Fathers and Sons

It is stating the obvious to observe that no man becomes a father without first being a son. I became a father for the first time nearly thirty-three years ago, just more than fifteen years after the last day I spent with my own father. Our Dad died of a heart attack when I was 12, my older brother Bruce was 16, and my younger sister Kathy had just turned 11. The circumstances of that last day are forever etched in my memory, but I don’t mean to go over them here. In the years before that day, our father had instilled in me a love of fishing and the ocean, and together with our mother taught me to love and respect other people. With his early and unexpected death, I was robbed of one important set of lessons: how to be a father to teenagers, especially teenage boys.Hirshes

During my high school years I spent lots of time with friends and their families. I was privileged to participate in their family outings and gatherings, and had positive role models to observe, if only as a visitor. When I married Lisa, her brother was 14. I got to observe his interaction with their father through her brother’s teenage years. As you might guess, there was conflict from time-to-time, as I expect I would have had with my own dad had he lived long enough. It seems to be typical that teenage sons rebel against their fathers, or at least to have “issues,” whatever those may be.

After nearly six years of marriage Lisa and I were blessed with our first child, Kimberly, our blue-eyed daughter, and a few years later we were again blessed with our second daughter, blonde and blue-eyed Mary Elisabeth. In another eight years, though looking back it was the wink of an eye, we were favored with the birth of a son, Micah, brown-eyed and handsome. Kimberly was in the delivery room and reports that I did a Daddy dance for joy when I saw that I had a son.

1010899_10100723945010488_58278383_n Micah on boat

Micah will turn 20 this August, ending his teenage years. Raising him seems to have been more challenging than raising girls. The typical conflicts between father and teenage son have been exacerbated by Micah’s Asperger’s disorder and by my own shortcomings. We’ve given Lisa plenty of tension to deal with. And we have challenges yet to face.  Our daughters have married, and their husbands were raised by their fathers and mothers to be loving, respectful men. Some day they too may be fathers facing the challenges and reaping the wonderful rewards of fatherhood that I have experienced. Perhaps Micah will have this experience as well. I know that I am glad to have been given the opportunity to father these children; to have them be such an important part of my life; and I hope to play an important role in theirs for years to come.

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