I wonder what our lives would be like today if he were still alive?
This question keeps rolling over in my mind as I stand in a stationary store, browsing through the Father’s Day cards, trying to find a card to give my wonderful 87-year-old Dad but also thinking of the emptiness of the day for my son whose father died when he was thirteen years old.
Of course there is no way to know what life would be like if my husband, my son’s father, was still alive and with us, but that doesn’t stop my meandering mind from going there.
On Father’s Day this year, I hope that my son is thinking about the unending love that his father gave him and the great memories that they made together. I’m talking about deep unending love. It doesn’t delete the difficult things that happened but to know in your heart that your father loved you unconditionally is a huge gift.
I admit that not all of his memories of his father are sugar and spice; some are just plain frustrating and sad. But, I hope the good memories override the bad ones and perhaps now with the passage of years, my son has come to understand the complexities of some of the life lessons he might have learned from his short time with his Dad. I hope that some of the difficulties he experienced with his Dad helped him develop reserves of strength and self-reliance within himself and that he knows he can tap into that resilience throughout his precious life without his father.
My son has lots of pictures of the fun times he and his father shared together: birthday celebrations, going to the pumpkin patch, various road trips. He doesn’t necessarily remember a lot of them because at the time he was too young, but I try to pass along or re-tell the stories that happened in his early years, especially the situations that I think reflected his Dad’s classic way of doing things.
Times such as when our son was three-years-old and the two of them went to the McDonald’s near the Uptown movie theater to give me a break. During this little outing, my husband accidentally locked our son in the car. When my husband came home and told me this story, he glossed over the part where our son was in the car by himself and all the doors were locked and my husband suddenly realized the keys were also inside the car. Instead of admitting to the danger of a three-year-old being locked in a car by himself on a busy urban street, my husband focused on the part of the story where he was kneeling on the concrete by the car window talking patiently to our son and telling him to move from the front seat of the car and come over to the passenger car door to push up the lock with his tiny fingers. My husband told me he kept talking and showing our son how to do it until he was finally able to unlock the car door by himself. My husband chose to keep telling me over and over how smart our son was to follow his directions and figure out what to do.
I was watching our son’s sweet three-year-old face as my husband was telling this story and our son wasn’t upset at all. Nor did he act like he was ever upset at any point during the car fiasco. There was no crying or any other evidence that he ever felt unsafe about being locked in the car. The whole thing was totally classic.
Maybe something similar to this situation happened to your children when they were under the care of their fathers. I tell myself that these are the kinds of stories that happen in every family and lead people to conclude that Dads have their own unique approach to parenting. And, at the same time, I must say thank goodness for Daddy’s way because children learn important and intangible stuff about life from hanging out with their Dads. Consciously or unconsciously, Dads give their kids a completely different point of view on what’s important in life and how to handle it’s unexpected moments.
Then there are the times when I see things that my son does or says that remind me of his father. I don’t think my son is aware of these things, but watching and listening to him sometimes brings his father swiftly back to me. My son is definitely his own fantastic person but the way he reacts to certain situations or some of the mannerisms that he unconsciously does are fleeting reminders to me today of the person I miss dearly.