Happy Father’s Birthday

The voice is far away in another country, yet it’s sentiments are being heard throughout the world today and very close to my heart.  “Happy Father’s Birthday,” he says.

I spent the morning reading the newspaper.  My home town is experiencing the flood waters that has dominated the news these past few days.  Cedar Rapids is only 27 miles from where I was born and raised.  I thought about the thousands of families that have been disrupted by this natural disaster and the holiday that wasn’t for them.

The paper highlighted military fathers.  It would be a severe strain on a marriage to be in that situation, with the family head off to fight in a war half a world away.  Sons and fathers leaving behind their own sons and daughters in a long distance relationship that would be difficult in it’s communication and sporatic at best.

I have raised my kids, they are now young adults who have their own lives to lead, their own stories to tell.  I remember many years of their depending on me to raise them right, to comfort and care for them, to raise them true to my ideals.  It wasn’t always easy, nothing worth while ever is.  We learned a lot in those years, even as they were growing, I was growing, too.

Often times being a kid with my kids was the norm.  Playing games or practical jokes, discovering the bond that is family.  Being a father puts you in all kinds of circumstances and postures; of being a teacher or a student to their needs, of being a friend or a disciplinarian to their desires.  Throwing a ball or helping with homework, learning a new idea or discovering an old one; being a dad opens the door to life in a  whole new way. 

Fatherhood.  A gift from God, the ability to procreate. It is a tough commitment that many are abandoning today.  It isn’t hard to become a Father, but it is hard to live up to the responsibility of being one.  It was a struggle for me, I’ll have to admit.  I didn’t have a lot to draw off of since my parents were divorced while I was still a baby.  So many of the ideas I had about what to do and what to be came by happenstance much of the time.

But we made it.  My kids came out virtually intact on into young adulthood and my ability as a father seemed adequate enough. Even after the divorce, I am still their Dad and the affection has turned from reliance to realization.  They have found it isn’t easy to be all grown up, gone are those days of being taken care of by the parents.  They must make it on their own.  I sense a new respect from them now.  Being accountable for one’s actions is what becoming an adult is all about; no body’s there to bail you out, you’re on your own.

I recently remarried.  I devoted the rest of my life to my French Canadian sweetheart.  She has recently divorced and shares the custody of her two children, which makes me their step-father.  Her oldest daughter is 11, her son is 9.  They have learned English as a second language, French being their mother tongue.  Living in another country some 1800 miles away is a long distance relationship  we work on every day.

I called this morning to talk to my new bride, and her son answered.  We have met briefly, but he is extremely shy and struggles with my American banter.  Usually our conversation is me talking and he giving one word answers like, “yes,” “no,” and “uh-huh.”  The longest sentence I think I’ve heard him say on the telephone is, “Wait, I’ll go get my Mom.”

But today he said something different in a low, shy voice, “Happy Father’s Birthday.”  Of course, I knew what he meant.  His mother and I chuckled over it when she came on the phone to talk, her sweet accent beckoning to me.  I know in my heart where my home is, it is there with her and our family.

It is a re-birth in a way, going through these times again of adolescents full of wonder, questions and reasoning’s far beyond what a mere adult can understand.  I bring with this new life a certain amount of experience I gained from the first go round.  I enter with my heart open to the new discoveries each child can bring about themselves and me. 

You never stop being a parent.  Being a father and becoming one again is probably one of the greatest joys a man can have. 

That little guy has a great future.


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