he or my mother had supported me, he would never have finished elementary school. Because of their selfish act of abandoning his child, they allowed God to provide for me so that I could become a Christian, earn four college degrees, and become a professional psychologist to help others who were struggling in their lives, relationships. and spirituality.
He eventually accepted this and I think it even made him realize that maybe he really did do something right even though he was, by societal standards, a neglectful and absent parent.
I then mentioned that I had never asked him for anything in my entire life. He accepted. I told him that I had a request for him now that he was facing his death in a matter of days.
I could tell from his voice that he was a little hesitant, he wasn’t sure what he would ask for. However, he said “fine”.
What I said next was that I wanted to be able to see him again one day. I conveyed to him that the only way he could do this is for him to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I doubted he had ever heard the gospel before, but I still asked him if he knew what this meant. I went on to review the steps he took so that he could have eternal life.
When I stopped, he was silent. Those brief moments seemed like hours, but he finally said “yes.” I was relieved and asked if I could pray for him right now. Once again, he said “yes”.
I prayed with him for several minutes asking him to truly, wholeheartedly accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. At the end of the sentence, I asked him if he would do it and he said “yes”. Still a little skeptical about a man who could never be trusted as a father to me, I asked him again just to make sure. He replied: “Yes, I want to.”
I said “thank you” and we talked some more and then I said my last goodbye.
A few days later, I received the news that he passed away in his sleep. I felt sad and heartbroken for a short time, but I also felt better knowing that he had given up my quest to ask a stranger to do what God intended just for me. I knew my father would never be able to listen to someone he didn’t know, but a son he had abandoned so long ago might reach out to him.
It was a relief to know that I had done the right thing and I felt good that I forgave my father.
I’m glad I heard that silent voice.