Normally I will write to you only through rare posts on Facebook. A few sentence post is just about all I can deal with when actually imagining talking with you But, being that's it's father's day and that your son just discovered our blog, I'm braving the full on letter.
A little over a week ago, I posted something on your Facebook wall; Jack happened to be sitting by me and saw that I wrote to you. He told me twice- once when I wrote to you and then again when I tucked him in bed - that he liked that I posted on your wall. I had written about another one of Jack's uncanny DNA trait of yours. You already saw it, so I won't repeat it here.
Instead, I'll tell you about a moment I had on a recent Sunday morning. You probably saw it, but just in case you were chatting over rum and cokes with Adam Yauch or Mike Wallace at the Rocksport (because pubs go to heaven too), let me summarize. Jack skipped baseball this year; back in February he let me know he wanted to focus on soccer. By the end of April, he missed baseball. He knew he didn't want the commitment of a summer All Star Team, but when he found out about the pick up teams being assembled for a Tues/Thur night league over the summer, he wanted in. I emailed Keith just in time Saturday night to find out all the kids were meeting at the pee wee fields Sunday morning to have their skills assessed so even teams could be made. Jack had an upset stomach Saturday night and I could feel a familiar dread - didn't realize what that was until we drove to the pee wee fields Sunday morning. How did we forget they were below Riverview where you died?
ANYWAY. On the way there, I channeled my best impression of you: I was positive and lighthearted, trying to keep the mood upbeat in the car. I casually mentioned that it would feel like P.E. - just a few groups of kids doing a baseball unit: taking turns hitting, throwing, fielding. Neither Jack nor I breathed a word about the fact that he would likely be the only kid who hadn't been playing baseball for the last four months. (Later, we admitted to one another just how nervous we both were about the fact that Jack hadn't played baseball for about a year). As we neared the field, there was a twinge of regret in my gut: why hadn't we gone early to practice and warm up? As it was, we were a few minutes late- but it didn't give Jack anytime to think and to just get started.
Reese and I sat in the outfield bleachers and Jack was put in a group focused on hitting. Amazingly, I was calm and patient with Reese and not worried about how she would fair in two hours of baseball followed by a soccer game. I think it was because I was already *so proud* that Jack was playing with all these kids even though I knew he was absolutely nervous inside. My parenting self-esteem got a big hit when I realized that my pride for our kid was in his attempt--not the outcome. So, when that surge of support, love and pride for Jack washed over me before he even started to play, I knew your impact on us was and is timeless.
Here's the thing: I am a better parent because I was able to watch you with our children for seven years. I do feel bad that I don't kick the soccer ball around as much as you would have with Jack, or give Reese those amazing Daddy snuggles that I know she craves in her very soul, but every moment I respond with kindness, perspective or patience- particularly the times I don't have to work hard at it - I know it's you working through me. I was fortunate to be around your natural warmth and affection. Maybe when you left the world, when I last touched your wrist, you sent some of your father love into my fingers and it pulses its way through my body. Or maybe that last touch was some kind of seal- that, by the grace of God, I was given a little father to go with my mothering, or more accurately, a little Ed to go with Laura in raising our children.
Jack did great, by the way. He had a fair amount of good hits, laughed at himself when he missed a few pop flies, and fielded decently. I could sense his focus and engagement in playing - even as Reese & I played soccer and she started to complain about the heat and her "burnsun" (sunburn). There was one split second, in the middle of pop fly drills when I looked out - the sky was brilliant blue and the trees strikingly green, surrounding us securely and protectively in the basin of the field -- Jack had missed the pop fly before and was up again. I watched the coach throw up a ball and I stood there, focusing on Jack, willing him to catch the ball even as I was strangely not invested in whether he did or not. Because, you know, simple wishes and happy endings aren't real. But, he caught it. Like it was nothing. It was a nothing of a moment that felt like everything.
I picked the kids up today from a slumber party at the Mezas. At one point, Reese climbed up on Meza's lap and snuggled in like it was the most natural thing in the world. I really wished I had my phone to take a picture, but had left it in the car. I remembered that quote from your college camping trip with the Sticks: "Memory don't fail me now." You can never, ever be replaced, Ed, but your fathering influence is everywhere- in the people you loved and respected. It was so much love that it can't be contained by simple absence. Your kids know your love through all of us.
Happy Father's Day.