All across the country families will recognize their fathers, grandfathers, husbands and father figures this Sunday. At our house, we’ll probably have some kind of a nice dessert, grill some steaks, and open a present or two once Eddie gets home from work. This year, Father’s Day isn’t the focus of our weekend, because our oldest child, Bryce, is getting baptized on Saturday.
Father’s Day is always a lot more mellow at our house than Mother’s Day. Maybe I’m overgeneralizing, but based on my experience, Mother’s Day seems more emotionally charged, more fraught with potential disaster. There’s just so many places a guy can screw it up—the wrong food, the wrong flowers, the wrong sentiments. I know it sounds selfish to admit this, but on Mother’s Day, I want to get a break from the daily grind, a reprieve from making dinner and doing dishes. I like a little bit of recognition for the sacrifices I make the other 364 days of the year.
Even before our children are born, women’s bodies are a physical manifestation the sacrifices we make. But good fathers, the fathers we honor this Sunday, make sacrifices that often go unnoticed. Early in our married life, my husband, whose fellow med students often didn’t think further than the next dinner or the next vacation, had two children. When it came time to choose a place for residency and fellowship, he didn’t follow his classmates to the hotshot programs on the coasts. Instead, we chose places in the Midwest and South, with affordable starter homes and good public schools.
When I was a kid, we lived far from our extended family. When school ended in June, my mom packed up the minivan and made the circuit, stopping to see relatives in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Dad stayed behind, put on a suit each morning and took the train to the sweltering city. When we called to check in each night to tell him about swimming in the lake or going to the movies, he didn’t say, “Hey, that’s not fair.” On Saturday, when Bryce gets baptized, my dad, who used his vacation this year visiting his terminally-ill mother, will be home alone again. He encouraged my mom to come for the baptism, but staying home alone this Father’s Day is his sacrifice for his oldest grandson. Next week, when my mom and I load up another generation of kids to visit our far-flung family, Eddie will stay behind. He asked if we’d be gone for July 4th, and when I told him we would, I was a little bit afraid that he’d be disappointed. “Great, the holiday shifts at the hospital pay extra,” was his response. Maybe he doesn’t see it as sacrifice, but I do.
I was feeling a bit bad about the baptism overshadowing Father’s Day this year, but I guess I shouldn’t. While fatherhood often involves quiet sacrifice, this time the reward is in the child himself, in the boy he has become over the last eight years, and in the first step toward adulthood he takes as Eddie guides him into the water this Father’s Day Weekend.