Yesterday I was back home in Calgary to celebrate my Aunt Helen’s 90th birthday. She is my dad’s last remaining sibling – and her kids thought it a fine idea to build a family reunion around the day. It was wonderful to reconnect with cousins and the children of cousins! And to talk about people loved and missed. It brought to mind this, written a few years ago.
I can remember the last time I crawled up into my father's lap. We tried for a while to get comfortable, he and I. My head just wouldn't quite fit into that warm place formed between his shoulder and neck without pushing me off his lap and onto the couch. After a short while, it became a game until he looked at me with a smile and a tear and said, "You're too big!"
I can remember the last spanking I received. I had smarted off to my mother within hearing range of my father. We both knew what was coming and, before it began, regretted it. For the first time, my determination not to cry worked. I was not surprised to see my tears in his eyes as he sat beside me on the bed. "You're too big for this."
I can remember the last handshake as I left for college. We stood on the curb, having loaded my two suitcases into the trunk of a friend's car. I felt ready for the adventure. But not ready to say, "Good bye." Especially since he had just told me that he didn't want to hear from me for the next six weeks. No tears that time. At least not where the other could see. He didn't say it. But I heard it. "You're big now."
It was confirmed a few weeks later on my first visit home. He looked at me, over our highly symbolic cups of coffee, and told me he was done being my father and hoped we could become friends. But it would be up to me. I was, after all, grown up now.
I am only now beginning to understand what it cost him to say what he did. Life has moved more quickly that any of us thought possible and I find myself stuck in a father's daze. Stuck between a father who now lives only in memory and sons who live in hope. And, likely, with the same fear I had, but wouldn't show. They are, after all, big now.
The father's daze is equal parts wondering what else to say, confusion over these familiar strangers, pride at who they have become, fear at what the world might do to them, hope at what they might do for the world, and faith, knowing that God loves them more than I. So, only one word more. Seek God and His Kingdom first. Everything else will be fine. You're big now.