Since I’m writing this on Father’s Day in the United States, I’m smack in the middle of the emotional complexity that comes along with it.
Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day) carries with it some convoluted feelings. I feel a little extra measure of grief today, since my own father died 17 years ago (17! That is not possible!), and my oldest son died 18 months ago. My youngest daughter is severely disabled, and I would give almost anything for her to be able to give me a hug and say, “I love you.”
I usually change my profile picture on Facebook to one of my dad. Since my son died, though, I have had the profile picture as a favorite one of the two of us, and I just didn’t feel like changing it today. Maybe next year.
But I’m also quite happy, since I heard from all of the ones who can communicate.
Hannah, our youngest, requires 24-hour nursing, but there is a shortage, so we must fill the gaps. My son and I have been taking care of her since 7 p.m. Friday, 48 hours ago as I write this. I received word three hours ago that our night nurse, who was to take over at 7 p.m., has injured his leg and won’t be here tonight, so suddenly we have another 12 hours to care for her, 60 hours total. He had to go to work, and I have to work tomorrow.
It’s a little tough. Not the best Father’s Day. But, you know, you take care of what your kids need.
They say you’re not supposed to have favorites. That’s not true. I have favorites.
They are all my favorites.
It’s like what the Almighty frequently says in the novel, The Shack.
“You know,” she exclaimed, “I love that child’s songs! I am especially fond of Bruce, you know….”
[…]“Is he your favorite? Bruce, I mean?”
She stopped and looked at him. “Mackenzie, I have no favorites. I am just especially fond of him.”
“You seem to be especially fond of a lot of people,” Mack observed with a suspicious look. “Are there any you are not especially fond of?”
She lifted her head and rolled her eyes as if she were mentally going through the catalog of every being ever created. “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”
I don’t want to violate their individual privacy, but I have to say how amazingly proud I am of all of them, each in their own way. So I won’t mention their names (except the ones I’ve already “outed), but I must praise them all. On this Father’s Day, here is a tribute to them all.
The oldest girl
Our oldest daughter in essence raised her younger brother and sister (and, really, her mother) after her mother and I broke up. She grew up way too fast, and has become a force of nature. She and her husband seem really good for each other, and they had the fortitude to set their own course through life and navigate it to break out of patterns that hold most other people back.
The oldest boy
Barry was one of the two to whom I said, “There are three kinds of people: those who learn the easy way, those who learn the hard way, and those who just don’t learn. You have already shown you are not the first kind. It remains to be seen which of the other two you are.” He didn’t accept that he had diabetes, and in the years prior to his death he realized he suffered the consequences. But he did learn, and throughout his life he gathered friends the way flowers attract bees. I miss him. Since I have written about him here and here, I will move on.
The youngest boy
Our youngest son (and middle child) was one of the treasures my wife brought to our marriage and blended family. He still lives with us, but not for the reasons that many his age remain “at home.” I have never seen anyone so devoted to a sibling. He is the guardian angel for Hannah, having literally been with her since the day she was born. He cares for her (and, increasingly, for his mom and me) sacrificially, and I can see it in his nature because of the way he also cares for the cat, the yard, the things he fixes around the house, the food he prepares, the amazing photographs he takes, and his responsibilities at work.
The (nearly) youngest girl
For 12 years she was the youngest, until Hannah promoted her to being the middle daughter. She lived with her mother until she came into our household at 14, a tough age for anyone. She will agree that those were challenging years. She is the other one to have heard the “three kinds of people” speech. She, too, has learned the hard way, and though she is still tweezing out the lessons, I am proud that she and her husband are doing the hard work of overcoming deficits they put themselves into. They are raising two young boys who are a handful, and they are navigating through the stress and setting goals to better themselves and their circumstances. Her mother, who died in 2009, would be proud.
The youngest girl
And then there’s Hannah. When you look at her, you might just see a profoundly challenged child. She has no volitional control at all, short of being able to consciously blink at times when her seizure medicine does not have her too zoned. But I have to tell you: she is one tough little girl. She manages to make her opinions known. She has survived longer than any of her doctors expected, and has fought her way back from numerous surgeries, respiratory challenges, and infections. She is tired, I can tell, but she keeps fighting. She has taught us to make our plans, but hold them lightly. She has been my greatest teacher.
Is there a favorite? No, of course not. I’m just especially fond of each of them. And proud. Father’s Day is just a good time for me to remember that in a particular way.
About the writer
Donn King helps you communicate confidently. He writes a lot, too, a habit he hasn’t been able to break for nearly 50 years. Connect with him on his web site.