Monday, May 23, 2016

Protective Fathers

I should save this for Father’s Day but these feelings are with me now, so I thought I’d share them even if it’s a little early. 

They entered the restaurant exhilarated: an older man carrying a small boy, a grandchild probably, his hand cradling the back of the child’s neck, their heads close enough to touch.  I surmised this was the first time ever that these two had ventured out just by themselves. Somewhere, I imagined, there was a houseful of relatives from which they had escaped. 

photo by David Mercer

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. 

Then the boy darted away, I think in search for a restroom.  The man did a double take as he processed 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 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, in the older man’s case a grandfather, because we each automatically slipped into the role of protector. It’s what we do for our children. And when necessary, we watch over each other’s children, too. 

Photo by David Mercer

My sons are grown and preparing to pursue their destinies.  Like that child, they will be darting away outside the range of my protection. I think they’re ready but I hope there are some dads out there who will lend a hand if I can’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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment