With Father’s Day approaching, I thought I’d share this from an old blog:
They entered the restaurant exhilarated: an old man carrying a small boy, probably a grandchild. The man’s hand cradled the back of the child’s head, holding it close to his own. I wondered if this was the first time these two had ventured out just by themselves. I imagined a houseful of relatives from which they had escaped.
They discussed their order at length, which was a complicated affair: Burgers or chicken nuggets? Fries? Milk or soda? A chocolate shake instead? And which small toy to choose?
That task completed, they reached their table where the man began to set out their meal. But the boy darted away, I think in search of a restroom. The man did a doubletake as he realized that his charge had vacated the vicinity.
I had been enjoying watching them, and when the boy took off I kept my eyes on him until the man could catch up. The boy turned a corner, and I saw another man come to attention to keep watch over him. The old man scurried past, muttering something about how fast the little guy could move. I pointed him in the right direction. The second man also pointed.
The old man caught up with him and they continued their outing. The other man and I relaxed our vigil and resumed our respective meals.
There was something significant about that moment when all three of us men, strangers to each other, shared guardianship over the child. I have no doubt that each of us was a father because we each automatically slipped into the role of protector. It’s what we do for our children and when necessary, for each others’.
My sons are grown and pursuing their destinies. Like that child, they have darted away outside my range of protection. I’m sure they’re fine but I hope there are some dads out there who would lend a hand to help if I couldn’t be there. I’ll do the same for the young ones around here.
Presumably, one day my sons will become fathers, and the moment it happens they will understand me a little better. We will look into each other’s eyes and recognize the protective quality we share for the children.