On Love and Suffering: A Conversation with my Dad

In honor of Father’s Day, I decided to ask my dad, Kevin Walsh, a few questions.

Kevin and Julia Walsh, Postville March, July 2008
Kevin and Julia Walsh at the Postville, Iowa, march for immigration justice,  July 2008

Considering that many of us do not know our fathers, I am very blessed to have a very loving, supportive and caring father. My dad is a deep thinker, knowledgeable, wise, prayerful and at times, very jovial. He also has a great sense of humor. I didn’t give him any warning that I was going to do this or give him much time to think about the questions, so I am very grateful he agreed. Still, he had a disclaimer. He said, “Being that I have a short-sleeved shirt on, this is all very off-the-cuff.”

What is one of the best things about being a dad?

Watching my children grow from infants, from children, to young adults and into adulthood and moving on in their lives. Helping you interpret different things going on in your lives and in your environment and supporting you through different milestones. Teaching you kids to go with the flow but responding when you need to for the sake of justice, for the sake of your own self-esteem and what you have learned is right.

In other words, to quote something I’ve heard from others, the best thing is “to give my children roots and wings.” I tried to give the roots of Christianity and roots of understanding your heritage. Roots in a disciplined and ordered life. Roots so you know that we’re here on earth to make a difference—which kind of fits with the Christianity thing, and living simply and simply living.

Those are a hodgepodge of things. Some are roots. Some are wings. Some are both roots and wings.

What is one of the hardest things about being a dad?

Watching my children suffer; watching them struggle and knowing I am powerless over their struggle. Knowing their struggle is their struggle and they need to figure it out. I’ve taught my children how to fish and now they need to put their hook in the water and they have to fish.

The hardest thing was when you got injured when you had your accident and fell off the cliff.

[Note from Sister Julia: My dad is referring to an accident I had in the summer of 2007 that left me in critical condition for several days. I have not (yet) written publicly about the experience, but I once told the story in front of a live audience during a special event with The Moth.]

Was that really the hardest moment in all your years of being a dad and for all four of us kids, Dad?

Yes, most recently at least. Also when Hans [my brother] was born and was having seizures, that was awful also.

Watching a person suffer and knowing you’re helpless and powerless over that situation is awful—when that person is your child and you are a parent it’s really awful, for as a parent you want to be a nurturer.

But that’s not to say that the pain and suffering wasn’t formative. I grew tremendously because of that experience both emotionally and spiritually. The growth I had is unfathomable.

How has being a dad changed you as a person?

It’s made me more human in that I have experienced and have learned how to love like I never loved before.

It’s made me understand the same responsibilities that God has for his creation. So it has changed me and made a co-creator with God and given me responsibility to take care of creation and to realize the Creator’s work is never done. There’s always newness and renewal coming in the relationship between the Father and the children—as well as potential for renewal between me and my children.

Thanks so much Dad! 

And, Happy Father’s Day everyone!

 

 

4 thoughts on “On Love and Suffering: A Conversation with my Dad

  1. Kevin, giving kids roots and wings means digging deep, flying high, and letting go! Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  2. Julia, this is really wonderful. Thank you for sharing it, and thanks to your dad, Kevin, for his beautiful comments. I especially love the part about “roots and wings” because this is precisely what my husband and I have tried to do as parents of two, now adult, daughters. Like your dad with you, we have seen the good fruit. Lucky Kevin, lucky Julia, lucky us, too.

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