I remember standing in the front yard of the first home I really remember living in as a child. I’m only four or five years old, in my pajamas, barefoot in the damp grass on a summer morning. Standing next to me is my father, in a business suit, ready to leave for work. We are side-by-side, facing north, toward the elementary school just up the block, where we can see the American flag waving gently on the flagpole in front of the school. We say the words together “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America…” Those words, that my father taught me so long ago, are a reminder of the patriotism and dedication to God and country that is expected of every American.
On a recent visit with my day in his room at the nursing home, we began to recite the Pledge; he still knows it by heart. Although short-term memory challenges my father every day, he can remember overlearned information with keen accuracy. Old memories live on. And old allegiances also persist, as my dad remains patriotic and loyal to God and country, along with his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Browns and Indians of Cleveland. “And to the Republic for which it stands…”
Now my own son cannot recite the Pledge of Allegiance by heart, nor does his heart feel nearly the connection to his country that his Papa does. As a new teen, Jordy's allegiances are still forming. I sense his commitment to our family, and know from his strong admonitions about certain political and cultural topics that his beliefs are strong about a number of things, including his current atheism, an interest in Socialism, and more. And sometimes his zeal – which might suggest allegiance – becomes difficult for me abide.
Just the other night, I awoke with the awareness of a dream that found me and my son together saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the same manner that my dad and I did nearly 50 years ago. The vivid image of us vowing to our country certainly suggests my own adjustments to my son’s independence, and to my struggles with the need to let go.
I pledge allegiance to my family, to my friends and community, to my cause and my country. And to my father I am grateful for the strong foundations and continued example he provides. As for my son, I am hopeful that his faith and commitment will run deep and strong and long, just like our ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.