I had ideas.
For the past ten years, my husband has not been with his family for Father’s Day. Our sons’ Boy Scout troop has always begun its week of summer camp on Father’s Day. With the exception of one year, my husband has gone to camp with one or both of our sons for the whole week—and the one year he didn’t, he still drove boys up and helped get the troop’s campsite set up. Every year, Father’s Day began with last-minute packing and loading, a hurried kiss and hug, and a wave goodbye. My daughter and I would head to my parents’ house to enjoy a cookout with my side of the family, including my dad.
This year was going to be different. Our boys are both Eagle Scouts now and too old to be in the troop, so this was going to be my husband’s first Father’s Day at home in a decade. He was feeling a bit ungrounded, not having any idea how to celebrate this day at home and not with a son or two at camp.
I had some definite ideas how I was going to reward him for being my kids’ father. My ideas included the bed, loud music, and a very naked me doing things he enjoys to his very naked body. We were going to have a very good time, followed by a family cookout.
But sometimes life has other ideas. My husband has one of those awful summer colds that has left him miserable. He felt so bad he didn’t even want to go to church this morning. I went to the store to get him Kleenex and cough drops and did a drive-through pick-up of a dozen doughnuts. He celebrated his Father’s Day morning in bed all right—taking a morning nap. I called my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day.
Our lawn hasn’t been mowed in three weeks. It looked like a haven for small wildlife and we were poised for nasty phone calls from the neighbors. We’ve had so much going on, and the son who had been assigned mowing duty kept not getting around to it—until a few days ago, when he discovered some repair work that needed to be done on the mower. He did the repair and then pulled on the pull cord—only to discover that it had been chewed through (we think by the rabbit whose corpse was discovered in the shed next to the mower). My husband got the replacement cord yesterday and discovered that the replacement job was a bit involved. He was too sick to do the project today.
He must have picked up on my anxiety about the state of the yard, because he decided to tackle it anyway. Next thing I knew, one of our sons had gone out to help my husband with the job. I sat and just enjoyed watching and listening to them be guys together, figuring out how to thread a nylon cord through two holes while keeping tension on some piece of the mower. They thought they had it fixed, only to discover that something still didn’t work. I sent my frustrated and smelly husband into the house for a shower while our son continued to look back at their work to see where things went wrong.
Our other son came home from work and went out to help his brother. Through the kitchen window, I watched these two young men my husband has shaped and molded work together, side by side, on the mower project. Their father taught them well how to trace back through what they’d done and find the step they’d missed. Soon the mower’s motor was running. I went out to mow the lawn, very happy that our grass would once again be in sync with neighborhood expectations.
The boys decided that they were still going to do a cookout. They headed to the store and came back with everything they needed to give their dad one of his favorite meals. We are having a sort of Chicago-Milwaukee Meat Mashup—Chicago style hot dogs and Milwaukee brats with kraut. As I unloaded the groceries, I discovered that every single item they’d bought was exactly what their dad would have gotten—my husband’s favorite brands of dogs and brats, favorite chip dip, and even his favorite soft drink. He taught them well. They fired up the grill, inviting their dad to hang out with them while they did the grilling. I looked out and saw all my men hanging around the flames, talking about tools and meat and fire. The heavy-set and balding middle-aged man, the young man whose long hair and beard make him look exactly like the painting of Jesus that has hung in countless churches across the US, and the clean-cut young man who heads to basic training in a few short months—they all sat, being men together, sharing the wisdom and stories that pass from one generation to the next to make a family. Our daughter is on the way home from her job, and we will soon have all our kids home with us for a few hours. She will tease and torment my husband in the way that he enjoys with her, and we will eat our brats and dogs and make some more memories. My nest and heart are full.
My ideas will have to wait a couple days. Father’s Day has not been what I had imagined it would be for my husband. Somehow, though, I think it has been exactly what he needed.