Blink and you’ll miss it.
The life of your children, gaining steam as the years pile up, first the walking and talking, then the long days in school, sports teams and hobbies, girlfriends and hickies, college applications and finally graduation.
The first job. The first sick day. The first angry boss harping on his feelings and lecturing about responsibility.
These are the rewards for all those sleepless nights.
Could there be a better Father’s Day present than watching your eldest son receive his diploma at Albee Stadium, the same setting where you and your wife both received your diplomas what seems like a century ago?
That first night as parents of an independent human being resides in memory like a chance campfire glimpsed through the trees after hours wandering in cold wilderness.
I remember his yellow skin. We were anxious, and overwrought. Three days after he’d first emerged from the womb covered in blood and mucus, squalling for all he was worth inside a noose formed by his umbilical cord, I cried.
I sat there helplessly when the doctor took the scissors from me to cut the cord himself, alarmed that the child might be in danger. After he cut through the thick flesh supply line, the nurses removed the cord and our baby boy seemed fine and healthy, ready to take on the world. And still I cried.
Three days later we were back, a case of jaundice having set in so severe we had to put baby Gabriel under lights and cover his eyes with futuristic seeming sunglasses that made us all feel slightly ridiculous.
Luckily, they worked. Over time, our new son settled into a normal hue and we were free to begin the never-ending process of becoming a family, of growing used to the idea that we were responsible for this new life. His welfare would always depend on our abilities to step up when the situation demanded it. Hence the tears. Could I ever be up to such a task?
In the 18 years since, we’ve done nearly as much growing up as he has. We’ve progressed from young, frightened kids to old, frightened adults with significantly more debt and certainly more stories to tell.
We haven’t been the best parents. I of course worked a lot in his early years, suffered my much-discussed battle with addiction, fought a fair amount with his mother, and made too little money to supply him with all the things he probably needed.
Amy, my wife, has done much better in her role as loving mother. She’s been there always, wiping noses and asses, free with kind words and soothing gestures for both the kids and I.
Goddamn I love her. I also learn from her, every day.
And more than I ever knew possible, I love him. And his brother and two sisters. What once might have seemed uncomfortable has now become a privilege. Our relationship has progressed from positive reinforcement and occasional discipline to fatherly advice administered as lightly as possible to help a young man carve his own place into a hard world.
He’ll be just fine, I think.
He certainly seemed confident, handsome and put together as he crossed the stage Friday to receive his diploma. As I said, I made that walk myself some 22 years ago, and if I close my eyes and hold my breath, I can still feel the low wind sweep through the stadium to tug at the frayed ends of my black robe.
I thank God for this life, for these people — my family — who’ve blessed my time on Earth with their good hearts and sharp minds. If I get nothing else for Father’s Day, this moment of pride and reflection has resurrected me.
I live for them.
James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.