by KATHI WHRITENOUR
Father’s Day was a huge event in my house. My father had seven daughters and all of us married, so Father’s Day meant eight fathers to be pampered for the day. My parents, sisters, their husbands and children would meet at church and sit together taking up half of the pews. After church we would go back to my family homestead for a day filled with barbecue, home made food, horseshoes, softball and laughter.
As wonderful as those days were, nothing compared to my son’s first Father’s Day weekend. The day began calmly enough. Saturday was my nephew’s wedding day. My son was to be the best man. My husband and I lived two hours away and we were packing up the car with our wedding attire and overnight bags, when we received a call from my son. The baby had arrived! My daughter-in-law was not due for another six weeks! We were in shock. Apparently she had gone into labor in the early hours of the morning and thus our first grandson was born.
At my sister’s house, things were bustling with marriage preparations and when I called her to tell her of the baby, she was excited, but fearful because my son was the best man at the wedding. It was decided that her husband would fill in as best man if my son could not make it and understood if we could not attend either. We drove to the hospital and immediately went to the nursery. My son met us there to show us his first son.
I was awed and amazed at the beauty of this newborn and instantly in love. He was perfect. I saw resemblances to several family members and I commented on that. When I looked up at my son’s face I saw the most unbelievable sight. A glow of pride and love had encompassed him, something so primal that it brought me to tears. This was the glow of a first-time father. He’s a compassionate, loving, gentle man, who is not afraid to show his inner feelings. It was a moving sight.
Soon the baby was brought to the room and I watched as my son held his child to his chest. I knew this man would be an exceptional father and was mesmerized at how natural he was with the baby. He handled him with confidence and agility. I was overflowing with pride and happiness. The experience ended too soon, as we all had to get ready for the wedding. We dressed at the hospital. My son donned his tuxedo, and regretfully left his baby and wife. We arrived at the end of the ceremony, just in time for my son to walk down the aisle on the way out of the church.
We went to the reception, but my I could tell my son’s mind was somewhere else and he looked lonely and anguished. Just before the dinner was to be served, my son came to me and asked if I thought it would be okay to leave and go back to the hospital, which of course I said it was. His face brightened and once again became flushed with excitement. He returned to the hospital and spent the night, by his wife and son’s side, in his tuxedo.
Several weeks after the baby was born, my son confided he never understood the intense feelings that I felt for him and his sister until he experienced fatherhood. He now understands.
My son has since had two more children, another son and just recently a baby girl. Each time I see him hold any of his children, the same look of wonderment, devotion and unconditional love spreads over his face and my heart swells with gratefulness.
KATHI WHRITENOUR is a freelance writer from Maryland.