By Js Kendrick
“I love you daddy.” is a phrase I hear from my 6-year-old son several times a day. This is followed by a hug and a kiss. At times, he chooses the most inopportune times to do this, say when I’m cooking lunch, trying to do dishes, or writing my blog. Yet I still stop, take a moment, and tell him “I love you too Nick” and give him a hug and kiss back.
For me, the constant affection, which sorry to say, can be annoying sometimes. As in the case of me going to the bathroom with my smartphone (get it?) and hearing a knock on the door because someone wants to tell you they love you, is…well yeah, annoying.
Yet I will crack the door, tell him I am going potty, and that I love him. I do this all because once I forgot to kiss my father.
I must have been around 14, maybe younger, maybe older. I was going somewhere and as I was leaving for the day. I said goodbye to my dad and he held out his arms for a hug, which is usually followed by a kiss on the cheek from both of us. I hugged my father but I didn’t kiss his cheek as was our custom.
“Oh, getting too old to kiss your father huh?” was all he said. In truth I think I was in a rush, so the thought didn’t cross my mind, too wrapped up into where I was going. Yet suddenly, my father’s statement insulted my fledgling manhood. And it stung on several levels.
I thought about it while I was gone. Although mad at the stinging rebuke I thought that I should have kissed my father. What if it wasn’t just a slip of the mind and I purposely didn’t kiss his cheek? I started to regret my anger and felt remorse. I knew from then on, I would kiss my father goodbye.
The irony of the whole incident was that my father never gave it a second thought. He just made an observation, not a rebuke.
Yet I always remembered from then on to kiss my father. I’m an affectionate fellow. I will hug close friends goodbye (provided they are huggers too) and will do the same with family. My older two daughters usually take a kiss on the cheek with a little embarrassment or it might have something to do with my beard, not sure. Yet giving them a hug hello or goodbye is standard for me.
So Nick being affectionate is not a shock to me. And even as obsessed he is of late to tell me he loves me and wants a hug, I make sure I return those affections.
Fathers and Sons are an interesting mixture. Not unlike Mothers and Daughters yet for boys I believe there is an odd dynamic.
My father believed that sons always want to be better than their father, so there was this underlying competition. I’ve never believed that. My father was his own man, he was who he was, shaped by events of his life. My life has not been even close to my fathers experiences. I was never the product of a broken home, nor had an abusive father. I did not get drafted at 18 to be sent off half way around the world to fight in a World War on some godforsaken island in the Pacific Ocean. Nor did I learn mechanics from my time in the service and go to work in a factory in the Fastener Industry, moving up the corporate ladder to become Vice-President of a company. That was not, nor ever will be, my life.
In truth I couldn’t compete with my father’s life, and neither could he compete with mine. We were very different people.
Yet we did share commonalities besides being father and son. Both of us had a love of history, and a love of politics (yes, I will spare you any political opinions I might have). It was the love of history that I think was our deepest bond. My father being a veteran of WWII was extremely proud of the time he served. He would tell me stories and I would do my own research and ask questions. We would even go to reunions and gatherings together. Those are some of my fondest memories of my dad.
My brother once said to me that our father was always hard on me. More so than our father was on him or our older brother. I believe this to be true, yet I never knew why. Over the years I have come to the conclusion, and to hazard a guess, it was because I never felt I was in competition with him. Something he believed strongly in. Yet I know now, and knew then, that my father loved me, and in his own way, always wanted the best for me. I feel that he felt I could always do better, and this was his way of pushing me to push myself.
As in life, there is death. My father succumbed to bone cancer on Tuesday, October 21st, 1997. It was that Friday before, that I hugged and kissed my father for the last time. He would slip into a coma by late Saturday. Never to regain consciousness.
I would stay with him in his hospital room those last few nights, watching him, hoping against hope. A wide range of emotions goes though ones mind when you are on a deathwatch. And sure enough, my thoughts turned to that time I didn’t give him a kiss goodbye. Even though I had apologized for it so many years ago, and he didn’t think much on it, not even remembering the incident. It still gnawed at me all those years later. It may be a silly thing to fixate on, yet for me, to this day, it is my biggest regret in my life.
My son Nick will never know his grandfather except for stories. Stories I will gladly tell him and my three daughters over the years. Yet of all the things I can pass on to my son who in his time, like I have become, will be his own man someday. Is that it is still okay, at whatever age he may be, to kiss your father.