My Two Sons, and Their 3 Dads

We just celebrated Father’s Day. As is the standard on the holiday, social media was full of the praises of… Mothers? Yes, but also of fathers. 

It got me thinking: what kind of father am I? An imperfect one, with no doubt. But I wonder if one were to aka my sons, what would thier answer be? Split, I think.

So let’s talk about that.

Dad 1: the loving dad. This is the man who was there at their respective births. The loving father who beams with pride at the successes of his learning sons. This is the man who has shared his love of books and reading. The man who’s strangeness has rubbed off on boys who would rather read Percy Jackson than green eggs and ham. This is the fun dad. I’d love to think that this is the dad my sons will remember and emulate when I’m gone.

Dad 2: the broken dad. This is the dad that my toddler runs to “help” stand up when he falls. This is the dad whom my sons have learned to ignore his grunts and whimpers of pain. This is the dad that my sons are eager to serve, to help, to support… But that feels exhausting shame that any of those things are needed from mere children. This is the dad that has to constantly renig on planned fun because his body has given out long before his desire to play with his children. This is the dad that my boys will remember.

Dad 3. the emotional dad. Years of medications have removed all but 1 or 2 of the dad’s emotions. The remaining emotions include anger and loud. My boys don’t like this dad…. And neither do I. He’s a jerk. He yells altogether too much. He can be cold, and unbending. He is the disciplinarian dad. He’s the one to whom my children give a wide birth. He’s the one I resent the most. I wish he’d go away and never come back (read that in Smeagol’s voice).

And here I sit, the broken dad wishing I could always be the the loving dad. Wishing that I could kill the emotional dad. I am my son’s 3 fathers (lest anyone assume the worst of my wife). I have realized that my sons have to deal with the 3 distinctive personalities of mine (these are not like… Split personalities… Or anything…. No coats are needed for me, thank you very much. No pills to make “the voices” stop, or anything. This is a proverbial conversation, not a literal one).

There we go. Kind of a lame conversation ending. Hopefully the whole of the conversation didn’t fit into that category.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow imperfect dads. You perfect dads should write a how to book: it’d sell well.

Oh, and a bonus “we’re actually sleeping,” selfie from my sons:

Remembering and Looking Forward

I remember trying to step where he stepped, but his strides were too big. He could go a lot farther than me, too. I’d be exhausted and he’d just be starting. I still loved those outings.

I remember my first hunting trip. I got so excited seeing that buck that I nearly wet myself, figuratively. I realized that I hadn’t paid clear attention in my hunting lessons: I didn’t know how to take the buck (30 points if it had 2), and I was forced to let it go. In my breathless excitement I remember telling him all about it, and I look back with a chuckle on his quietly amused response.

I remember laughing as he pretended his swollen leg was a prosthetic. I remember curiously poking at the black and brown spots  that were indicative of the congealed blood inside his leg. I remember curiously wondering why he grimaced when he walked sometimes. I remember playing with his crooked cane like a shepherds crook, especially around Christmas.

But it’s only been in recent years that I’ve understood, at least to some extent, what he was dealing with, both personally, and in setting a positive example.

My dad was born handicapped. I guess I’ve never been really clear on what that looked like, if I understand it correctly, neither do the doctors. There was some sort of mutated gene that made one leg significantly longer than the other, and added a few extra arteries in there, causing it to have way too much blood and swell to twice the size of the ‘normal’ leg. It hurts him, too, though he stubbornly hid that from everyone.

My dad set some powerful life lessons for me, like “work hard,” a lesson he may have taken a bit too far. He taught me to enjoy the outdoors, and even now when I haven’t hunted in years, I keep my rifle clean and my powder dry (literally and figuratively). I long for the forests. I am desperate to teach that lesson to my boys, as it is one of the fondest lessons I’ve ever learned. He taught me that disability doesn’t have to define you. Most people don’t know that he is handicapped, after all. He never taught this directly, of course, as none of his children had any disabilities at the time.

It’s this lesson that I’ve taken the hardest. As my disability has taken over my life, I’ve been desperate to not be my disability. It’s an ongoing challenge to teach my sons hard work when my disability has stripped me of my mobility. I haven’t spent any time in the forests of my youth lately, but my sons have enjoyed being towed in their trailer behind my tricycle. As I learn new things about myself, I hope that I am teaching my boys to not be defined by their physical characteristics.

Overall, the things that I strive to be as a father are reflective of the father that I have. Thanks for the example, dad.

Guilt, Frustration and Who I Am

An interesting thing occurs when one is reliant upon others for silly little things: one realized their own insignificance.

The other day I started the day feeling really pretty well. I took Ezra to school and came home to feed Nathaniel some toast. I even got the dishwasher loaded (though not started) – a huge accomplishment for me, espessially first thing in the morning (it usually takes all day to do that without killing myself). At 10:00 I had physical therapy. Nathaniel and packed his backpack with a couple of diapers and some toy cars (so he’d have something to do), and headed out. I did pretty well going into the doctors office. I only had to stifle one panic attack being in the busy lobby. We went back and Nathaniel contentedly played with his car and fire truck while the physical therapist checked me out.

It was my first appointment here, and he needed to see what was going on with me. Apparently my pelvis cants so bad to the right that my right leg is almost 2 inches longer than the left. At any rate, he had me do 3 or 4 “exercises” (read: pitiful stretches that any normal human would not even consider stretches). After we were done with the therapy session, we gathered up Nathanael’s things, and made to leave. As we left the room, exhausted from the effort of the session, my body gave out and I collapsed. Little Nathaniel, in a reactive and protective action, reached up and grabbed my hand to try to keep me from hitting the ground (like mommy does). The therapist asked if my falls were usually that graceful (I almost got to lower myself down with my cane). The answer is sadly “no,” as I usually hit the ground with much more force.

The thing that stood out was the 2 year old trying to act as a physical support to the 30 year old (rather than the opposite). If I’d have fallen on him, it would have really hurt him, and yet he rushed forward to help.

I spend a lot of time dwelling on the things I cannot do. It’s not that I’m brooding, per se: more that I realize the things that I can’t find solutions to. For example: the boys love their LEGO and have them spread around the house. I’d love to not step on them, but I can’t pick them up (because I can’t bend or squat). This means that, we’re it not for others, this task could not be completed.

Oh, LEGO are the boy’s responsibility anyway, but the laundry, garbage, sweeping, mopping, toe nail clipping, toilet cleaning, etc. are my responsibility. I can’t really do any of them. I joke (less out of humor and more out of desperation) that anything that falls below knee level is as good as lost.

The result of my incapacity is that Julie has much more housework than she can handle (espessially with very long hours she’s been subjected to lately). The boys are left ¬†with much less playtime than little boys should have.

The end result is a significant amount of guilt for me. Being the broken dad makes me feel bad for my wife and kids. It leads me to feel that they would be better off with a whole dad or husband. Then I get frustrated with myself, because these are things out of my control: this is who I am. I have to accept me. And my kids don’t need a perfect dad, they need THEIR dad. My wife doesn’t want another husband who is more whole, she wants me (though she would love for me to be whole).

At the risk of being preachy, I take some relief knowing that these trials are temporary. Oh, I’ve no doubt that I will deal with most, all, or more than I currently deal with, for the rest of my life; but it won’t always be like this. I have a Savior that has cleared the path for my resurrection to a perfect body. He’s made it possible for me to be with my family forever: and we’ll be whole and complete; free of these mortal trials. That will be nice.