The magnetic pull I felt as his little red car sped out of the driveway just after dawn is indescribable. My boy. How could this be his senior year already? And, of course, while my husband and I have not allowed ourselves to speak of this out loud, we both recognize that what "senior year" essentially means is that he will never truly live at home again. Ouch, That pull again.
My boy. Oh, how I love that adorable little pain in the ass of a boy. When I try to articulate it, there are no words. And when I try to imagine that my parents had that same emotion multiplied by TEN children, I find it simply incomprehensible. Of course, there were good days and bad days, but, trust me, love us they did.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal this week as well because Tuesday also marked the day my Father would have turned 91 years old.
I don’t want to create a false picture here nor give the impression that Dad resembled anything even remotely close to Fred MacMurray in “My Three Sons” or Robert Young in “Father Knows Best”. Oh no – not by a long shot. I remember very well the strict, often without merit, disciplinarian that he was.
Like the time the five youngest Whitaker children were punished – and by “punished” I mean whipped with the belt one after the other for hours on end until one of us “confessed” – for allegedly eating the ears off of the magnificent chocolate Easter Bunny mother purchased that year. Learning the next morning, unfortunately, that an older sibling (who shall remain nameless) had snagged the ears following a night of carousing with his college friends all home for Easter Break. I recall no apologies to the younger five – even after the older brother’s admission – but I do remember that belt.
And there was Daddy’s nose-to-nose encounter with his fists clenched around the shirt collar of a boyfriend of Kathy’s threatening him within an inch of his life for providing a fake ID to an underage sibling (who shall also remain nameless). Although, interestingly, just days after this encounter it was our Dad sitting next to that same boy in court when he learned he didn’t have a father of his own to offer moral support.
The stories are as numerous as they are legendary and the dichotomy between Dad’s heavy hand and tender heart has always been a topic of great discussion within our family.
Remembering, of course, that I am the youngest and most spoiled, I know my upbringing was often easier than those of the older children. (No, I never had to walk to school barefoot, backwards, in the snow, uphill – both ways!)
Regardless of what side one falls on the heavy hand/tender heart debate on any given day, all one has to do is read the letter below that brother Joe, child number 2, was kind enough to share to understand the deep love that Dad carried for his children.
Written in 1967 when Joe was apparently worried about receiving his class standing from the Navy, Dad’s note is full of kindness, wisdom and…well, love.
Enjoy this special letter and Happy Belated Dad!