On top of the staggering grief of losing him, and the guilt of not being with him, I also mourned that he left before we could say everything that needed to be said between us. Luckily, we had already shored up our relationship. But there were still so many unanswered questions. There just wasn’t enough time.
It’s a common lament. After a decade, I still think of things we didn’t discuss. How proud he would be of his grandson. I’d like to ask him how he trained all of his dogs to freeze in place with one short command, when I can’t stop my Australian Sheppard from running across the street to jump on the neighbor. And we barely got started putting together the Wright and Campbell family trees.
It’s too late for me to ask my parents those questions. My husband’s father died much, much earlier than mine. The questions Paul has could fill a book, despite his mother’s attempts to fill in a lot of the blanks.
But it’s not too late to talk with our own sons, and Father’s Day seems the perfect time.
We have to approach the youngest one gingerly, testing the waters with the barest hint of parental guidance. He is, after all, not yet thirty, but a new father himself, still in the early stages of pushing away, separating and individuating, casting off our advice with an irritated exhale and a monosyllabic reply. But with a five-year-old and a second son on the way, he’s gonna need us, whether he wants us or not.
That’s okay. At some point soon in his life, maybe when this second baby of his is born in just a few months, he will have questions for my husband and me.
And someday, when one or both of his parents are dead, and all those nit-picky but long-lasting questions begin to crop up, he will find, along with our legal papers and will, all of my journals, which I started when he was in high school, and have added to each year since.
In the meantime, here are some things I’d like to share with my two new fathers, bless their pea-picking little hearts:
- Don’t worry.
- Examination your foundation carefully.
- Choose your friends, don’t just fall in with them.
- Remain a Student.
- Develop good habits.
- Heal your wounds. No one wants to experience pain, but it’s gonna happen. Acknowledge. Heal. And don’t fool yourself into thinking the trauma of your childhood has been left in the past. Those shadows grow under the surface, and then, from a random trigger incident, roil up suddenly to engulf you. If you need help with healing, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, including professional counseling. Every painful trial is like an oyster, and there is a precious pearl—a personal benefit—in every one; every single one. Repeat that thought like a mantra.
- Realize that not everything is about you.
- Be patient.
- Be excited for other people’s success.
- Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts.
- Take risks.
- Take sin seriously.
- Make time to rest and recharge
- Keep your tribe intact.
- Honor those you love.
Happy Father’s Day. To my dad. To Paul. And to my boys, who are both fathers now, too.