When I found out that I was having a baby boy, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. We have always had girls in our family, and we were used to baby dolls and barbies around the house, not footballs and action figures or (what my mom likes to call them) scary guys. We were all a little nervous about what it would be like to have a little boy running around our family. And then he arrived, and he has been making our lives better since day one. I could not imagine my life without a son.
But, there are many moments that sadden me because my dad is not around to help shape him into a man and teach him the traditions of the men in our family’s history. My dad was only fifty-three when he died, and my son will never know the man I knew. My son was only 5 when he lost his grandpa, and I am grateful for the moments that I do have of them together, although my heart aches everyday because I know that they would have inspired each other.
Things I wish my dad could teach my son:
- My family is from the south side of Chicago, so Da Bears were a big part of my childhood. My parents even had an old refrigerator with “The Fridge Perry” painted on the front. I remember get togethers in our basement to watch football and my dad doing the Superbowl Shuffle. My dad loved football, and he especially loved the Chicago Bears. My son has just started enjoying watching NFL games on Sunday, and I want my dad to teach him about the game. I want my dad to tell him stories about his football days.
- I want my dad to be there when all of the boys in the neighborhood start up a game of flag football. I want him to see my son celebrate his first touchdown and to give him tips and pointers from his personal experiences.
- I want my dad to teach him how to handle disappointments and mean kids. My son has such a big heart, like my dad, but sometimes he is too naïve to see when someone is not being a good friend. He needs man to man conversations from a wiser and more experienced man. It has a much different impact coming from mom.
- I want my dad cheering on the sidelines of his basketball games telling him that he is proud of the young man he is becoming. I want him to be there to encourage him and teach him. I imagine my dad shooting hoops with him in the driveway on a Sunday afternoon. And when I see my son practicing his new basketball drills, I long for my dad to listen to him talk excitedly about how he wants to be in the NBA. I will never fill that void.
- I want him to be there when he is struggling with a new skill. My dad was always a great teacher. He was supportive, patient, and kind. I have those qualities, but I don’t know much about “guy” stuff.
- My dad was passionate about gardening was always looking for someone to show how good his tomatoes were looking or how many green beans were hiding in the garden. My son would have given him the reaction he was looking for. He would have been so impressed with grandpa’s peppers and cucumbers!
- My grandpa and my dad both had a concrete finishing businesses. My dad was very proud of his trade and had a great work ethic. He never had a son to pass his trade skills down to. I want him to teach my son the importance of taking pride in your work. I want him to show him how to use a bull float, a trowel, and how to drive a bobcat.
- I want him to teach my son how to drive a stick shift. I will always remember driving in his truck when I was little. He would put my hand on the shifter and wrap his weathered hand over mine so I could feel the way it worked. As I got older he let me attempt to drive his truck. I never did figure it out. It wasn’t because he gave up on me, it was because I lost interest. How I wish I could go back to that moment.
- I want him to spend a cold winter day with my son reminiscing about his life as a boy growing up in the 1960’s. I want them to spend time looking through the old newspaper clippings of “The Toe” and the 4th of July parades. Or showing him his yearbook with pictures of his first girlfriend or old buddies. It’s just not the same coming from me, although I am so grateful to still have some of that memorabilia.
- I want him to teach him about our Polish Heritage. I don’t even know if he knew that much, but he knew how to make the best chicken soup with kluskis. I make this every year to celebrate my dad’s life. I want to pass this recipe down from generation to generation.
Mostly, I just want him here. I want my son to have the opportunity to know the man who shaped me. I can try to instill these values or traditions into my son, but no one will ever be able to replace my dad. My son will never have a grandpa and my heart breaks for him, but I appreciate the men that he has in his life, and he is turning out to be a great young man, but I can only imagine the impact my dad would have had on him.