Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to make a grown man cry...

As far as fathers go, Mr.4444 is about as good as they come. Mark's love for his children overflows. He is in-tune with their physical and emotional needs, attends their school events, and supports them in everything they do. He's the kind of dad who sets up a tent on the deck in January (14 degrees) and enthusiastically says, "Let's sleep outside tonight!" The kind of dad who'll tells his kids every day that he loves them and lets them know he's proud of them (and why) on a regular basis.

A visual example of the kind of relationship Mark and Kyle have is the fact that nearly every night, even though he is 16 years old, Kyle still joins his dad in his gigantic Lazy-Boy chair to touch base. They talk about their days, watch a little TV, and laugh at the things only guys laugh at. As the father of a daughter (and never having had sisters), Mark makes a point of seeking my assurances that he is being everything Kendall needs him to be as well (and he is). He's the dad who takes his daughter to the father-daughter dance and tears up the dance floor with her in his arms, twirling her about and not caring who laughs at his sometimes silly moves.

Mark's not just a cheerleader, though; he is a teacher as well, being a disciplinarian when necessary, making sure they do their share of chores, and most importantly, loving and respecting their mother. That said, Mark struggles with self-doubt about his worth as a father, let alone as a human being, sometimes. He gives me all the credit for the way our kids have turned out. While I'd like to take it, I know I cannot. Today, he learned why.

A little background...Weeks ago, I dug out some old photos from Mr.4444's family; his childhood and teen years. In the pile of photos was a birthday card to his dad. On the outside was a typical birthday cake. The inside had been blank, and Mark had written a heartfelt message to his dad.

Last night, Kyle told me, "I know I'm a guy and everything, but that card that Dad wrote to his dad made me cry a little; you know, missing Grandpa and all. I was thinking of doing something with that card for Dad for tomorrow."

"What did you have in mind?" I asked. He told me, and I affirmed that it was indeed a great idea.

This morning, Mark opened his presents (typical Father's Day fare), and he was happy. After the presents, Kyle handed his dad his card, in which he had hand-copied these words (the same words that Mark had written to his own dad 25 years ago):

"Dad, you are more than just a father to me. I'm very glad to be able to call you my friend. Your concrete support of me and the beliefs I hold have helped me grow in the past years. I love you and the things you stand for. The one thing I'm grateful for most is that you installed a set of values in me that are in line with your own. Love ya, Kyle"

Mark's eyes filled with tears, and he silently hugged Kyle tight. We all welled up (even poor Kendall, who knew nothing of the card, but only that her dad was touched to the point of tears.)

And then we went to breakfast. With the man who is the best father Kyle and Kendall could have. And who, today at least, knows it.

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