Thanks, Sweetheart

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A love letter to my co-parent:

Doesn’t this photo bring back lots of memories! What a great dad you were in those days, and your capacity to nurture and care for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews has grown with time.

I looked for digitized photos of you and the kids together but there are only lots of photos of the kids. Lots of photos from camping trips we did “on the cheap” at state forests like House Lake, east of Harrison in Michigan’s lower peninsula. You aren’t in the picture, but you were very much there. We raised our children in an era when men were suppose to be involved with their careers while women stayed home taking care of children. But you were always involved with our children – both at home and away.

Seeing this photo brings a flood of memories of us, together, having fun, creating fun for our kids. You were there, working along side me to open the pop-up camper, get out the lantern and cook stove, the wooden box you made that served as our kitchen, the ice chest, and struggle with that heavy canvas awning – just in case it rained. You taught the kids how to collect and cut wood for the evening campfire – and took them fishing, although I don’t remember having any fish dinners as a result. We found and picked wild strawberries for supper and blueberries for breakfast pancakes although not many made them back to the camper. We went swimming when we needed showers because at this campground we had to pump and carry our water. And we hiked, looking for streams to play in and sticks to drag and stones to throw – and this chimney that stirred our imagination and provided a prop for the photo.

All those years you were doing exactly what you were designed to do so it doesn’t seem special to you. But I know differently. I know what a special dad and uncle you have been (remember all the nieces and nephews and friends we took camping with us). And the kids remember, and adore you; I can tell by how they interact with you. Remember the fall that Mike and his two young sons went camping with us. We stayed in Gladwin because they have hook-ups, but Mike wanted to take the boys to House Lake so they could spend the day doing the things that Mike so fondly remembers. He has this same photo hanging on his wall but with Zach and Alex are sitting on the ledge.

I don’t spend a lot of energy on these “Hallmark Day” but today I am saying a prayer of thankfulness for you. By being such a great father, you made it possible for me to be a better mother and you helped me be a better person.

Thank you, sweetheart, for your dedication to your family. I love you very much.

A Post For My Husband; The Father of Our Children

Some things work better with two.

Some things work better with two.

Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day by having dinner with our son, his soon-to-be wife, and her two young-adult children from a previous marriage. We had a great time talking and laughing, and the food they prepared was delicious. I have been thinking about the intent of the day, with my thoughts traveling along two different lines. My next post will about my thoughts of how these special days can be painful, but today’s post will feature the memories I have of sharing parenthood with JB. Having him as a co-parent made my work so much easier.

We became parents when work was still divided into men’s work (as in paid jobs, taking care of the cars, and mowing the lawn) and women’s work (all things inside the home if hubby made enough to support her). Women were suppose to take care of babies, but you snuggled our newborns and changed lots of diapers. Even in infancy they knew you were special because you shared your afternoon naps, with them comfortably lying on your chest.

I always ran out of energy right after supper so I had little patience for putting children to bed. You eagerly (most nights) read the bedtime stories to the kids after baths had been taken and they had curled up around you on one of their beds. I was soothed by your gentle voice as I listened from another room.

Thank you for recognizing when they were growing in ability so you changed your method of story telling. You paused at critical times in the stories so they could rewrite the characters and action. I would giggle as I listened to the kids’ giggles and yelps of laughter as they worked to make up wild, nonsensical stories – and this was before Ad Libs were published.

I love remembering the games you played with the kids every night after supper. No, they weren’t quiet board games. Every night you would lie on the living room floor after supper – an invitation to all three kids to tumble and bounce and walk on you. The mayhem would build to crescendo until you would yell for Mommy to come and save you. Long after the kids were too big to play the silly floor games you made up, you played the same games with our grandchildren. And our son was soon romping on the floor with his two little sons after supper every night. I wonder if our oldest grandson is romping with Kaden tonight.

Thanks for those times you stepped in when you heard me loosing my cool because I was unable to comfort a distressed child. I can still hear the words, “I’ll take over.” as you took the sobbing child into your arms and they immediately settled on your shoulder. What a blessing you were.

I am so proud when I think of how you put the needs of our children before your concern about being ridiculed. Remember when Carol’s first grade teacher invited Mommies (and maybe Grandmas) to have lunch with their child. You took extra time off work to be there with Carol because I had a class in East Lansing. You must have been the only Daddy to attend.

I am also grateful that you attended the after school Girl Scout meeting when Sharon was awarded the Gold merit star. It was an event I wanted to attend but couldn’t because I was taking university classes. You were sensitive and gracious enough to take care of both of our needs..

I know you always take care of your things and like your work bench to be in order – at least the order that lets you find things. How amazing that you were generous in letting Michael use your tools and helped him find stashed away lumber so he could build a fort in our back yard. You were always willing to help our children with projects and even when they became adults you continued to teach them how to fix things so that now they are handy and resourceful in keeping their homes and cars well maintained. Now that’s a great dad.

Although we tease you about it now, we all appreciated the hot dogs and canned beans (or grilled cheese and tomato soup) you served up to the kids on all those nights that I wasn’t able to be home because of late night classes.

I am amazed that you took our three kids and two of their friends camping in Canada all by yourself so I could have a week home alone to complete some papers for classes. What a wonderful experience that was for all of you. I know because the kids came home with lots of exciting stories and you came home tired but without battle scars.

Although parenting teens isn’t easy, you hit the mark by driving them to high school, and stopping at Hinkley’s Bakery for a breakfast of doughnuts and chocolate milk. You thought to take them out on country roads on early Sunday mornings in summer to give them driving practice before they began driver training. You knew they wouldn’t be as scared getting behind the wheel when they started class. And then you helped them get cars and taught them how to maintain them so they had wheels to get where they needed to go.

I am so thankful I had the good sense to pick you to be my life partner. There was something I saw in you when we were dating that told me that you would be a great dad. Having a good dad for the children I wanted to have was very important to me and you didn’t let me down. Now, after 50 years of marriage and co-parenting, we can look back and say it wasn’t always easy, and sometimes we made mistakes, but overall it was very, very good.

And now all three of our children are good friends and a source of joy for us. Most important, they respect and love you deeply. Thank you, Sweetheart, for sharing it all with me.

On Being a Parent

I was watching the kids play on adjacent camp sites, smiling as I listened to the giggles and remembering as I watched the way their bodies moved in strange and fluid ways. It made me very aware of how stiff and achy my body feels – especially in the damp, rainy weather we have been having.

Maybe this old frame of mind also made me aware of how young the parents look; how much energy and how well their bodies work. Then I remember that when my kids were the age of theirs, I was in my early 30’s. I had lots of energy to keep up with the work and play that goes into having children and creating a family. I didn’t realize what I was giving to my children at the time, but now I do as I watch a new generation of parents.

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Later that day I was sitting on the rocky shore, waiting for the sunset, when two young boys came running down to water’s edge, dropped their life jackets and towels, and started into the water. They stopped ankle deep with some guttural sounds that translated to cold.

Dad soon followed and the youngest one asked Dad to carry him on his back. Dad hoisted him up and they slowly started walking out on the stone ledges, stepping down into deeper and deeper water.

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The water was really cold, not the 28 degrees Celsius (80 F) the father had laughingly assured me it was when I spoke to him. The older son started making noises about wanting to go back and his father said, in a voice that closed off discussion, that they were going in. Reading between the lines, I would guess that the boys had begged to go swimming, maybe even harassed their dad, and now he was going to make them live with their decision. But not alone, he was with them.

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They walked out a ways and all of a sudden they were in the sun that was setting behind the Bruce Peninsula. The beauty of their bodies warmed in the evening glow, against the cold blue of the water, took my breath away. I started snapping. It was only later that I saw the intimacy in those magical moments. To appreciate what I saw click on any photo to enlarge.

I thought a long time about what I witnessed. We teach our children so much by our relationships with them. As I vicariously participated in this experience, from the warmth of the shore, I heard how Dad taught them to follow through on decisions made, to persevere even when the going gets uncomfortable, and to carefully plot a course. What I wasn’t able to feel was the warmth of Dad’s hug, the kiss planted in my hair, and the elation that we had been victorious. This is truly priceless, but I hadn’t made the investment, I had stayed on the shore!