I am lucky to be a dad. Little David Levi was born 17 days ago. The instant I saw him, I was flooded with joy. And when I held him, I told him over and over, “I love you, David. I love you.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Even after only two weeks, my perspective on fatherhood has changed. I’ve realized the solemn duty of a father to protect and care for his son. The joy in this. To love a baby whose life is much bigger than my own.
My novel Warm Gold is, at its heart, a story of men finding their fathers, and becoming one. I wrote it with this in mind because I believe the absence of fatherhood is perhaps the most important social dilemma plaguing our families. Without it, boys and girls grow up feeling abandoned. Unloved. Hopeless.
For Sollinger, in Warm Gold, he is on a quest to find his father, and is willing to travel across the continent on the slim hope that he might find him inside a mine. He finds something he had not expected—a young man named Arslanian to whom he is asked to be a father: the fatherless, choosing fatherhood.
Arslanian is also searching for his father inside a mine. He finds the fulfillment of him in an old convict with one eye: Sollinger. When they connect deep inside the Honey Rock Mine, their bond is instantly sealed. Their father-son love relationship carries them far deeper than any desire for gold ever could.
Their father-son-love is the heart of Warm Gold. Two brokenhearted, bedraggled miners looking for worth—in themselves, in others, in their fathers.
I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the novel where it touches on Sollinger’s quest. In Chapter Nine we find him in the care of the Davidsons’, a kindhearted family living in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. They take Sollinger in after he is attacked by a vigilante and then subsequently mauled by a cougar. At the Davidsons’, he begins to heal from his wounds—and tastes, for the first time, the sheer pleasure of seeing a father and son interact in love.
In this passage he steps out of the cabin for the first time and hears noises in the Dutch barn. He limps over to investigate…
Between the lake and cabin stood a Dutch barn nestled up against a cliff of granite, tall with a broad gabled roof extending low to the ground. He knew nothing of defense or military strategy, but he felt safe just gazing at the barn, knowing that the massive granite cliff lay behind it.
And there was another kind of thundering. It was coming from inside the barn—a harmony of sounds, of rich laughter and play, of voices lost in safety and innocence radically genuine in the scope of the mountainous landscape. He felt his throat and heart easing. He moved closer. Through the slats he saw, deliciously, that Michael Davidson and his family were together. At the back of the barn, the mother was playing horseshoes with two prepubescent boys, a young girl and a teenage son.
Just as he was about to step into the barn, his heart skipped, for he saw something that would alter his life forever. In the foreground on the chopping block in the slatted light, the littlest boy sat in the father’s lap. Michael was cuddling him, hugging and kissing him, holding him tight as the boy giggled. The large dark work hands cupping the body. The boy immune to the terrors of the world, nestled inside an immovable wall. Father, son.
It was this intimacy of father and son that made his thoughts turn white. He forgot, instantly, that he was hurting. He forgot that he had a body. Foreign, unmitigated jealousy rushed through his temples. He burned with anger. The hands at his sides, before opened to a violent world, now clenched tight as he watched this honest love spoken silently between father and son.
He saw himself flinging the whole barn into the sky, the family struck with awe, the father and son shaken, his own bony digit pointed at their heart, scalding them with words to shame them—anything to shame them. There shouldn’t be innocence between them. It was a lie. He shouldn’t want that. Those words of comfort. That nourishment of his being. This palpitation. This genuine warmth. He shouldn’t want to be hugged like that. He’d never had that. He’d had only bony fingers from the brothel sticking him, failing to rub out his fleas. Frozen now, he could not join them.
He saw a dark corner inside the barn door and, while the father and one of his other sons, the eldest, started a conversation, and while the rest of the family was preoccupied, backs turned, he snuck in and hid himself in the darkness of the overhanging hay. His body was shivering as he tried to convince himself he wasn’t afraid.
For Sollinger, simply witnessing how a father holds and embraces and cares for his son is too overwhelming, and he reacts perhaps in the wrong way, but a natural way—with jealousy. This excerpt highlights what Sollinger is seeking—more than gold. Just to be held, like that young boy. To be cared for and loved.
Unfortunately, in America there are too many Sollingers out there, who have been abandoned by their father, who are forced to grow up without anyone teaching them how to live and love like a man. So they substitute their lack of a father figure in their lives for destructive things, which devalues their own self-worth, which leads to a downward spiral into the next generation—to their own kids whom they abandon, because it feels like the right choice.
Fatherhood is a choice. I wrote Warm Gold because I wanted to inspire myself, and hopefully others, to believe that our father is out there. In a spiritual sense, I mean our Father in heaven. He never abandons his children. It is contrary to His nature to do so. He can’t. His faithfulness is more powerful than the death that comes from abandonment.
Life is very hopeless unless one looks beyond it—not to heaven, but to its Creator, who has created an answer to every imaginable hurt and pain we experience in life. He is the answer to our lack of fathers. He can heal. And restore. And bless.
My novel Warm Gold is a story written to that end. A story where one is loved like warm gold. Not to mean that we are stones, but that we have worth waiting to be mined. By Him. Our Dad.
I believe this downward spiral can be reversed—that we as men can choose to lift up our sons and daughters and hold them close. It’s simply a choice. I look at my son David and am terrified of that choice, because I know I am weak and vulnerable and capable of terrible harm. But I am also loved. By my Father, who daily cleans out my goop, who changes me, who makes David and me both fresh.