Sunday is Father’s Day.
My boy has never had a Father’s Day with his daddy.
For the first one, The Hubs was deployed. Since our boy was only 6 months old then, I didn’t do much for him. But I tried my best to make it special for The Hubs. It killed me that he wasn’t able to be there for his first Father’s Day, the first celebration of what he’d wanted so greatly, his son. I sent him a special package that had many of his favorite goodies, a card that I might have maybe helped Little Man scribble on ;), a very heartfelt letter from me, and several gifts. Among these were a custom carved wooden frame with his favorite photograph of him and Little Man, as well as a customized set of dog tags that had that same picture on one tag. I wanted him to have reminders at all times, whether in his makeshift ‘room’ or out on mission, of the little boy he desired so greatly, loved so deeply, and was waiting for him at home. He loved it all and set the photo up immediately in his room and wore the tags every moment unless he couldn’t for safety’s sake.
Neither of us ever expected that I would receive those first Father’s Day gifts back in a somber black box, and that he would never experience a single Father’s Day with his son.
Fast forward nearly 4 years. The kiddo was in the backseat today as we drove across town, heading home from running errands to get him changed into his uniform for taekwondo class. I reminded him that this Saturday is the ‘Daddy and Me’ taekwondo class in honor of Father’s Day.
[Backstory: They had a similar class for Mother’s Day (which I attended) and in these classes, the kids teach their parents how to do their skills. The kiddos then award their parent with a special honorary belt at the end. When they announced the Father’s Day class a few weeks ago, Grandpa (The Hubs’ dad) was there. He comes once a week to watch Little Man in class, so the instructors know him. We all encouraged him to do the class with Little Man, as this is the first event like this that Little Man has been old enough to really understand and notice, and considering The Hubs own childhood practice of taekwondo, it would be meaningful for both Little Man and Grandpa…]
In the span of five minutes, I learned that every ounce of effort I’ve been putting into keeping The Hubs’ memory and presence alive for Little Man is starting to pay off… In the moment, as I was listening to the words he said, I was thinking ‘I wish I could record this and listen again forever and tell the world…’ but I guess it was one of those moments that is meant to be cherished alone.
But as I heard my child explain to me how he was ‘excited for his class, and happy to have Grandpa come, and Grandpa was coming because Daddy couldn’t come because he was in Heaven and not walking around like us, but even thought that was really sad and he really wished he could see him and teach him how to kick, it was okay because Daddy could see him from Heaven and God was there, and Grandpa was Daddy’s dad and could teach him instead, and after we were done in class maybe we could take the awesome camo belt he was going to award to Grandpa and tie it onto a whole big bunch of balloons and float it up to Daddy in Heaven with a note on it that says I LOVE YOU and then Daddy would know that he was okay and Grandpa was teaching him things since Daddy couldn’t…’
Listening to my child says these things in the same tone of voice that he talks about Superman and goldfish crackers and needing to go to the potty, hearing it so matter-of-fact from him, you would think would make me cry. I mean, it’s heartbreaking that my child has to understand loss and life and death and such adult topics so meaningfully when he is only 4. And maybe any other day it would have made me tear up. But today, it made me smile. It made me think. It made me proud. Proud not only of this little boy who is so incredibly wise, so smart, so inspirational to his Mommy…but proud of myself, proud of The Hubs’ family, my family, all of our friends and EOD ‘uncles’…proud of the village that has rallied around this child and raised him up in the image and love of his father.
This Father’s Day, although I will be wishing The Hubs could play with his kiddo like I always will, I’ll be thinking more about how proud he would be of this little man his Little Man is becoming. Because even though he isn’t here in person to raise this precious being he dreamed of, he will ALWAYS be a part of his life. He is still impacting his life, in the words of Little Man: all the way from “Heaven and the mystery planet and all the way up past the moon….”