By Jack A. Urquhart ©2012 (1100 words)
I’ve never cared for Hallmark holidays the likes of Father’s Day—never thought there was much cause for receiving tokens of appreciation from my children for discharging my parental responsibilities. After all, you didn’t ask to be born. Rather, your mother and I made that choice—we brought you both in love into a world that is at best unevenly disposed to kindness, and where struggle is for most of us a quotidian enterprise. Indeed, I expect you, my all-grown-up kiddies, could make an argument that I should be thanking you for having enriched my life.
It is with that thought in mind, and with Father’s Day fast approaching, that I choose to reverse the accepted order of things this year by serving up this little ditty of memorabilia. I offer it freely to you—and to any others who care to eavesdrop (you are welcome here!). It’s not much of a Father’s Day gift. Merely a sampling of this Daddy’s memories offered in token of my ongoing love and devotion.
Beginnings are a good place to start, don’t you think? And birthdays? Those memories linger brightly in my mind.
They say first born children often take longer coming into the world, and Dillon, that was certainly true of you. For the longest time—14 hours and then some—you couldn’t decide: would it be Wednesday or Thursday? It took a suction cap, applied to the crown of your diffident little noggin to get the show rolling. You arrived—scarlet, wrinkled, histrionic to the high heavens—on March 8th, 4:44 p.m. It was snowing in Boulder, Colorado, that afternoon—a cold, wet, spring snow swooping down off the Flatirons, the flakes clumping into cotton ball clusters.
My first parental role was to bathe and dress you—a task like trying to swaddle a greased sausage. As I struggled to master the art of diapering, the attending nurse cautioned that I should be on my guard “in case your little man decides to squirt”—a prophecy which you quickly fulfilled. I remember that your PJs featured little blue and yellow choo-choo trains. And, of course, there is the memory of your Mom, luminous after her long ordeal, laughing, crying, arms eagerly outstretched to receive you when I brought you to her room.
Three years later, your sister Devon was in a much bigger hurry.
You allowed barely three hours, my Dear, between your first timid stirrings and a confident, unceremonious grand entrance, 12:21 p.m., September 21st . It was a Tuesday, and from the beginning you were quiet and observant—barely even whimpering in the delivery room. Even then, you were gorgeous: ruddy from head to toe with whorls of black hair and lips that would’ve put Angelina Jolie’s to shame. Like your brother before you, I bathed and groomed you for your first family reunion. I don’t remember your first outfit, Devon, but I do remember how you behaved when I placed you in your mother’s arms, the way you pursed and puckered your lips, as if you were blowing kisses, until you found your mother’s breast. Nobody had to coax you—you knew just what to do. Your brother was present as well—the two of you regarding each other askance from opposite sides of the hospital room.
Other memories: I recall you, Dillon, at eight years, irritable during one of our family hikes in the Sangre de Cristos near Ouray, Colorado. It was a beautiful summer day, the four of us heading home on the downhill trail, your mother and I dog tired, when you, impatient with the family’s slow pace, decided to go it alone. I remember, Dill, how, despite multitudinous parental warnings, you went scuttling ever farther ahead, certain that your mother and I would be too exhausted to intervene. It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes after you disappeared from view when your frightened cries came echoing up the trailhead. I remember a moment of hackle-raising terror—thinking bears, thinking mountain lions—as I went racing downhill in a guilty panic. There were so many side trails. One after another I searched them, desperate to find you, determined when at last I had you locked in my arms, howling like a banshee, that you’d be grounded until your 21st birthday—a punishment I fully intended to implement—as soon as I could bear to let go of you, as soon as I could stop nuzzling the top of your head, dear stubborn, irreplaceable, devastatingly beautiful little boy.
Children have a way of augmenting your worst days in a manner that rings back ridiculous—and endearing—years later. As on the day that you, Devon, at age 4, decided it might be fun to shove a peanut up your nose. In fairness, daughter Dear, how were you to know that I would add to the merriment by choosing that same day to inform my boss that I thought him a bona fide arse—a pronouncement that while immensely satisfying (not to mention, accurate) was enough to get me canned.
Two hours we were at the emergency room that afternoon, the whole family—your mother and I wondering if the insurance provided by my now former employer would cover the expense of extricating that recalcitrant nut from your dainty schnoz. Meanwhile, you and your brother played in the hallway as if all the troubles of the world amounted to naught. Eventually it took a team of nurses, aided by your mother and I, to corral you for the attempted extraction. And then you made us all look like fools. I shall never forget, Devon, your powerful sneeze and the sight of that snotty missile all but launched into orbit. Later that evening, you asked for the comforting rhythms and repetitions of Dr. Seuss and fell asleep while making your own rhymes in sighs and saws against my chest.
I could go on wandering down memory lane, kids, but I won’t. Instead I’ll offer this final bit of hard-earned Father’s Day advice—offer it to you, my children, and to any other interested parties in attendance. Here it is:
Sometimes (often?) the most priceless moments between parent and child—between any two individuals—barely register in real time.
That is because we Dads and Moms—we human beings—are too busy, too distracted, too tired, and/or too selfish to recognize and appreciate them: the wonders transpiring right under our noses. Yet, inevitably, these casualties of inattention come back to haunt us, their visitations triggered by old photographs, by bizarrely altered dreams, by family stories told and retold. They come back to remind us of times lost.
This little fact of life, my Dears, is my Daddy’s Day gift to you. I offer it in the hope that you might profit from my oversights and omissions. In the hope that you, better than I, might savor all the little miracles that come your way—as much in the present tense as in the past.
Yours with love,