Commentary: To my son on Father’s Day

CorrespondentJune 14, 2014 


Tom Mosier

PAUL MAGANN — Paul Magann

Editor’s note: Tom Mosier, a former N&O graphic artist, wrote this when his adopted son, who is now 42 years old, was a boy of 8 or 9. Tom doesn’t recall why he wrote it and he doubts his son ever saw it, but it sums up his thoughts on fatherhood.

I know you will wake me today before I am ready to awaken. Suddenly you’ll be there, all knees and elbows, with a shrill stage whisper designed, I suppose, to not disturb your mother. You will have a card, probably with ducks on it. I always gave my father ducks, too. Never mind that it won’t be light enough to read the card. I know what it will say.

So, I’ll stumble out of bed and get dressed. We will tip-toe out to the kitchen for a sunrise breakfast – you sitting in your pajamas reading me the card while I fix bacon and eggs, toast and coffee. You will be more excited about Father’s Day than I, but that’s OK. Without you I wouldn’t have a Father’s Day.

Someday I hope you, too, will sit in the half-light of a summer dawn to eat bacon and eggs with your child and reflect on the special relationship that allows you to be “Dad.”

I remember when you first came to live with us – before I really was a father – when I was just a “responsible adult.” You were so tiny, and your mother and I were scared stiff that we would break you.

You woke me up then, too. At least twice a night. I would hit the floor halfway across the room at the sound of some real or imagined whimper from your crib.

Eventually I learned to sleep while I waited for your formula to warm, and I think I still have dents in my backsides from that rocking chair.

We moved into our first house about the time you learned to walk. It had carpet on the floor and grass (of sorts) in the front yard. The back yard was a disaster. I dug it up and re-sodded it so you would have grass to play on. You seemed quite content with the dirt, much to your mother’s dismay.

You grew and learned and started school. I remember taking you to nursery school on my way to work in the mornings and, a year later, to kindergarten, where we had to watch the high school drill team practice before you would let me walk you to your classroom.

I had to talk to your teacher when you had a spell of being too noisy in class – she thought I was crazy. But I got back in her good graces when I helped take the class on a field trip and the “baddest boy in the whole school” liked me. I’m glad you weren’t the baddest boy in the school.

And, when you were in first grade, I would ride you to the bus stop on my bicycle and wait with all the mothers for the bus to come. Later that year we spent the better part of six weeks helping your class publish its own newspaper.

I’m not sure how much of that you appreciated, or even noticed for that matter.

You liked the fishing trips, I think, and the hikes in the woods, and the trip to the high school football game when it rained buckets and we had to huddle under an umbrella, and half the time we couldn’t even see the field.

I remember when we moved to Raleigh and you saw snow for the first time. I had to put my foot down to keep you from going out at 4 a.m. And nothing could keep you in at 6. I remember looking up from my pillow to see you standing beside the bed dressed in your boots, coat and hat and I knew it was no use. The neighbors all thought we were crazy.

It’s been like that a lot.

Sometimes when I come home late from work and you and your mother are asleep, I stop by your room and stand at the foot of your bed. I look at your head on the pillow and the small bump in the covers, softly illuminated by the street light filtering through your curtains, and I remember all these things.

I wonder when it was that I ceased to be just a responsible adult and became a father. Somewhere amid the 2 a.m. bottles or the bike rides to the bus stop or the 6 a.m. romps in the snow we forged a special relationship – something beyond adult and child, beyond responsibility. Somewhere between the trials and the triumphs, the scraped knees and the hooked fish we formed a precious partnership. We became father and son.

So bring on the ducks and the sharp elbows. We’ll eat breakfast before the birds are awake and whisper so we don’t wake your mother. Perhaps, if the weather is good, we’ll go for a bike ride as the sun comes up.

And someday, when you are adult, I hope you can slip out of bed before dawn and share the early, unstructured hours of Father’s Day with your child.

It is, after all, one of life’s greatest privileges.

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