It's Father's Day today here in Australia and, as such, I feel obliged to come clean. To admit that the more I traveled, the more excuses I often found myself making for not wanting children.
But, the truth is, when all was said and done, I could've saved myself the effort. The truth is everything more or less boiled down to a single memory of an event from over thirty five years earlier.
It was an 'event' that started with little more than a pleading glance and culminated in a late afternoon, front yard, sporting triathlon. As such, over the years I've often wondered-when it seems my memory has frequently failed me in other, substantially more significant matters-- how or why my long term memory managed to latch on to such a fleeting moment?
The glance would be an exchange of non-verbal communication between my mother and father after I'd ambushed dad to shoot some baskets in the front yard only moments after his getting home from a long day of high school teaching. Dad looked to mom there in the kitchen with eyes that silently begged for her to speak up.
To play the role of dutiful wife and explain to her eldest son that his father was tired. That he had to rest up before heading out, as he often did, for the evening to referee a couple basketball games. Or any of a 101 legitimate excuses to remove himself from this unexpected date with fatherly obligation.
As I remember it, mom just shrugged her shoulders and smiled. Then went right back to whatever it was she'd been doing when we both came in. Her verdict rendered, all that was left was for dad to get changed and us to head outside. Which we did.
For thirty minutes we took turns shooting baskets before I was ready for a change and ran into the garage for a football after which father and son took turns running pass routes for another thirty minutes that probably seemed like hours for dad.
And, still, I wasn't finished.
Because it was only then that each of us finally donned baseball gloves where I went about striking out countless invisible batters as dad squatted on aching legs getting his hand stung and, eventually, his shins repeatedly dinged by the occasional ball 'in the dirt'. That was usually the cue that WE'D had enough.
For years the images from that afternoon's three sport extravaganza and 'the look' that proceeded it stayed with me. I could hide behind the allure of all the smiles, memories and good times the road had ever offered up but, the truth was, that memory from so many years earlier simply scared me. It was, I knew, what it meant to be a parent and, as such, the bar had been set at a height I wasn't prepared to reach for.
Then, things just happen.
Today, just a little more than two years into things, while organized sport is not yet in the picture, there are still books to read, movies to play, blocks to stack, trips over to the beach and too many parks to visit on any given afternoon. And always, it seems, on the heels of not nearly enough sleep.
It's at these times that the exchange between my parents comes back to me--the sigh, the rolling of the eyes, the shrug and the smile-and that fear gets buried just ever so much deeper.
It's then that, like my father did for me, I discover the energy all good parents somehow manage to tap into. The energy to keep reaching for the bar.
Thirty plus years ago, a young 13 year old got his first clue surrounding the work of parenting. Today, a child of his own only confirms it.
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