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.