Father’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. First of all, my dad died when I was only 13 years old, so for the overwhelming majority of my life I grew up without a father. Secondly, my son, who is now 41 years old, is autistic, so he is a perpetual child. I love him dearly, but we have never grown beyond the point of my taking him to animated movies, and our conversations are limited by his limited language skills. I can’t relate to those friends of mine who have grandchildren and whose adult children regale them with gifts on this day. My sisters and my nieces wish me a Happy Father’s Day. My wife gets me a card and takes me to dinner. But I never have enjoyed this day to its fullest.
Someone once told me I should be thankful that I never had to go through the anxiety of having to watch children grow from infants to adolescents; that I’ve never had to go through the heartbreak or disappointment of seeing a son become addicted to alcohol or drugs or be arrested or have a child out of wedlock. Perhaps. But having to live the joys vicariously through others children is just as heartbreaking.
Again, I feel the need to stress: I love my son. He has been a blessing to me. He has taught me patience and shown me unconditional love expressed not verbally, but in his actions and reactions when I am in his presence. Yet there is a part of me that will always ask, “what if?”
I used to often dream of having lengthy conversations with my son, of being able to throw a baseball back and forth, of enjoying a sporting event together. I still dream them, although far less frequently than in my younger days. The question I ask myself more often now is, “what is God trying to teach me through all these experiences?” I guess that is my quest.
I am thankful. I continue to listen to God’s Word. Hopefully, I am learning with each day.