107: My Father — My Son

107: My Father — My Son

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

My Father — My Son

Every generation needs regeneration.

~Charles H. Spurgeon

Dad and I stood outside the window, looking in.

“In the back,” I said as I pointed through the reinforced glass.

Dad just looked and smiled, and didn’t say much as he saw his new grandson for the first time. He didn’t usually express himself when it came to matters of the heart, at least to me, and this time he saved it for my wife, Linda.

“He’s the first Xavier grandson,” Linda said he told her gently, his soft smile shining, as he stood beside her hospital bed.

Dad was already being called Grandpa by a half-dozen little ones, but this was his first son-of-a-son.

“The next generation. . .” he said.

He had become a grandfather more than a dozen years before, and I remember well that day when my oldest sister had her first son. I heard the news as soon as I walked in the door from school, and as most annoying nine-year-olds would do, I asked if we were supposed to call him Grandpa now. He just looked at me, so I never called him Grandpa again.

Dad worked pretty much non-stop in those days, one of the sacrifices of self-employment. We didn’t see him much, though he was always there for the really important times, things like birthdays and graduations and weddings and births — and every night for dinner. Dinner was never once put on the table until Dad walked in the door. Mom would have it ready, ready and waiting, and when Dad came in the door he washed his hands and we all sat down. It was the rule, but we knew it simply as dinner.

Although he sometimes made mistakes, he was a great father. He never told me how to raise my sons, not in words. But everything I know about being a father, I learned from him.

Thirty-four years have passed fairly quickly, it seems, for without too much effort I can still look at Brent and see him as a newborn, with light blond hair covering the top of his head.

And as we raised him, Linda and I made mistakes. Some of them were inherited — things like sometimes putting work ahead of my kids. Some were mine and mine alone, like making their childhood stricter than mine had been because I didn’t want them to make the same blunders I had made. I doubt they ever noticed.

But as my sons grew, I wondered if I had done enough, worked with them enough, taught them enough, to be better fathers when the time came, than I had been. I sincerely hoped so.

I stood in the hospital waiting room. It wasn’t as we thought it would be that night, my son and I. I felt his fear, though it was truly more his than mine, and I tried to offer a few words of encouragement. He resisted my efforts, as he often does when dealing with matters of the heart. He is so much like his grandfather the similarities sometimes scare me.

And so I watched him, hoping I could help, to be there if he needed me, though he rarely does. I followed him as he walked toward the recovery room while the doctor explained that everyone was okay, mother and baby. Everything had worked out just fine despite the last-minute scare.

I saw him, his hands freshly scrubbed. I saw him follow the nurse, and I watched him as he saw her — his daughter, my granddaughter — for the very first time.

And I saw him smile, a smile I had not seen on him but once before, on his wedding day some years ago.

“The next generation,” I thought, as I looked at her perfect little face and thanked Colleen for bringing us this breathtaking little girl. And then somebody called me Grandpa.

When my father became a grandfather all those years ago, I don’t know if he immediately felt, as I did just a few weeks ago, a change. For me, it signaled an added responsibility, for now there’s another generation to worry about. And I can only hope that the guidance I gave my son as he was growing up was enough — enough for him to draw upon as he teaches this precious little girl — for it’s his turn now.

My father — my son. The wisdom of the older generation, the energy of the younger. Life is truly amazing.

~Gary B. Xavier

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