The Man in Between
This weekend I will spend Father’s Day with the man who made me a son and the boy who made me a dad. Because of distance and living arrangements, it’s not often the three of us get time together.
I love to watch the interactions between my son and his grandpa. There is a side of both that doesn’t exist when I’m in the picture; a simple innocence which each shares with the other. I’m just the man in between.
I grew up not really understanding my father. We lived in the same house and yet a million miles away. I held him responsible for anything that went wrong with our relationship. At 6, 11, or 17 years old, I never fully understood the many aspects of being a father and husband.
He had to provide for a family in addition to just being a dad. I can’t even imagine being the sole financial provider for food, clothes, vacation, cars and a mortgage. My dad put two boys through private school. He lost and changed jobs. He buried parents and moved homes twice. He was a little league coach, a cub master, and full-time chauffer of two active kids.
As we grow up, it’s hard to understand the pressures of making that world balance. Trying to be great as a parent, an employee, a husband and all the many roles he filled, takes a lot skill. And frankly, a lot of mistakes. I judged him pretty harshly sometimes for the standards I created for him without really giving him the chance to know exactly how to meet those standards. Decades later, I now realize the countless emotions, fears, expectations and anxieties that he must have contended with during those years.
When I became a dad, my world changed. There was a child for whom I was now responsible and I would have those same emotions, fears, and anxieties. Even though duties are shared between four parents, I feel an enormous weight on my shoulders of being a caregiver and provider.
I understand what it’s like to be a man in so many proscribed roles. It’s amazing my dad balanced as many as he did because there are times it feels like I’m just treading water.
When I became a father, my dad’s role changed. He didn’t have to provide for this new life; he only had to love. He only had to be a grandpa.
As I watch my dad with my son, I see him in a different light. The man I thought lacked emotions, is filled with them. The two of them catch bugs, go for walks and giggle. My dad sits on the floor playing games him; he cuddles and rocks him; he makes funny faces and noises. He understands a world in which farm animals can talk and a spaceman and cowboy can be the best of friends. And he totally gets that a dinner can consist of goldfish crackers. Not burdened with the daily grind of providing for a family, he became the father I wanted back then. But I understand things so much differently now.
There is a saying that we always want to give our children more than we had.
My son, I give you my dad. Love and cherish this special man, as I now know I do. He’ll always be there for you, just as he’s always been there for me – and as I’ll always be there for you.