There are lots of theoreticals that I could formulate about things that my father would have done for me had he not been taken at a young age. The places he would have taken me, the values he would have instilled and maybe even the things he would have failed at. But these would be just that, wild ass guesses as to what might have been.
Instead, I'd rather focus on the job I undertook when my wife and I decided to raise children - only two - just like we'd told to our pastor when he was giving us our "pre-vows" marriage class.
It has been twenty one years of the craziest movie anyone could have ever written. Our lives switched from scene to scene as they progressed from dependent infants to terrible two-year-olds, to grade schoolers and finally to adults who we can talk and laugh with on an adult level.
There are far too good times and memories to list, but here are a few things I will always remember as a dad:
- Loading Sarah's baby seat into my Honda Civic on our way home from the hospital after delivery and realizing I was suddenly responsible for this third being. It felt like a great weight upon me, but it was also the moment I realized that a two door compact car just wasn't going to work.
- Seeing Ben get whisked away to infant ICU after cutting his umbilical cord. He'd had the cord wrapped around his neck and his blood pressure and heart rates were dangerously low. What a helpless feeling.
- Seeing both of them off to their first day of Kindergarten. I have to admit, I got a little weepy with both. I'm just a sentimental sap sometimes.
- Watching Sarah's violin recital at Randall Elementary in 5th grade. Squeaky and pitchy, yes. Beautiful and heart warming, absolutely!
- Watching Ben play Upwards basketball all season only to get his first and only basket in the last 5 minutes of the last game of the year.
- The look on Sarah's face when we turned the corner at Custer State Park and came upon a herd of bison standing in the road. This came after being told the buffalo were all in pens, to which Sarah said, "I don't want to see buffalo in pens." One of those timeless family moments.
- Ben coming back to help me with my Duluth pack as I struggled on the BWCA portage when he was 16. This is when you know your kids have turned the corner from thinking only of themselves.
- Sarah burying her head in my mom's shoulder as she cried after watching the video of my brother Rob at his celebration of life party. Her heart is huge and the reality of our reality was hitting her hard.
- As we were driving out of the Adirondack Mountains, my wife got a text that Ben's friend Andy had passed away after battling cancer for months. Ben cried as hard as I'd ever seen and before long everyone in the car was crying.
- Watching both of them get baptized at church. Their faith is strong.
- Seeing both of them graduate with high honors and get accepted at Big Ten Universities.
As I said, there are far too many moments in fatherhood where I am stopped in my tracks and think to myself,
"So, THIS is what it's all about? Now I get it!"
But it's also in the moments that are less than spectacular. The worrying, the hand wringing, the correcting, the encouraging, the restless nights when they were sick, etc. Those are part of it too and it is the collective sum of all of these moments together that make a family strong and united. And now they will be off to face their futures alone in a few months and the worrying and hand wringing will start up again.
And while I wish parents would get handbooks about how to raise healthy, happy, successful kids, I now understand that part of it is that we're learning too in the hopes that they are learning from us. You only get one chance to raise your kids, so you better make it good. I learned what I could from my mom and from there pretty much made it up as I went along.
The whole fatherhood ride has made the craziest movie ever into one I wouldn't trade for anything.