One of the phrases I heard most through Naomi’s illness and our loss of her was “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” This was mostly said by people whose heart was in the right place. They wished to be able to feel our pain. They may have thought that by sharing the feelings that they could help us or at least understand. It was nice to hear albeit a little tiresome after a while.
Something I never hear this phrase said to us regarding is that we have 5 kids. Maybe it’s because a lot of our circle of friends are big families too. Most families who have three or more have gone past the point of a 1:1 parent to child ratio. Mom and Dad are already outnumbered. We do hear “Looks like you’ve got your hands full,” occasionally, but not as much now that they are older. I kind of miss that.
I can look at one or two child families and imagine what they go through at least up to a point. Every child is different so no two situations are exactly alike. But there are things that we don’t have to imagine the feeling of because we all know it. Other fathers and I stand in the ranks of a brotherhood of men who know life’s highest joys and the lowest anguishes. There was an eruption of joy that I never knew before the day my first child was born. It was hours after he was born and I was driving home from the hospital to rest a bit. The realization hit me and I actually exclaimed out loud: “I have a son!” over and over. I think other dads have felt something like that.
Along with the days they were born and they days they accomplish something new or present you with a homemade gift or just say the right words at the right time children can be a source of joy just by being there. There of course are times they infuriate you, disappoint you and hurt you deep. Sometimes it’s nothing they do that devastates you. But losing a child in any way can be the deepest anguish any person ever feels.
And as a father it’s not enough to look back at the end of his life and decide if it all was worth it. The big things will stand out and sometimes that will be a wayward child or a loss and those lows will eclipse the highs. I have to not only look back at the end of the day but look around all day. Each moment your child isn’t breaking your heart should be a moment of joy from them. Sometimes that’s what it seems like it takes. But if a million tiny moments of little joy can work together to ease out a heavy sorrow then they need to be gathered up each day.
The day Naomi said her first word stands out. She looked at me and burst out: “Daddy!” That memory is as strong as the day I lost her. I want to polish this memory and feel its joy. While I want to let the other one gently fade to the back. It will never be gone, but the sharp edges are dulled down from lack of use.
So I speak to fathers because that’s what I am. Let’s gather up the little joys and foster them. Share them. Never forget them. They are never insignificant and we will need them. I can’t imagine going through a day without them.