65: A Real Father

65: A Real Father

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

A Real Father

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.

~Johann Schiller

Having decided to leave my marriage of seven years, I was fully prepared to take on the new role of single mother, but not necessarily inclined to take advantage of my newly single status. For so long my social circle had consisted of my husband’s coworkers, their wives, and other young mothers in the neighborhood. After the divorce, I moved out of the neighborhood and my ex-husband kept the friends and their wives, while I kept the kids. That was fine with me. I wasn’t looking for a relationship or even someone to hold my hand in a way that might suggest even the most casual involvement. But just a few short months later I met the man who would become my second husband.

Something in my gut kept telling me not to blow him off, and this time I was going to go with my gut feeling. Kim had never been married and had no children of his own, and as the mother of two young boys, I felt an enormous responsibility to ensure that anyone I introduced into their lives would respect and support my commitment to them.

Exactly two years later we were married. The boys’ father, who self-admittedly was more of a part-time “buddy” to the boys than a father figure, readily relinquished the job of parent to my new husband. Kim stepped into the position without hesitation, and with a sincere enthusiasm. His buddies and coworkers were stunned that the man they had seen as the proverbial bachelor was not only a devoted husband, but also a shining example of a committed father.

Suddenly, he was the dad who spent sleepless nights fretting and tossing if he felt that someone had wronged one of the boys. He was a homework cheerleader, even though he had no clue what a linear equation was. He frequently called on his artistic skills to assist in designing Cub Scout derby cars and posters for biology. When the boys were ill, he called from work every hour for an update. When they expressed an interest in sports, he was the one sitting in a lawn chair at every pee-wee football practice and arriving half an hour before game time to watch them warm up. When they didn’t get the playing time they had hoped for the first year, he put both boys on a weight lifting program to increase their strength and speed. He surprised the boys with go-carts when they were younger, and dirt bikes and cars as they got older.

Both of our sons are now young men. Both have held national athletic records. The older one, Tom, is currently in college on a full athletic scholarship and his younger brother, Dan, is a senior in high school with the same potential. As they were growing up, I often wondered if they truly understood how fortunate they were to have such a loving father. But looking back, there were moments where the connection was impossible to ignore.

One such moment was Tom’s “Senior Night.” Senior Night is a common high school tradition recognized at the last game the senior players will play on their home field before graduating. During the game halftime, the field was teeming with parents, siblings and players waiting to line up and be introduced. As tradition requires, I was wearing my son’s jersey. The player’s father carries his son’s helmet. The announcer instructed the players to line up with their families. As I watched, Tom turned toward Kim, silently offering him his helmet. Kim grasped the helmet by the facemask. I waited for one of them to say something, but not a word was spoken. I realized at that moment that there was nothing that needed to be said. There were mutual nods as Tom handed over the helmet and the two men turned and stood shoulder to shoulder, a proud father and his son.

~Barbara Edwards

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