Sunday, June 9, 2013

Father Hunger

“Father Hunger” hit me hard again at the small group meeting concerning the book, The Dance by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley. Sometimes I can go months or even years without the deep, soul-wrenching father hunger and then something will strike my heart. Maybe just hearing about someone who just laid upon his father’s chest as a child, remembering the feel of his scratchy beard, or a father admitting that he failed in the fathering department. Knowing he can’t go back and change the past concerning his lack in parenting, he decides instead to be the very best grandfather he can be.

My father’s name was William Donald Collins. I haven’t seen him since I was about eight years old. I often wonder why he didn’t stay in touch with me; I’m not sure if he and my mama ever lived together. He was in the Army or Air Force and we stayed with my grandmother, Mary Ethel White Wirth. I was born on May 19th, 1951 at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, TN. The reason I am putting full names here is, maybe someone from my paternal family might see this and want to connect.

My mother’s name was Linda Lee Wirth Collins Reece Lewis; wow, that is a lot but most people knew her as Linda Reece in Florida, Linda Wirth in Chattanooga Valley. Everyone loved her hearty laugh and giving ways. Because she was so young, I think at times she nearly felt like I was her sister, and sometimes even her mother. Yes, we were a wildly dysfunctional family but there was always laughter in the mix. She used to say, “You have to laugh to keep from crying.” I have to agree with that one, Mama.  I miss the laughter especially now that you are gone.

I think the hardest thing for me to accept in going back to the “father hunger” was why did my paternal grandparents not look me up? That is my biggest question. After living life with an abusive first stepfather who ended up in prison and then the next was one an alcoholic for most of his life, I think I gave up on fathers. What if I found my own father and he was as bad as the rest? Why bother?

But even so, one time someone said they thought my biological dad was staying at a hotel on the beach in Daytona and wouldn’t you know, I was there looking. I saw someone who from a distance looked like those old black and white, tattered pictures and went running him down until as I got closer and I knew it wasn’t him. That was one of the times that I managed to bring tears to the eyes of my husband, Bill, as he said it was so sad to see me running after a father who never showed up for me.

Good news is my stepfather, John Lewis, that was married to Mama when she passed away did get sober in his later years. He really mellowed out. And although I never really partook of the “father” gift of my father-in-law, Pete Del CeCato because of the scars of my past, I must say he was a good one.

 I didn’t really think about that until the recent day this past May, he lay in a hospital bed and was dying.  As I laid my hands on his precious head, releasing him to the Lord, I realized that indeed, the Lord did put a good father figure in my life. “O Lord, Pete never hurt me, he never hurt my daughters; he was a good father. I never realized what I had in him, and now  it is too late.”

Because I had put walls around my heart in the father department, I never really let him be a “dad” to me. But to the ones that allowed him to be their dad, Bill’s sisters and brother, and our wonderful Phyliss who was his only biological child, a great gift was given.

This year will be the first Father’s Day he will be celebrating in heaven with our heavenly Father. We know that although many of us did not have that true “father” experience while here on earth the time in eternity together with the One True Father, Who Never Disappoints, will be a dream come true. And there will be no more father hunger for any of us who have experienced that pain.

Donna Collins Tinsley 2013


  1. Wow, Donna, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story. It reminded me of my own "father hunger". You were blessed to have a father in law like that and I'm sure your husband must exhibit some of his qualities.

  2. Wow, Donna, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story. It reminded me of my own "father hunger". You were blessed to have a father in law like that and I'm sure your husband must exhibit some of his qualities.

  3. Gail, you are such a sweet, soul-sister. I am so blessed to have you in my life.

  4. Donna, I tried to comment on this when you posted. All I can say is that sometimes I'm a little too dumb to figure out how to perform such tasks on my smart phone! Anyway, this post touched me then and continues to resonate with me. I pray that the Lord would place an elder in your life who needs a daughter figure as much as you need a father figure. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable with your readers. You are a blessing.

    1. Anna, I adore you and posted your recent blog on my Facebook page.

  5. I found out later after writing this that my dad died exactly one week after my mom died. I didn't know about that for some years. I found his brother, though who will be 90 soon and have made a connection.