From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

The Photograph

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

Henry David Thoreau

It is one of my most treasured photographs—my husband and our then two-year-old son. My men were on the deck of a beach house enjoying a beautiful summer’s day, gazing off in the same direction. Both were smiling in profile when I clicked the shutter and saved this joyous moment forever.

When my son was an art major at the University of Central Florida, he took this photo out of the family album and made a beautiful pencil drawing of their moment together. He then framed it and gave to my husband, who immediately hung our son’s work of art on the wall of his office. Obviously, this picture had special meaning to us all.

Aside from the fact that my snapshot shows a good time (of which there are many), this photo is symbolic of the father-son relationship that exists in our family. Even twenty-five years after the picture was taken, both of my men are smiling and heading in the same direction. I suppose it all started when the doctor held up our newly born infant and it was abundantly clear that we had a son. The smile on my husband’s face could have generated enough power to run all the delivery room electrical equipment. Not only was our family complete with a daughter and a son who could carry on the family name, but it was more than that. Now my husband had someone with whom he could share all of his masculine activities.

I remember my son as a toddler, following his father and carrying hammers and screwdrivers as we added a bedroom addition to our home. When my son was a little bigger, my men were often together under the sink fixing the latest plumbing crisis, or they were up to their elbows in sudsy buckets as they washed the cars together each Saturday afternoon. When my son was about four, my husband converted the backyard into an Ewok village in honor of my son’s favorite movie, The Return of the Jedi. As I watched the two of them crawling through the bushes having some sort of Luke Skywalker adventure, I knew my men shared a very special relationship.

It was about that time in our lives that tragedy struck in our neighborhood. The mother of one of my son’s school buddies died at the age of thirty-four of malignant melanoma. Our family tried as best we could to help her two boys and husband—babysitting, comforting, and just being there—but ultimately, family members had to endure the pain of loss we could only imagine. As time moved forward, their sorrow eased, and the father met, fell in love with, and married a new mother for his sons. Eventually their lives seemed to regain a normal rhythm.

As these events unfolded, my son must have been carefully watching and pondering the effects on his friend and his family. To me, my son appeared to be his usual cheerful self, but I didn’t realize until sometime later that deep inside he had been empathizing with his friend. One night as I sat on the sofa reading, my son snuggled up to me and put his head on my shoulder.

“Mommy,” he began, “do you think you will ever have to get me a new daddy?”

“Oh, I hope not,” I replied, sensing his distress for the first time. “Why are you asking?”

“Well, I just wanted you to know that if you do ever get me a new daddy, I will always like this daddy best.”

I don’t remember what I said in reply. I probably didn’t say anything, because I understood exactly what he meant and felt. I am sure I simply hugged my little man and thanked God for allowing him to know such a meaningful and loving relationship with his father, one that even death could not alter. Maybe that is why my beach day photograph holds such a dear place in my heart. My photo had clearly captured the rare bond between my son and his father, years before we even realized it for sure ourselves. As a result, it remains our favorite image.

Dorothy K. Fletcher

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