While walking with a friend the day after Thanksgiving, we shared our respective holiday experiences and noted that we were both now the senior dads–the main paternal figure in our respective families. We laughed together, but it was a moment of melancholy and reflection, both of which were feelings I had this Thanksgiving.
My father died four years ago and my mother died just a year ago, so this was our first Thanksgiving in which neither of my parents was with us. Yes, the aging of my parents effectively made me the “man in charge” for many of their later years, but I still viewed them as the senior generation and offered them the respect and deference that they continued to deserve during those difficult years. But now, other than an older 3rd cousin that I adore, it’s now me representing that older figure in our small family.
The other night we were in a restaurant, no kids, and we heard a little boys uproarious laughing. He was giggling while he watched a little wind-up toy jump and flip in front of his hands. His youngish parents were enjoying his pleasure and delight and I found myself equally caught up in the spirit.
But, it also created a moment of melancholy as I reflected on how so many of those childhood joys were over with my boys. Now, honestly, there are many of those so-called passages that I certainly don’t miss. First on that list is the smell of baby wipes, and everything else that went with the diaper, poop, and changing stages. For years after they were toilet trained, I’d get a whiff of those smells, out of thin air, and breathe a sigh of relief that that phase was over.
For every one of those stages that I don’t miss are those, like in the restaurant, that I actually long for. Like when my boys would reach up and grab a hold of my hand. When walking hand-in-hand was special to them, even when they were so small that their arms were stretched up to reach my hand. I contrast that with my teen now, looking down on me, as I shake my finger up at him and announce “you’re grounded.”