Love not Fear

We were just getting to know each other, figure each other out, and get acquainted. We huddled close. His fingers strode across my face and paused over my nose. He smelled of potential. I closed my eyes and a slideshow of his life began to play. I watched his first steps, first day of school, and his first organized sporting event. I watched him grow strong, confident, and true. I watched him go off to college, get married, have kids, and have grandkids. At every first, every getting, and every having, I was there. Warmth and happiness filled the moments.

He then appeared as an old man. He was sitting alone in a barren room. Everything seemed grey. I must be gone, I thought. I convulsed with questions. Where are his kids? Where are his grandkids? Why is he all alone? Why is he in this place? My heart began to ache. My throat began to tighten. Tears began to swell. Unable to lock my eyes on him, I begged him “Please look at me.“When will I last see you, hold you, and hear your voice?” I asked him. Panic filled me up. I scrambled. I clawed. I clambered to get to him. I needed to know that he was all right. Yet, the distance between us did not close. I resigned, stopped my struggle and stared. That is my baby boy, I thought. I felt a slight change in the pattern of his breath on my face, opened my eyes, gasped and pulled him in closer.

My fear of loss deformed that moment. Indeed, fear may guide too much of my parenting. At times, I know that it has me asking the wrong questions like “Will he get hurt?” “Will he fail?” “Will he ever be alone?” Of course, he will get hurt. Of course, he will fail. And, yes, there will be times when he is alone. These things are inescapable. I will grow old. And, I will die. Yet, these things do not need to mean the end of us. When he is swirling in self-doubt, I can be that encouraging whisper that says “You got this. You can do this. I believe in you.” When he has been knocked down, I can be that unstoppable force that travels through space and time, billows beneath him, and helps him off the ground. When he feels alone, I can be so indelible that even when I am gone I show up in his dreams. I can be a reservoir of resilience.

How?

Love not Fear.

I am not really sure how to do this; but, I will start by asking different questions like “With so much potential what will he choose to do?” “With so many friends, how will he choose a best man?” and “What kind of art will he create?” I will hold his hand as long as he lets me. I will carry him until I cannot carry him anymore. And, I am going to re-imagine that last moment. It’s a beautiful fall day. The air is crisp. The sun is out. The leaves are just beginning to turn. He is surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, and those that he inspired. Everyone is laughing, smiling, and hugging. Dogs are running loose. Kids are playing Frisbee. People are gathered around him, focused on him. They are touching him on his shoulders, back, and arms. Sitting in his chair smiling, he is enveloped in love. And, he looks at me and says “I am all right Dad. You did your job.”

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)

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