Friday, June 15, 2007

A Father’s Day Tribute to Dear Son’s Dad

I was looking through the rack trying to find “the” Father’s Day card, but couldn’t. The signs on the display rack had some categories, as if to help you: funny, spiritual, just another Dad or something like that. I thought it was a bizarre category. I mean, who gets a card, for “just another Dad?”

I began reading the cards and eliminating most of them very quickly. There were kiddie ones from the kids to the father. No, Dear Son was much too old for that. There were funny cards, but Dear Son’s Dad doesn’t like funny cards. And then there were the serious ones, from a son to his father, on how much he appreciates the guidance from his father to get him where he is today or to make him the man he is today. Nope, that doesn’t fit and wasn’t even close. None of them were “it.”

I grew frustrated in my search. This was my one window of opportunity to get a card this week, after I got my hair done. My one window, since Dad was babysitting while I went to the beauty shop. My car is too small to get Dear Son into it any more, or at least by myself. It’s not that he’s that huge, it’s just that I don’t have the room I need when I am lifting him in so I can’t run any errands at all, unless Dad is over to babysit. Plus, it’s June. And that means he’s out of school and I have no babysitter this month. Dad’s nice enough to work with me for the month of June, sitting so I can work and so I can get my hair done.

A woman was standing next to me with her toddler in her shopping cart. She had been mulling over the cards a bit and I happened to mention to her that there wasn’t much of a selection, even though there were lots of cards. She was quick to point out, that it didn’t matter, she just needed a card and she’d be on her way, as if getting a card, any card, fulfilled her obligation. At least she didn’t come empty handed. I thought it sounded almost callous but certainly easy.

That pretty much sums up normal life versus life with a special needs child. It’s always easier. Ask any parent of a special needs what they’d like, and they’ll all tell you the same thing, “I’d like it to be easier.” Even if it’s only easier once in a while, that would be good. But back to Father’s Day.

I find a card, that says some of what I need and buy it. It was between that and the card with Andy Griffith and Opie, Dear Son’s Dad favorite father and son show. He used to sit and watch that show with Dear Son all the time, Dear Son on the couch next to him and Dad with his arm around him. It would particularly get to me when they had the Andy Griffith marathon’s. If I hear that whistle one more time…. Dear Son’s Dad didn’t seem to care though. He’d sit with Dear Son and they watch episode after episode. If I passed by the family room into the kitchen, Dad would whistle to let me know it’s on and then smile. I’d laugh because it drove me crazy and he knew it. I am not much for re-runs of anything. But they were happy and that’s all that counts.

There aren’t any glory days as the father of a special needs child. It’s not like you pay your dues and then you wake up one day and your son has a college degree, a great job and a beautiful wife and kids. It’s not to say it’s not rewarding, it’s just different.

Dear Son’s Dad commitment goes far beyond that. Instead, he’s busy buying diapers, wipes and changing pads, whenever we run out. Not only when we run out, but he’s nice enough to go to the store and get them, since I can’t get out with Dear Son. He works close by but lives fifty miles away. He makes sure though to always take care of Dear Son.

When Dear Son is in the hospital, I typically stay there with him twenty four hours a day and he’ll relieve me once a week, typically on Sundays. That’s because he carries the primary insurance and we have a unspoken policy that his work comes first. Plus, he can’t stand sleeping on that hospital bench, even if it’s only for one day. I work part time so I can care for Dear Son. It’s a few hours a week and just barely enough to make my bills and not much else. When Dear Son’s in the hospital, I try to work unless of course, he’s too sick, which means, that I can’t. He’ll make sure that I have enough to pay my bills, sometimes paying me for that day, so I can stay with Dear Son or paying for the parking for our hospital stays, which sometimes can get pretty expensive. These aren’t fun things, but things he does to make life easier for me and better for Dear Son, so that he’s well taken care of.

This year, with the growth of Dear Son, and my inability to afford a wheelchair van, he’s had to take on the new task of running all of our doctor appointments with me for Dear Son, even thought we are divorced and he lives far away. He has a sport utility and it’s much easier to get Dear Son in there plus there is a lot of room for his wheelchair.

These are just some of the ways, in which he takes good care of Dear Son. But mostly, it’s his unconditional love for Dear Son, a son who can’t give back, a son who can never say thanks and a son who will never be able to wish his Dad a Happy Father’s Day.

I doubt this was the vision Dad had, when we decided to have kids: to have a fifteen year old in diapers, unable to talk, unable to walk and unable to care for even the most basic of needs. But then again, he’s not an average Dad. He’s a great father. A man whose worth is measured by the little things, like a dry diaper and the big things, like taking care good care of your son and stepping up to the plate when the going gets tough. You have to respect a man whose worth will never be measured by his son’s accomplishments but rather by his son’s comfort. There’s no glory in that, but Dear Son sure sleeps better at night. And that’s the difference. He makes life easier for his son who doesn’t even know it. And there aren’t any cards for that. But there should be. Then again, they deserve more than that. They are the unsung heroes, who never get their day in the sun.

Happy Father’s Day to great Dad.


Lori said...

That was a great post! You are both very lucky people that you can look past your differences and make your son the priority! Happy Father's Day Dear Son's Dad!

girlfriday said...

That is a neat photo. Two men , so obviously father and son.
I agree....Dear Son has a very,very Dear Father.

Jodi said...

Happy Father's Day....I hope he gets the opportunity to read this. Nice tribute.

Karen said...

Beautiful post. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Anonymous said...

Happy Father's Day, Dear Son's Dad.

Your appreciation of what your ex does for Dear Son is incredible. Not that he should not be appreciated, just that so many people are not able to have the relationship the two of you seem to in regards to Dear Son. I'm sure that Dear Son is so much better off for it.

I wish the same could be said about my ex, the "father" of my Dear Daughter.

Kathryn said...

Dream Mom - you are the most amazing writer and person. I just read 5 or so beautiful, beautiful posts - the good read ones including this one. So many times you write a simple sentence that just encapsulates my life as a parent of a child with special needs.

You have such an incredible gift. Thanks for sharing it with me. What a beautiful person you are too to make a tribute to your ex. I think that having a child with disabilities has made me a better person but it has especially led me to "meet" other exceptional people I never would have otherwise. People that know more about love and compassion than anyone in the "normal" world. You are certainly that exceptional.

Neurotic Illini Fan said...

This was an absolutely beautiful post about an obviously special man. How wonderful that Dear Son as such a caring and wonderful dad to help care for him.

chris and vic said...

Stand-out line:
That the father's worth is not measured by his son's accomplishments, but rather by his son's comfort.

Of course, you, by noticing this distinction, must hold the same value. And you, too, get the same credit.

Thanks for the insight. Thanks for writing about this.
chris and vic

neonataldoc said...

Nice post.

Deb said...

Profoundly moving post. Thank you, Dream Mom.

Please forgive my delay in commenting, but my own Dear Son is in the Hospital this week, with pneumonia of unknown origin- MRSA has not yet been ruled out. Will know more tomorrow. Your blog has been so helpful to me. Thank You.


p.s. I have a hunch that we live not far from one another. Your comment in a previous post about the bus accident in Fox River Grove is my clue. Again, thank you...

RunAwayImagination said...

What a great tribute to a great dad. We fathers of "normal" kids have no way of knowing the challenges that face parents like you.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute that goes beyond what most store-bought cards would say.

Now I see where Dear Son gets his handsome looks...

Special Survivors said...

What a beautiful post, and touching tribute to Dad. I love this line, in particular,

"You have to respect a man whose worth will never be measured by his son’s accomplishments but rather by his son’s comfort."

Thank you for sharing.

abby said...

Simply lovely post. I'm glad I scrolled back to catch up on what is going on in your lives.

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