When You’ve Known Your Kids Longer than You Knew Your Dad

Yesterday, I watched my two oldest children walk towards their last day in third and first grade. To them it was just another last day of school as they excitedly told me they were, “smart, talented, good-looking and loved,” which they do every morning before scurrying off to school like squirrels chasing the wind. But, for me, this day was different. Yesterday was May 25th, the anniversary of the day my dad died in 1990.   

Although I’m vaguely aware of this date every year, it holds a special significance this time around. The reason being that, as of this morning, I’ve now known my three boys longer than my dad knew me. He died on May 25th when I was in third grade. My middle brother was in first grade and my youngest brother was two. Sometimes the apparent parity between our lives is surreal and unsettling. But, in the end it only adds significance to all the experiences of my life.

I’ve actually thought about this day for a long time. I didn’t quite know how I’d feel- happy, sad, strange. I feel a mix of all three. Mostly, it makes me remember being their age. It’s weird when your kids are at an age you remember being. I remember being intensely focused like my oldest son, asking my family members for money because I was “collecting dimes” (not much has changed). I played with G.I. Joes, enjoyed sleep overs,  and rode bikes around our quaint, quiet neighborhood.

But, that’s only a part of the story. I remember living with my cousins the summer before our third grade year because my dad was in Pittsburgh getting a bone marrow transplant to help fight his Leukemia. I remember how hard it was to leave my mom in Pittsburgh. For some reason I remember the fall, back in York, PA.,  sitting in Ms. Beck’s class watching out the window as the leaves slowly lost their color, letting the world know that winter was coming. I remember my brothers and I visiting my dad after he returned to the hospital later that year. We had Domino’s pizza while wearing hospital masks to shield my dad from our germs. He told us his Leukemia had returned and he only had a small percent chance to make it. And I remember the fateful spring morning I woke up and knew something was not right. My mom was home instead of at the hospital- and so too were my aunts. I believe one of them told my brothers and I that my father had passed.

I’m so thankful my boys don’t share my story. For me, today is a new day. I’m embarking on a part of my journey as a dad that I’ve never witnessed before. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to argue and wrestle and laugh and fight and figure out how to walk the upcoming journey together. Thinking about the meaning of this day helps put everything else in perspective. It makes all the stress of soccer practices and school and discussions on selfishness and being too sensitive seem silly. I want to be in this moment and really enjoy my kids today.

As you finish this school year with your kids, I’d like to encourage you to enjoy this moment with your kids. Let them know how much you love them and why. Let them know how valuable they are.

Also, if you’re someone who’s experienced loss I want to let you know that healing does happen. Scabs become scars scars become memories. Moments like what I’m experiencing today gain more meaning. I may feel sad for myself, but it only makes this day feel more special for me and my boys.

Thanks for reading and sharing.

So….here’s what we did today:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Cleveland’s Rock Gym

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