The Best and Worst Father’s Day

A little over 2 months ago, I was sitting on my couch holding my 3 week old son watching TV.  This was one of those times where the baby isn’t sleeping, so I’m sitting in my rocking recliner trying to get him to start catching some Zs.  Usually I watched Netflix or something, but this particular night I was watching The Tonight Show.  Jimmy Fallon and his friends were entertaining me while my son started to slip off to dreamland.  Then, at the end of the show, the Zac Brown Band comes on and starts singing “My Old Man.”  I like country music, I like the Zac Brown Band, and I hadn’t heard of this song before, so I waited for it to start.

Halfway through the song, I’m in tears.  Here I am, holding my newborn son, watching the Zac Brown Band in teary awe.  The heavy-handedness of the song was real.  I lost my father on October 5, 2016, due to ALS.  My son was born just 5 months after he passed away.  Zac Brown was crooning about the influence of his father, while hoping for the best for his influence on his own son.  I could relate in a very real sense, so I sat in the dark, holding my son, watching and crying during The Tonight Show.

Life is strange.

Today was bittersweet for me.  As I’m typing this, it’s closing in on midnight on Father’s Day night 2017.  Today was my first Father’s Day as a father.  It was also my first Father’s Day without my dad.  I gave the message at a church this morning and told stories about my son.  I also told stories about my dad.  When I think of one, I think of the other.

I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to Father’s Day.  I knew it’d be tough, but good at the same time.  I thought the day would come in waves–waves of joy and happiness with my son and then waves of grief and sadness because of my dad’s passing.  But, strangely enough, it didn’t happen that way.

When someone wished me happy Father’s Day, I was made aware of both facts.  I cherished my son and mourned the loss of my dad.  Not one emotion at a time, though.  It’s almost like it happened simultaneously.  I thought of both people–my son and my dad.  Maybe it equaled out the grief.  Maybe it made the joy hit my soul that much deeper.  I’m not sure, but it happened that way.

Grief hits you at the strangest of times.  Just a few weeks ago, I was watching a replay of a country music awards show (what is it about country music!?) and they were doing a 50 year tribute to the greatest country songs.  At the very end, a feeble Randy Travis walked out and belted out the last couple of notes of “Forever and Ever, Amen.”  It was a special moment because he had suffered a stroke that really did a number on him.  But here he was, celebrating country music with all of his friends on one of the biggest stages in Nashville.  I don’t know why this reminded me of my dad, but it did.  Looking back, I think it may have been the joy on Randy Travis’ face.  It reminded me of my dad’s joy, even when ALS had taken away his ability to move and speak.  Maybe it was the resilience, too.  I’m not sure, but I just know it reminded me of dad and I couldn’t continue watching it.

Then my son was born.  One of my favorite things to do with my now-3-month-old son is make him smile.  I do that by painting a big goofy smile on my face.  He responds with a face of pure joy.  That, too, reminds me of my dad.

I was able to go back and finish watching the country music awards.  I even re-watched the opening with Randy Travis.  I held my son while I did it, because I knew the joy was a familiar thing with Randy, my dad, and my son.  It gave me joy, even in the midst of grief and sadness.

Life really is strange.  Even in sadness, joy is there.  Sometimes the two are experienced simultaneously.

Happy father’s day to you.