Is it just me, or do some of you get a nostalgic feeling in the pit of your stomach when you drive by a park? I'm glad I don't have to crawl through those blasted plastic tunnels anymore, yet something very near to my heart seems to have been left there. Faded memories of my kids laughing, begging me to be "the alligator" are all too soon gone with the wind.
When my son Greg was about two, we went to the park one day. I began to notice he was falling down way more than usual. I began to worry, wonering if something was wrong with his legs. Was some terrible disease beginning to manifest itself? Quite concerned, I loaded him back up on the bike and headed for home.
I decided to throw him in the tub to see if I could detect any physical abnormalities. Quickly undressing him, I uncovered the problem. It seems that morning I had put both of his legs through one leg hole in his underware. Overcome with relief, I hugged him and put him in the tub. It was then that I realized that he still had his socks on. No one ever said this Fatherhood thing was going to be easy!
Kahlil Gibran wrote, "Love knows not its depth until the hour of separation." Those words, so painfully true, hit home the morning my mom called and said, "Dad died last night." I was the first one to get to my parents house and di my best to console my mom. When my brother Bob arrived emotions I knew nothing of poured out like a summer thunderstorm. When our eyes met, we began to sob uncontrollably. One of God's greatest gifts was being taken away from us. My dad had finally succumbed to diabetes, one of the few things he couldn't fix.
My dad had a little green box that contained an assortment of worn out tools. It seemed like he could fix anything. In a family that included 9 kids and Mac the dog, believe me, he never ran out of things to fix. When I described the little green box to my wifes mom she said, "You better get that box!" I just smiled because I realized that little box was much too heavy for my hands. Out of all the tools in the box though, the most important ones didn't hammer, saw or drill. No, they were the tools of patience, hard work, faith wisdom, discipline and the greatest of them all, love.
I had no idea what love was before the birth of our duaghter. About a month before the big day, a friend at work told me, "No matter what, do not miss the birth of your child." My immediate reaction was, "I don't know. There's a lot of pain and blood and stuff going on in there." The big day finally came when Nathalie woke me up at 2 am and said, "I think my water broke." I recall saying, "Are you sure you just didn't pee a little bit?"
Upon further review, there was no doubt, the bed was getting pretty wet. At 2:30pm the next afternoon, Taylor Josephine entered this world. It was, bar none, the most exciting moment of my life. When they took her to the cleaning table, I went over and said the only thing I could think of; "Hi Taylor, this is your dad." Her frightened little eyes responded to my voice, a voice she had heard over the last few months. I'll never forget the moment our eyes first met. She took a piece of my heart that I know I'll never recover.
While in the delivery room for my son's birth, we decided to put on the TV. There was a cooking show on Channel 11 I suggrested or the Phil Donahue Show. The P.D. show that day featured 5 transsexuals and 5 other ladies. My choice was vetoed by Nathalie, the nurses and the doctor. The gist of the show was for the audience to guess who was what. Thankfully, the show was truncated by Gregory Wolfgang's birth, not a moment too soon I might add! When he entered this world the doctor held him up and exclaimed, "Look, it's a boy!" As the saying goes, "parts is parts."
So it was Babies 101 at the Lindblooms. Much of what I learned about being a dad came from observing my dad. I don't konw how many of you know the Randy Atkins song, "I've been watching you," but for better and worse, we are ebing watched.
The things I saw were a dad who rarely said anything bad about anyone. Two of his favorite sayings we're, "they always speak highly of you," and "If you don't have something good to say, don't say it." He also planted the seeds that grew the roots of my faith. My brother's and I were told under no circumstance do you ever hit a girl. This was extremely hard to do with 5 sisters tormenting you! We were also constantly reminded to "Be careful," a refrain my kids hear all too often. He aslo influenced my decision to become a White Sox fan, saving me from countless years of heartache following the guys on the north side of the city.
One of the greatest lessons he ever taught me was with the boxing gloves. I was about 10 at the time and was pounding my younger brother Bob. My dad decided to give me a taste of my own medicine and knelt down behind Bobby, grabbing his hands. He easily blocked my roundhouse rights, simultaneously scoring heavily with counter jabs. I can still envision my brothers face laughing hysterically as he pummelled his older brother for the first time. Throwing down the gloves I whimpered, "I quit, this is no fair."
The closest moment I ever had with my dad was the the morning after all hell broke loose in our household. I won't go into the detais, but the result was my dad blaming my mom for onr of the many problems that surface in the teenage years. (you know, that period in our lives when our parents don't know anything) One of my sisters was moving out without my dad's blessing. I was working third shift at the time as a janitor at OFHS and I spent the night reflecting on a family about to crumble.
Towards morning, the story of the Prodigal Son entered my mind in a very illuminated way. With fear and trepidation, I approached my dad who was eating breaksfast when I got home the next morning. I remember mumbling something about the prodigal son and how we kids were all going to start making our own choices, good or bad. All he could really do was to pray that eventually we'd come to our senses. He sort of nodded and that was the end of the conversation. That night though, my mom said, "I don't know what you said to dad, but keep on talking to him!"
There's an old axiom, "When all else fails, ask dad." It's corollary is when that fails, ask your heavenly Father."
Jim Croce had to say it in a song, I have to say it in an article; I love you dad. In a vivd dream one night, I was riding down an escalator when a man was ascending in the opposite direction. When we corssed he looked up and I exclaimed, "Dad!" as he broadly smiled. All the hardships and worries associated with being a dad, seemed to be far from his mind. Apparently where he was, the little green bos was no longer required. How I longed to join him. to have him point out the constellations in the sky once more or play catch or just sit ina boat with his malfunctioning fish finder and a few beers. Actually, I just wish he'd come over with that little green box and fix a few things!
So dads; what's in your little green box? Remember, "they've been watching you." 19th century author, Lydia Child wrote, "Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father." And just a word to the wise for you expectant dads, don't miss the delivery. And dad, I think you're finally getting through to me.