The early morning sun and I contemplate the coming day. It is full of summer promise and soft air, the kind of day for celebrating just about anything. But Father’s Day? No way.
It doesn’t compare to the day a one year old with white blond curls tastes her first lemon. She sits in a high chair in a high-toned restaurant, chatting to herself as her mother, grandfather, and I chat with each other. Her eyes cast about and come to rest on a wedge of lemon. Big smile. Ever so delicately she lifts the lemon from the plate and then chomps on it like a lumberjack at breakfast. There’s a pause. The smile fades. Her mouth falls open, lower lip quivering, and the wedge falls to her lap, her eyes searching for help. I reach over and, with my napkin, wipe the taste of lemon from her tongue. She touches her tongue with a perfect little fingers, contemplates our laughter, then bursts into her own giggles, totally enjoying the joke, whatever it is.
There is a day in the front yard when another little girl blissfully hugs her one year old brother around the head, unaware that the playmate she has wanted for all of her three years, whose muffled wails and tiny flailing arms bring me running, is not feeling the same bliss. I gently separate them and suggest the difference between brothers and stuffed animals. Her look is worried until I swing her high and tell her that she is the best, most loving big sister any brother ever had.
“Good night. I love you”, we say to our five year old daughter one night. “I love you…AND I like you!”, she replies. An important distinction to be sure. “Love you and like you” becomes a permanent term of family endearment.
One summer day, I am carrying a laughing boy into the surf when we are both upended by an unexpectedly strong wave. We surface, sputtering. His now very large eyes warn of permanent fear of water. I quickly shout “wasn’t that fun!” and toss him in the air. He comes back down and grabs me firmly by the hair. I brave the pain as the giggle returns and we head out in the surf once more.
At dinner a 7 year old announces that he knows algebra. “Z minus X is 2”, he says. I search through cobwebbed algebra , but am stumped. “Uh…what?” “X is 2 less than Z”, he says, picking at broccoli. Then I remember the alphabet; Z is the 26th letter and X, the 24th. I can’t wait for his generation to fix the world.
I am watching my 12 year old’s Lacrosse game through close-up lens, determined to get THE Sports Illustrated shot. At one point both teams crowd the net. There are screams for a score. I stumble over a large dog, reflexively snapping the shutter in an effort not to fall. Great yells announce the score and I think bad thoughts about all dogs. “Did you see me score, Dad?” he says after the game. “Absolutely” I say with false conviction (I must have seen it- I never took my eyes off him!). Later I look at the pictures and almost miss it – a perfect shot of my son scoring.
My favorite Christmas card is a packet of “Poems For The Holidays”, written by an 11 year old one December day. “I saw a bright star, soaring across the night sky, above all the world, with golden trails of sparkles, a star for a wish come true”. The packet is dedicated “to my Father, Henry Briggs”.
Father’s Day is not any single day. It is every day.