It’s a crisp Autumn morning. We jump on our bikes. Michael is 8 and Jake, 11 years old. I help Michael mount his red mini racing bike as Jake gets on his more adult shiny black Stingray 2 wheeler. This ritual of riding to school is something we do at least twice a week.
Our journey starts at home. We drive through the community and we dismount, walk across Jericho Turnpike and then get back on our bikes. The rest is a breeze gliding through the local streets, but I watch them carefully as we pedal down towards school. The smiles are ear to ear and we zoom into Seaman school ready for Randy’s backpack delivery. We hug sometimes, say goodbye and they are on their way to class. For them it’s just what we do, for me it’s precious moments in time that make me present to love. We throw their bikes in the back of the truck and then I am off to work.
I, like most parents, love my children more than myself. They are an extension of me, an expression of who I am. Randy and I of course had and have our own lives, dinners, travel, friends… our own special times together. I spent hours at work. I loved work but I always had time for Jake and Michael, coaching, playing (no homework please) and experiencing life together as I watched them grow up into the young men they are today. I am well aware that they have their own destiny, their own future, and I don’t control that, not at all, though I sure as hell have tried to influence them.
But what happens when the father gets sick, like I did? What happens when the father is laid up in a hospital bed with cancer? What happens when the father can’t do what he once did? What happens when he becomes mortal? And he is still young?
How do my boys feel about that, about me? How are they processing the change in their minds? How do they feel when their invincible father becomes vulnerable and human? What happens when they see him cry?
I always knew that my love for Jake and Michael was eternal and timeless but what I learned now was that my boys love for me has been equal to that.
I see it in their eyes, in their expressions, in their discomfort in their pain and in their devotion.
“Dad you are the bravest man I know,” Michael writes to me on my Father’s Day card. My Michael who is oh so vulnerable but strong as he rummages through the messiness of this new reality.
And he is sensitive like his dad, not yet quite so self aware or expressive, but I can see it in his silence that he knows more than he admits. He loves me unconditionally the way I do him. I would say I am still his hero.
And Jake who is completely on his own, changed his career to come home and help me with my business. He is also me in so many ways and he, in his selfless nature, has expressed how lucky he feels to be spending this time with me and sees that if I hadn’t gotten ill, we never would be so close. We never would be building this lifelong business empire, as he puts it. He has showed me what strength and pure love is and he has been unequivocally devoted to me, helping me when I need it, never wavering even when seeing me at my weakest. He inspires me with his amazing love for life and adventure, his confidence and self assuredness, and his beautiful character. And he has become quite the talented businessman as well, I must say. I am proud to call him Partner.
As a parent we try our best and then hope and pray it all turns out because sometimes we are committed, present, and loving, doing all the right things and it still goes wrong, and it is heartbreaking. Looking on all I have, I am thankful for my good fortune.
When other relationships, family and friends, sometimes disappoint… when people understandably get bored of my same old story, my boys don’t waver. Every day is like the first day. Oh yeah, they’ve gotten used to it also and they are into their own lives for sure. They can turn it on and off and thank God for that. They deserve the freedom of being young and full of future.
I’ve gotten better,much better, but when I’m in pain they feel it too. I love them unconditionally and they love me just the same. That is mutual and eternal.
I have this memory I always recall. When they were small we used to travel and sometimes we’d all snuggle up in one big comfy bed, the 4 of us. It was as if my life was complete.
Funny, I’d still like to do that today… any day. It made me feel so safe and loved.
Yes my boys, they’ve given me pain, and anger, and worry (boy did I worry and still do) but they give me joy and love and a future.
So when I get weak or fearful I know I fight for myself and for Randy and my family but I fight for them, always for them.
In this journey I know my boys are watching, for themselves and for me who I’m being and how I’m being. I will never be the same, I have lost things and grown as well, and I know that they have grown together with me and through all this I know, no matter what, my boys and I are forever intertwined but separate, and that’s a good thing. How exciting for me to see them evolve and for them to dream of what’s to come. They have a lot to learn a lot to do and a lot to be.
My boys, I love you deeply.