The best job you'll never get paid to do
It's Father's Day, 2013. Get ready, guys, for meals made by others, spontaneous and unsolicited hugs and a 24 hour respite from the lawnmower or work bench.
For me, the emotional soup boils a little warmer. It's not just Father's Day, it's also my daughter's first wedding anniversary, one of the proudest days of any dad's life, that day when a life spent together nurturing and learning culminates with a walk down an aisle, a toast, a dance and the hope that you did a good job.
The year went fast, but then again, they all do. Parents know that and, if they don't, they soon learn. Every mom and dad before you told you to savor every moment, each hug, all of the ball games/recitals/concerts/plays because they'd be gone before you knew it.
And now, for this dad, they are.
The daughter and her husband are celebrating their year together. The son is off, working and getting his legs under him after last month's college graduation. The nest is empty. The memory bank is full. The eyes rim with tears, not with sadness for days gone by but with happiness over the satisfaction that comes with knowing your children are safe, secure and satisfied. After all, a parent is only as happy as their least-happy child.
This dad can't help but to think of his own father, a guy I never really got to know. His dad died when he was 13, and, coincidentally enough, that's how old I was when he succumbed to a deadly combination of cancer and emphysema. Ours was not a "Leave It To Beaver" relationship--he had what would politely be called "issues" today. A controlling mom would complicate his life into adulthood, and his final years were spent finding answers to those resulting problems at the nearest corner tap. I don't think he ever found them, but the search meant he was gone more often than not, drunk too often rather than sober.
His choices then shaped mine when it was my turn to be a father. I learned early on that the most valuable thing you can give your kids is your time. I found out that mom and dad need to let the child make mistakes so that they know consequences for their choices, painful as it may be to watch. Advice is best given and certainly better received when it's asked for instead of served up without provocation. And, there is no greater feeling in the world than the one that comes when your daughter is on your arm, flashing you that once-in-a-lifetime smile that happens as she's about to walk down the aisle.
For this father, it was just a year ago today. For this dad, the afterglow continues this Father's Day. If you're a father who has taken that trip, you know. If you haven't, it's one more fantastic part about the best job you'll never get paid to do, a job that's like no other in the world.
Happy Father's Day.