I’ll never forget that first conversation we had about kids. We were still a fairly new couple, but we’d been together long enough to start to ponder: Could I spend forever with this person? Do we have the same values, do we want the same things?
I asked you if you wanted kids. Without hesitation, you said, “Oh, yes. Definitely.”
I’ll never forget the first conversation we had about names. We were engaged and hanging out at our favorite dive bar in Phoenix on a Friday night. We took a break from debating which songs we should play at our wedding reception to look a little farther into the future.
“I’ve always liked the name Ryan,” you said.
“Ryan?” I responded. “Yeah, that’s pretty good. I like that.”
I’ll never forget walking into the bedroom of our tiny condo and seeing you sitting on the edge of the bed with our newborn son in your arms. You were staring at him so intently. As I crossed the room, you heard my steps, glanced up and said, “He looks like a Bubzy to me. Doesn’t he look like a Bubzy?”
He did. And that’s how Bubzy got his first of many nicknames.
I’ll never forget the first day we met our foster son. That totally unexpected moment when BlueJay looked you straight in the eye after an hour of playing and said, “Mike? I love you.”
And I’ll never forget the pain in your eyes the night before BlueJay left our home for good. You tried to be stoic for him, but that’s just not who you are. Honestly, I’m glad BlueJay could see the love you have for him reflected in your own sadness that night.
A few years back, when Ryan was two and we moved across the country and I threw myself into stay-at-home parenthood, I worried the dynamic of our marriage would change. I worried it would wreck the foundation of our parenting, which had been built upon a very equal structure of two working parents. I worried that absolutely everything would now fall on me. The cooking, the cleaning and the raising of our child(ren).
Sure, I do most of the cooking and cleaning now — and I should — but you never took a backseat to parenting.
You get up with Ryan every morning and you put him to bed almost every night. Yours is the first and last face he sees every day, and I know that means so much to him. He looks up to you more than any other person in his life. His eyes shine every time you tell him you’re proud of him. You are his hero; you know that, right?
When we became foster parents, I worried again that I would shoulder so much of the stress. The travel to family visits, the long waits at medical appointments, the endless emails from caseworkers, and the trauma-induced tantrums.
But you were my rock. You couldn’t physically be present for a lot of it (ah, the hazards of a necessary full-time job), but you came home at noon almost every day to sit with us, eat lunch and reinforce the fact that we’re a family. To give me a chance, if I needed it, to run upstairs, close the bedroom door behind me and breathe in silence for a few minutes. Or so — like on that one particularly rough day — I could walk out the front door without a word, get in my car and drive around town for 20 minutes to cry in peace.
You always could have said you had a lunch meeting and couldn’t make it home. You could have said you were simply too busy this day or that day. You could have said, “Hey, this is too much to deal with in the middle of an already stressful workday.” But you didn’t. You said, “I’m here. What can I do to help?”
Ryan will grow up remembering how you always made him more waffles than he could possibly eat. And then offered him turkey bacon, too.
BlueJay will remember the way you’d toss him in the air, into the pool, into the giant snowdrifts; the way the sound of your laughter mixed with his in the air between you.
Ryan will remember the endless games of Go Fish and Sorry.
BlueJay will remember the sound of your voice singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” at bedtime.
You are an exceptional father. You don’t get enough credit for everything you do for us, but please know, we see it. Ryan especially sees it. Without even knowing it, you are teaching him how to treat women, how to treat the person who waits on us in a restaurant or a store, how to treat your next door neighbor.
I am confident Ryan will grow up to be a caring, empathetic man who treats his life partner with love and respect because he has the very best role model at home.
You had a positive influence on BlueJay, too. It’s true that we struggle with the idea of how much BlueJay will remember of his time with us, but I saw the way he watched you with a certain intensity while he was here. He was craving positive male role models, and he found that in our home.
I am grateful for you. You are my rock, and I am blessed to be able to walk this path with you.
Happy Father’s Day. I love you.
P.S. Happy Father’s Day also to…
My Dad … Dad, you’ve always insisted on helping me, even when I stubbornly insisted I didn’t want – but definitely needed – your help. You set a high bar for what a husband and father should be, and I credit you for the fact that I chose well in Mike. Most importantly to me now, you are a loving grandfather. Ryan knows that no one can build a train track as well as his grandpa. I will always cherish and appreciate the way you welcomed BlueJay as a grandson from the moment you knew he existed. You are the only person on Earth he calls “Grandpa,” and I think that means something.
My Dad-in-law … Thank you for always letting Ryan excessively water (and pick) your flowers. Thank you for always reminding me, especially during that particularly difficult and stressful three-year-old phase, that “he’s really such a sweetheart.” You’re right… he is. Thank you for always being the one to offer take Ryan and BlueJay outside to play when it was cold or damp and the rest of us wanted to hide inside. You are a fantastic “Pop” and a calming presence in our lives.