Celebrating the Firsts and the Lasts

Every week on The Grateful Dad Radio Hour I offer a quick update called ‘The Full-Circle Fatherhood Report’ based on an essay I contributed to the Men’s Anthology titled Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives: Defining Moments and reflecting that I am a member of the ‘sandwich generation,’ caring for both my son and my dad. Here’s this week’s installment. I’ve always been big on celebrating, and after becoming a father, celebration became even more important. Each week, month, and year in my son’s life brought new joy, and another excuse to celebrate something special. First tooth, first steps, first day of school…all reasons to commemorate! And it also occurred to me to celebrate the endings, or the last time something happens, like getting braces off, or a graduation.

My son’s sense of timing helped us create these special moments from a very young age, as when a few days before his first birthday, our little baby decided he was through with breastfeeding, just like the doctors recommended. “Let’s celebrate!” I said, although his mother was experiencing some bittersweet feelings during that time, as she let go of a truly special bond with our son.

It took two more years for me to have a similar cause for celebration and reflection that happened when my son stopped wearing diapers. You see I was truly the ‘diaper ‘daddy,’ stepping up and stepping in to change my son at every opportunity. A messy job, and it had to be done, and so when he no longer needed changing, it was truly time to celebrate. And yet, I also found this a bittersweet passage, as I’d always enjoyed the time on the diaper table as a very intimate connection with my son. So I celebrated that he no longer needed to be changed, and we found new ways to connect as a father and a son.

Now celebrating with my own father has become pretty important as well, especially as he ages, and even though he forgets most things we celebrate. Recently he cried with tears of great joy as we celebrated my son’s bar mitzvah, yet later that evening he actually asked my son “when are you going to have a bar mitzvah?” I guess the joy of that morning was transitory – not really permanent – or it was so great that he wanted to experience it yet again.

And just recently we celebrated Thanksgiving with turkey and all of the trimmings in the dining room of my father’s nursing home, and a day later my dad was recounting the meal to others saying that he’d been at my home for the celebration.

What I have learned from celebrating firsts and lasts with my father and my son is how to take even the bittersweet memories and appreciate each for the opportunity it affords us to celebrate.

And I am reminded that gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow...

…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.