Today is Father’s Day. I’ll be honest. It is a tough day for me. I have never had a close relationship with my own father. We spent years estranged. We do not agree on most things. And I am not certain that there is any way to fix the situation because after 45 years of consistency you begin to accept that some things simply are what they are. Picking out a Father’s Day card is difficult because in the myriad cards available in the store there isn’t one that says, “I know you did your best, and I’m learning to be okay with that.” But I am not at my laptop this morning to write about my issues. I’m here to write about my husband and how he has given me a reason to celebrate Father’s Day.
Twenty years ago when my husband and I had been dating for just a month, he introduced me to his parents. We met for dinner with the whole family at an upscale, Swiss restaurant, and there I got my first glimpse of where Steve came from. There are moments in your life when a seemingly insignificant gesture suddenly epitomizes something much more grand. At one point during dinner, my father-in-law, deep in conversation with his son, leaned in closer to him and laid his arm across the back of Steve’s chair. He was talking and smiling and you could see in his eyes how much he loved being with his son and how utterly unafraid he was to show his son how important he was. I had never seen anything like that, such a small gesture that demonstrated the appreciation, love, and affection between a father and his son. That was the exact moment when I knew that Steve was solid. I knew he would someday be an amazing husband and a devoted father. I knew I had no reason to fear.
Now it might have been a bit naive on my part to take such an innocent gesture and ascribe to it such a grandiose meaning, but I don’t think so. Twelve years into this parenting gig with my husband and I don’t think I was wrong in my assessment. (Of course, I rarely think I am wrong about anything.) He is every bit as genuine and affectionate with our boys as his father is with him. From Day One he has been there for us. He never works more than 40 hours per work week. From the beginning he fed, changed, and bathed our boys without complaint. When they were sick, he was the first one to the thermometer to apprise the situation. When they puked up seemingly impossible amounts of pizza, fishy crackers, and juice, he disinfected the mess with the utmost courage and care and far less gagging than I ever could. He read The Hobbit to them, struggling mightily with the lengthy lists of names but muddling through undaunted. Many days after putting in his time at work, he arrived home excited to see us only to find that I was glassy eyed and already AWOL; instead of being selfish he took one for the team and fixed dinner, did dishes, made lunches, and put the kids to bed so I could regain some sanity. He cried with me when we identified copious obstacles our sons needed to overcome with fine and gross motor skills, speech and language, reading, and academics. He spent hours building and flying kites, untangling fishing line, finding the tiniest of Lego pieces in the largest of Lego storage buckets, and perfecting his driving skills on Mariokart Wii. He has given all that he is and then some for our little family. For all the times that he felt like he was a single parent doing more than 50% of the work in the house, he never balked or grumbled. He’s a far better person than I will ever be.
So now when Father’s Day rolls around and I start to feel a bit melancholy, I think of Steve. I think of the father that he is and the gift he is giving to our sons with his constant presence in their lives, with his patience, and with his dogged devotion. When I see the tender-hearted, gentle, kind young men our sons are becoming, I see their father in them. (When I see their stubbornness, their impatience, and their kookiness…well…that’s all me.) I have plenty of reason to celebrate on Father’s Day. It’s just not the reason I expected.