In a child’s life, there is a tiny sliver of time when parents are the focal point. We encourage our infants to crawl to us, but they triumph by crawling away, looking proudly over their shoulders. First steps are to a parent’s outstretched arms, but confidence makes explorers of our babies. They sidle down the couch, toddle out of the room, and run in the opposite direction. Stairs? No problem. We are relegated to following them, worrying about them, and buffering the pain that comes with freedom. If only we knew, when our babies were one, that this is the never-ending job of being a parent. It might force us to treasure every simple joy. It might scare us to death.
Our babies are grown and gone. Steve and I did shifts as parents; we had specialties. Becoming a mother changed my life, but it did not change ME. Having three sons changed everything for Steve: he knew I would manage the everyday needs, but he needed to provide for their future. He worked hard, planned ahead, dreamed that his boys would all have a college education. I did the tutoring and schlepping, he made sure they had tuition. When Pat was 13, Steve determined that he would be a better Dad if he was a good example. So he stopped drinking, and he LOVED drinking. Along with Father’s Day, we celebrate this gift to our family- sobriety for Steve, stability for all of us. I know that it is a choice he makes every day for himself, for me, and for the boys. We have grown accustomed to his strength, and we honor it. We just might take it for granted- and we shouldn’t.
So on this Father’s Day, thank you, Steve, for translating teenaged boys to me. Thank you for your lie detection system and your cynical responses to their excuses. I would have fallen for every one. Thank you for waiting up so I could sleep. Thank you for giving Pat permission to ditch school and see historic baseball games. He got into a great school after all. Thank you for encouraging Matt to go to the Space Academy, and for comforting me as he disappeared into a plane, alone and 12. Thank you for allowing me to sob when we dropped them at camp and college. Thank you for understanding that a young Mike needed to sleep in his own bed, and going to fetch him at sleepovers, no matter how late it was. Thank you for allowing Walter Dog to visit despite his anxiety and urinary trajectory. Thank you for sponging up my despair when Pat moved to California, and for making his return possible with our “in law” basement suite. I know Pat and Rachel thank you for helping them escape our basement. Of course, I would be happy if they still lived with us- and therein is the difference between Moms and Dads. Moms nest, dads push the birds out of the nest, to test new wings.
Our babies are men. They have crawled, walked and winged away. They still glance back, visit, call- because they had a Mom who loves them unconditionally and a Father who loves them enough to challenge and guide them. We will all circle around our Lion King on Father’s Day, and try to make him know how deep our gratitude goes. The boys can handle the grilling duties, and we will try not to bicker. If bickering breaks out, our Dad can handle it, ignore it or stop it. He is experienced.
Steve’s own Dad is spending Father’s Day in an ICU unit after valve replacement surgery. Roger did not wish for Steve to come, a thought echoed by brother Rick- but he is in our hearts and prayers. We celebrate him as well- he is the root of our family. Our fathers bind us to the earth. A million other factors intervene- but without roots, no branches are possible. So from Pat, Rachel, Mike, Kathryn, Matt, Justine and Steve and me- we love you, Roger. A better quality of life is worth fighting for, and we are proud of your bravery.
To all fathers- and those who love them- I hope your loved ones circle around and celebrate the most important organism on the planet: FAMILY. I hope we have the opportunity and the inclination to express our gratitude- in person, in prayer, or in actions.
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