I see my brothers and sisters, all my aunts and uncles. My mom. You all had your first children before mine was born. So you knew long before I did how a child could look at you and say something – nothing specific – just anything – and it can take you on entire journeys that last only seconds in your mind.
I was moving around the house, going from one daily thing to another, listening to my son in the background – playing. He had an entire dramatic production going on. There were characters and plots, dialogue and action. Even comic relief. It was his movie and he was the director and producer, writer and editor.
As I walked by, the whole thing came to a complete halt and he looked up and said, “Daddy?”
I stopped and said, “yes son?” And all he did was smile and look straight in my eyes the way only a child can and said, “I love you”.
I immediately began that journey that lasts a second.
And he was already back, commanding his world.
It was a defining journey for me the first time it happened.
When I was his age, the only things that mattered to me were toys and experiences:
When I was getting my next toy, what it would be, what color. And where could I go, the park, the rides a birthday party, a carnival?
Later, all I worried about is what everyone thought about me. How to be popular, what to wear, who to hang out with, what to eat, what to listen to.
Don’t kid yourself, it’s not just girls that have those kinds of insecurities – boys just aren’t supposed to admit it.
Finally, as an adult, the things that were important to me were my goals, my aspirations, my accomplishments. My entire sense of self worth was tied up in what I had done with my life and what I was going to do with it.
Then we had a child, and one day he made me realize something that I’d been slowly absorbing ever since he’d been born. I think the reason it took me so long to accept it, is that old ways of looking at things don’t like to be replaced…
…and they don’t leave quietly.
My entire life; my purpose and my worth are all on display in that little four-year-old boy.
I said it was a defining journey the first time it happened. Now that I see it, it happens all the time. And that’s good, I don’t want to go back to the way I used to see things.
As I wrote these words, something else occurred to me;
I think I know how it feels to be on both sides of that discovery. Because I think that our dad understood this same thing. I have no doubt that in those first few years of my oldest brothers life, at some point dad looked at his child and finally knew what was important and what wasn’t.
I’ve thought a lot about growing up and all the thousands of memories that involve dad. A conversation in a half-built house in Huntsville. A joke told in the car on the way to a restaurant. An argument on a Saturday morning. Sometimes just a look. I’m convinced that dad tried to teach that to me every day of my life because I know that I’ll spend every day trying to teach it to my son.
With that in mind, our father could only have looked around at all his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, and every single day have the wonderful and beautiful knowledge that his purpose in life was achieved – and by it, his worth was priceless. How could you not go to sleep every night and thank God for such a tremendous gift?
I believe that’s where he was when he went. And I believe that, in itself, was a gift to him and to us.
There is grief.
And I’m sad that I can no longer see him or talk to him,
And I’m sad for those that he’s been closest to for the void that’s going be left behind.
But for the man, and for myself, what I feel the most is not grief or sadness, but fulfillment and satisfaction.
Our children are more than just our future.
Sometimes….. they can be our salvation.
My son has been mine. And I know all of us were our dads.