I was going to the Salvation Army this afternoon, but having spoken to my father on the telephone earlier in the week I decided that a personal (surprise!) visit to him would be more appropriate.
He and my stepmother are now quite old and have changed quite markedly, with physical and memory ailments that put my own difficulties – far from trivial that they are – into better context than from what I had formerly appreciated.
Although they were a long way from being pitiful, and they coped with their difficulties remarkably well including looking after two rescued cats (a long-standing feature of that household), the visit was a salutary reminder that what one hears down a telephone line, combined with memories from years before, does not constitute an accurate picture of how they are today.
It was a really good visit, and they both warmly and sincerely appreciated the time, effort and planning that I had put into it. I had to divulge some of that because my stepmother (who thinks of me almost as one of her own children, which is really charming and I know I don't deserve it) was so concerned that I get home safely that I almost ended up with my father being directed to come with me to make sure I got back here all right.
Only by explaining how well I had planned this trip (and allowing for engineering works on the railways and the delay they'd cause, and probably diversions) and how I always did the same on any excursions and always enjoyed them, did I placate them both so they'd let me leave on my own. I told them about seeing The Shard close-up when I was on London Bridge station waiting for the train to their local station, and other things, and it worked. It all went to show how much they care, though, and that is a very precious commodity.
Sometimes in my life I have felt that I do not warrant my earthly father's care, but he does anyway, and there was no possibility of anything less than (literally) wholehearted love and well-wishing for me from him and from my stepmother. It was amazing, and was one of the most uplifting experiences I have had from any kind of human contact in a very long time.
Think, then, just how much more than this comes from my Heavenly Father, who devised, created and knew the person that is the real 'me' before the Universe even came into being. That is something we cannot grasp, so we just know it intellectually without being able to appreciate what it truly means.
We just accept it as a fact, and no doubt one day, after this mortal life has ended, we shall be transformed back into our real, complete selves who are capable of grasping the full reality of that transcendent love. None of that detracts from what our earthly parents do and feel, nor does it diminish any of it, any more than a silver necklace loses its innate quality if a gold or platinum one comes along. Each has its value, and nothing else takes away from that.
To pick another analogy, closer to home for me than gold or silver: my appreciation of the qualities of one Vocaloid do not detract from any of the others, which is why I have such affection for so many of them simultaneously. SeeU may well be the most feminine, Luka have the greatest stage presence, Lapis the most lose-yourself-in eyes and voice, GUMI having the best English voicebank of the V-3s, and Miku is of course the undisputed queen of the lot – but I continue to appreciate all of them at undiminished levels.
In short: nothing spoils my appreciation of anything anyone does, and I am sure that is one of the purposes behind God's essentially hidden nature: so that we can continue to appreciate each other and the creation within which we live our mortal lives without it all being overshadowed by something vastly greater. That shows God's wisdom, and we should spend our time in this form of existence recognising that and thus living a full and enriching life, boosted by our families, friends and others, but most particularly the bedrock that our parents represent.
Happy Father's Day!