We often don’t recognize the value or import of something at the moment of its occurrence. And so it was with the last Father’s Day gift Parker gave to me.
June of 2016, I was separated and in the never ending labyrinth of divorce and my first broken Father’s Day was approaching. I wanted to see my boys on that day, to see if I could figure out if there was still a place for me to be “a father”, to hold my breath and wonder if they would wish to celebrate the day, and hence, me.
A couple of weeks before the day, in conversation, Parker told me about a camping trip he was going to be taking with friends (one of whom was his girlfriend). That meant some of Park’s college world would be coming into contact with his childhood world (and possibly even meeting a parent!) He was nervous and excited and then he told me the date of the trip…
I don’t know if he knew the camping trip was happening over Father’s Day weekend or not. I don’t know whether this was a plan to avoid another awkward post divorce moment/date/holiday or a young man simply excited to be with his friends, but thinking through it now, I am betting on the latter. In the moment, however, I was bugged. I wanted time with him, I desperately wanted him to think that my being his dad was still a good thing and his planning a trip for that whole weekend bugged me. I don’t think I showed it, but you never know.
The weekend came and went, I heard a few stories afterwards and Parker wore a cool handmade necklace given to him on the trip by his girlfriend. And I moped a little bit, but hey – there was always next year.
And then there wasn’t.
The above picture was taken on that camping trip. I later heard the story that it was taken a few minutes after Parker and this young woman exchanged their first “I love you’s”… and I finally received Parker’s last Father’s Day Gift.
He was a strong person, a brave person, but like all of us he was wary of risking his heart. As his dad, I had the honor of walking with him through some of those seasons of hurt – both platonic and romantic. I knew how deeply he felt and cared, as well as how much he risked being hurt when he cared.
On that last Father’s Day weekend, Parker risked himself and opened his heart to another. She, too, risked herself and opened her heart to him. He (they) got to know and feel the amazing and life altering experience of being seen – of being known – of lowering the shields and being received rather than being rejected. He got to love, and be loved, by another.
And what better present could I get for Father’s Day?