From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Fathers and Sons and Grandfathers and Angels

The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.

Blaise Pascal

“Come on, Dad. Let’s play!” Ray says the moment his daddy walks in the door.

David laughs and playfully tousles Ray’s hair. “Give me a minute. Let me change.”

Their daily routine began years ago. When Ray was little, he’d have bats and balls lined up at the edge of the driveway, awaiting his daddy’s return from work so he could snag him for play without a moment’s delay.

“Do you mind?” David asks, depositing his work clothes in the hamper and then coming back into the kitchen to plant a kiss on my check.

I cup my hand on the stubble of David’s face. He winks at me. Our twelve-year-old son stands before us, holding his bat in one hand, a bucket of balls in the other. He is impatient, but only because he is eager for the highlight of his day—time with his daddy. How could I possibly mind?

I laugh. “Go. Have fun. I’ll see you two at dinner.”

They don their ball caps, climb into the Vette, adjust the music to their liking, and back out of the driveway. They grin, looking like two peas in a pod—the spitting image of each other with their husky builds, strong angular faces, and what David calls “the Sherman nose.” They wave as the car rumbles down the road, and I wave back until they turn out of sight. Those two fellows, my favorites in all the world, are best friends.

David knows a life that, God willing, Ray will never know. He knows what it is like to be a boy growing up without a father. His daddy died just before David turned two. We have a handful of photographs, even one or two capturing the image of David and his dad together, but otherwise, David has no recollection, no memories whatsoever of his father. And still, David has gotten fatherhood so right. I know his spirit. I know his heart, and I know some of the men he has loved and who have loved him back. I was honored to have known his grandfather. My mind wanders back to that kind man.

“He was a good man, a kind, gentle man,” David says of his daddy’s daddy. “He never raised his voice, never uttered a single curse word that I can remember.” To this day, David’s eyes mist when we walk past a tobacco shop in the mall and the smell reminds him of his grandfather’s pipe. When we were first married, David had puffed at a pipe, too. Probably would still if we didn’t heed the hazards of smoking.

A year prior to his death, David’s grandfather suffered a stroke that left his speech slurred to the point of being barely decipherable, and with a partial paralysis that made living in his two-level home next to impossible. We drove from Texas to Pennsylvania that summer so David might help his grandparents relocate from their home to an assisted living facility. His grandfather hardly spoke, but that did not matter to David. What mattered was being there for this man who meant the world to him, and who was his closest tie to his father. Those few days were the last they were to spend together. Just before we left, I snapped a photograph of Ray, David, and his grandfather on the front steps outside their home. Three generations captured in a photograph, and I had imagined David’s father was right there, with them in spirit.

And then came the angels . . .

Two years after his grandfather’s death, David experienced a life-threatening illness. Several months before we realized he was so sick and six months before the illness came to a head, David had a premonition. It was just before Christmas.

“Did I talk in my sleep last night?” David asked as we were making the bed one morning.

“Not that I recall,” I said. “Why?”

“It’s nothing. I was just wondering.” He grew quiet and didn’t seem to want to talk so I didn’t press him further. But a few days later he approached the subject again. “I had a dream.”

“Tell me about it,” I urged.

“I was with my father and grandfather. They said everything is going to be all right.”

“They said that? Did you see them in person? Did you hear your father’s voice?”

He tried to explain. “I didn’t really see them, but I knew I was with them. They didn’t say the words out loud, but that was their message.”

I was confused. “What are they talking about? What’s going to be all right?”

David shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Six months later, we understood the meaning of the dream. David was hospitalized when he could barely breathe. The doctors discovered his body had been throwing blood clots that had shut down two-thirds of his lung capacity and nearly took his life. A dislodged blood clot had taken his father’s life . . . I believe with all my heart and soul that the spirits of David’s father and grandfather had revealed themselves in David’s dream and were looking after him and keeping him safe. I silently thanked them again, as I had so many times before.

A couple of hours later my two fellows arrive home from the ballpark.

“You should’ve seen the ball I hit, Mom,” Ray calls.

“Tell her about that catch you made,” David adds.

I hear the details of their exploits and achievements, but what I watch, what my heart listens to, is the interaction between them: the way their eyes light up, the way they smile at each other, and the friendly jabs and back-and-forth banter. I see the love they share and how they enjoy their time together. I see in our son’s eyes his adoration of his father, and in my husband’s eyes, his devotion to our son.

Ray’s baseball coach recently told the boys, “Life isn’t always fair, but we play the hand we’re dealt.” David has lived this motto every single day I’ve known him. Certainly, our son loves his father, but I believe this love will only grow deeper and stronger as he grows older and wiser. And I know without a doubt that someday, if and when he has children of his own, he will be just as awesome a father to them as his father is to him. Life is blessed.

Tracey L. Sherman

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