Today as I was visiting the father of a new diagnosis of diabetes, I found myself sitting opposite from someone quite different.
He was black, I white. He was tall, I quite not! He was an athlete and coach, and I more the stocky wannabe athlete. He has been married quite a long time, talks in generalities, depends on his coaching community more than his church, and he seems to prefer the Titans over the Texans. Most of those things don’t describe me at all.
But there was one thing that we bonded on immediately. He loves his son.
His pride flowed as quickly as I got in the room. Pride maybe, joy more importantly.
Joy that his son can dribble.
Joy that his son is smart and good in his pre-K.
Joy that he and his son get to be partners and always together.
Joy that he has a son and that he sees his son imitating him and learning from him.
Joy because he is full of love for this child.
And this…despite the differences we share is why I could look him in the eye and tell him I see how broken he is.
Parenthood, as are many other experiences, is the equalizer that allows me a place at the table when I visit. Often I am asked if I have kids, and when families find I do, their comfort level with me increases. They find that they hav someone who understands.
And I think they do. I am a father whose great loves include my child, my son. And my greatest nightmares include the sickness, pain, hurting, and even death of my little boys.
But what compels me in the face of both my deep joy and deep fear as a parent is my love for my child. Love that never fades, never wavers. Yes, there are times where I haphazardly wonder why I had kids (every parent has been there!) and wish I had lots of ‘me’ time. But in the midst of any tiredness or aggravation or trial, I only know my love for my son.
That was this father. We both bonded over what it means to have a best friend son, a child with whom I am well pleased, and a gift that yearns to smile because of and with us. Being a father is a special gift, and even being a parent is a life giving and changing role. Loving my child is a gift and it is one simple key into recognizing what makes others tick.
A parental love is unwavering, deep as can be, beyond words. It’s beautiful. It gives smiles and fills my heart with more joy than I can describe.
I saw this in that father. He knew I understood what it was like to be fearful that his gift was struggling. He knew I cared not just out of my job, but because being a parent has every ability to bring one to our kneess in joy and in pain.
He was a dad. As am I. And I will take every step as a dad, just like him, carrying every joy and fear to the foot of God and trying to describe the love that compels me forward. I was blessed by this father’s reminder of the depths of a fathers (and mothers) love.