When The Boy was born and I held him in my arms for the very first time, he looked up at me with those blue eyes and grabbed my finger with his entire hand. At that moment, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him and I was sure I knew what to do. It would be my job to teach him everything I knew and everything he needed to know to be successful in this world.
The weight of that task made my knees almost buckle so I sat down in a nearby chair. It was time to put away childish things. I grew up that day, setting aside all my needs. His mom and he had to come first. My dad had taught me that if you do what is right and work hard you can do anything. And more than anything I wanted to be a good dad, so I went to work.
As The Boy grew older, so did I. I learned more about the world around me, and what I learned I taught him. After all, that was my job. When he was five, he chased ducks around the pond and learned what happens if you pull their tail feathers. At six, I taught him how to fly a kite and dried his tears when a nearby tree “ate” it.
We lay on the grass for hours when he turned seven, describing the many animals we saw in the clouds above our home. I taught him how to climb a tree and the important role insects and bugs play in this world. At age seven, he got his own tool belt full of tools just his size. Just like the one my dad had given me when I was his age.
At age ten, he dashed across the parking lot of our local high school while chasing after a rocket we had just launched. It was the first time he had met the lady who was soon to become The Wife. When asked what he thought of her, he said, “I like her; she’s funny.”
A year later we were married, and what I didn’t know about raising children she certainly did. I brought him with me to safety fairs where we checked car seats and handed out safety brochures. He learned about volunteering and giving back to the community in which you live.
Every Thanksgiving we’d fry a turkey, and I’d show him the right way to carve it. To be honest, I never learned the right way myself, but it was still fun trying. At Christmas, he’d help pick out and cut down the tree and decorate it with all the handmade ornaments he had made in school. The older he got, the more I learned about the world and about being a dad.
Teenage years brought both joy and sadness, but through it all, he was still The Boy — the only child I have. And even though he was a teenager, there was still so much more I could teach him. College came and went, he joined the fire department, studied hard and became a paramedic. Now that was a good day.
Years later he met a nice lady, a nurse, and fell in love. Soon our first granddaughter was born, and as I held her in my arms for the first time, my knees got weak, and I had to sit down in a nearby chair.
She looked up at me with blue eyes and grabbed my finger with her whole hand – just like The Boy did so many years ago. At that moment, I knew, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for that little girl.
Yes, she has a name, but we call her Little One. A year later, her sister was born. A red-headed baby so sweet. She too has a name, but we call her Sweet Caroline. The Boy couldn’t spend much time with them while they were young. After all, he had to work long hours, like his dad did, and his dad before him.
Retired from the fire department, I knew what I needed to do. I would teach the two Angels all the things I’d learned about life. All the things I’d taught their dad. Things like what happens when you pull tail feathers of a duck, staying away from kite-eating trees, seeing animals in clouds, and the important role insects and bugs play in this world.
I’ve taught them how to climb trees, and how to ride bikes and told them countless stories of growing up with the kids on Flamingo Street.
Little One will be seven at the end of this month, and I will buy her a tool belt just her size, just like I did for her dad and my dad did for me.
I was sure I knew all about life and things that I needed to know … that is until last week. Now I know only three things for sure.
First, no parent should outlive their only child.
Second, little girls should not grow up without a father.
Third, and most important, The Wife and I will be there to help raise Little One and Sweet Caroline until death do us part.
And through the years, I’ll tell them stories of when their father was a kid and all the fun we had together. And, if I’m blessed to live long enough, I will tell their children stories of when their granddad, The Boy, was just a little boy chasing rockets across a High School parking lot. And the day he was born … when I held him for the very first time.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]