104: Doting Dad

104: Doting Dad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Doting Dad

Great fathers get promoted to grandfathers.

~Author Unknown

“It’s time,” I told my mother over the phone. Well, really, did I actually say those words? I’ve no idea, but I do know that Mom and Dad dropped everything and were there at the hospital all day while I was in labor wishing for it to be over already.

My father still had his own medical practice and my mother managed his office. Whatever their plans had been, whatever patients were scheduled, I don’t know. They must have cancelled them all in order to be there with me.

Dad bonded with my daughter the moment he set eyes on her.

Still exhausted from forty-six hours of labor and a C-section, I was scheduled to go home to our multi-level townhouse.

“No.” Dad wouldn’t hear of it. He and Mom not only offered us a place in their house, but also gave us their bed. “We have those electric beds. You can raise up the top to sit without using your stomach muscles,” Dad explained.

“And you don’t even have to get out of bed to nurse,” Mom added.

So while I bonded with my firstborn, my parents’ love for her continued to grow as well. Unexpectedly, I developed a new understanding of my father. Of course I don’t remember my own infancy. I grew up attached to my mom. My brothers had Dad and I had her. We cooked together while Dad, when he was home, played chess with my brothers. During my childhood, Dad had to be gone long hours. It was his job. The phone rang anytime day or night with people who needed him.

As my daughter grew, so did Dad’s devotion. “How high’s the fever?” he asked when I called to say my baby was ill. “Get your coat, we’re going,” I heard him say to Mom as I looked at the thermometer.

“It’s 102, Dad. I can handle it.” They lived sixty miles away. “You don’t need to come all this way for nothing.” Part of me felt hurt. Didn’t they trust my ability as a mother? By the time they arrived, her fever had broken. “I’m sorry you wasted all that time.”

When Dad walked in, face contorted with worry, he was not my dad, the doctor. He was Grandpa. And he had to see his grandbaby. “Seeing you is never a waste of time.”

“You really need to get out more,” Mom insisted. “Take a break.” She knew that I always needed alone time.

“And go on a date,” Dad added, meaning that he wanted time with my daughter without my husband or me around.

Long-distance babysitters. I’m sure there were plenty of capable teenagers in the neighborhood who would have loved the babysitting job. But, no. My parents drove an ever-longer trip as traffic increased over the years. There were many times when it made more sense for Mom to come by herself. After all, when Dad wasn’t seeing patients, he wasn’t making any money. Didn’t matter. The weight of raising his own children now lighter on his shoulders, he would make the time. He had missed out on many of the small things in his own children’s lives, not by choice but by circumstance. And now he could make up for it by being an active grandpa.

My parents took my daughter to the park, to the theater, to museums. They treated her to wonderful meals from different types of restaurants and never passed up an opportunity to let her find a favorite something in a gift store. Mom might have said no — she often did when I was a kid. But Dad couldn’t deny my daughter anything.

When baby number two came along, Dad stepped up in a big way, keeping my four-year-old daughter happy, stimulated and occupied, while Mom helped me recover and take care of my newborn daughter. “Come on, Grandpa, let’s go to the park.”

“Just what I was going to say.” He’d take her hand and off they would go.

And then I had a son, Dad’s first grandson. We spent the summer after he was born at my parents’ house. My son developed colic within days of our arrival. Every evening just as we sat down for dinner, the screaming would begin. Such a content, easy baby the other twenty-three hours, for an hour every day he was inconsolable. Hearing him cry contracted every muscle in my body.

“He senses your stress,” Mom said.

I sighed. “He’s the one making me stressed.”

Dad was somehow unaffected. Once again sacrificing his time with the family and a hot dinner, he’d take my son outside and hold him gently. Humming, singing, talking, all in a soothing voice, Dad walked around and around the yard. The wobble that occurred as he walked on uneven legs helped rock the baby to sleep.

I never thought much about what kind of father my dad had been, what he was like when I was a baby, what he went through to provide for us and still try to spend as much time with us as possible. It took me being a mom, watching him as a doting, self-sacrificing grandfather, to really appreciate all he did for me as a child. His giving never ends.

“Come on, Grandpa,” my daughter said to him once again. “Let’s go play.”

I looked at him as he got up to leave the company of adults. “Thanks, Dad.”

~D. B. Zane

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