Fatherhood Adventures

I am taking a little departure this week from the daily antics of my boys to jump atop the proverbial soapbox.

There are periods of time when bad news seems to dominate daily life, but currently it appears to be at every turn, and I recently was startled by some personal news that continues to trouble me today.

I prefer to maintain a “partly sunny” kind of disposition when possible and try to keep an eye on the big picture, but I admit there are times when life these days can be a bit discouraging. So much so it can be challenging to maintain a positive outlook.

A tremendous amount of negativity persists in the world these days and it’s facile to get caught up in it and allow it to affect you. The unimaginable sorrow in Haiti is perhaps the latest example of distressing global news, but most can recall stories closer to home that also tug at the heartstrings. In my world, three situations continue to dominate my thoughts.

In one case, a friend from college posted on Facebook that he had a new phone number with a different area code. When I inquired what gives, he detailed how he and his family lost their home in New Jersey because they were swallowed up by debt. This is happening everywhere but it’s particularly difficult to hear when it’s someone you know well. It appears my friend simply made some ill-advised financial decisions and is consequently forced to move his wife and three kids into his parents’ home in another state. He was fortunate in that his folks were happy to answer his plea for help. However, he had to pull his kids out of school and their recreational soccer leagues and uproot his entire family.

In another situation, a local family was forced to cope with the worst of all tragedies – the death of their son unexpectedly. Thousands came out to support the family in a time of distress, but there’s no amount of sustenance that can help with the grief being felt in that house. The sorrow a parent feels in burying a child is incomprehensible to me.

Additionally, another family is coming to grips with its patriarch being in the fight of his life against a deadly disease. From outside looking in, I can see they are fighting to maintain hope in what has to be a terribly challenging time.

These are each somber situations individually. However, hearing details about them all in a span of a couple days was overwhelming. When you combine them all together and truly think about the far-reaching consequences of these dramatic occurrences, it’s a lot to bear.

These are facts of life that hurt and impact a lot of people. Not one of them is fair, but that’s reality, and life does not always turn out the way we envision, unfortunately.

Surely, some of you reading this have your own individual stories of trials and tribulations. I know I do. The consequences of the economic meltdown have affected us all, making oftentimes the easiest of decisions a bit more contemplative than usual.

Again, even in dark times I aspire to be in the optimistic lot, and I got to thinking about the big picture on Monday while at a funeral for a friend’s mother in northern Virginia. At the service and later the graveside ceremony, the family’s pain was palpable. Although this was not a tragic loss, as the woman had lived a full life and had been ill for some time, death is always abrupt because of its finality.

While listening to the words expressed by the men of the cloth and watching their impact on the family, I started thinking about all this negativity in the world. While at the grave, I could not help but look around and read the various headstones.

What hit me in the gut was one small gravestone, representing the death of a child. Looking down at this large family marker, shadowed by a smaller one representing the death of the child, I noticed immediately that the father and son died on the same day, sometime in 1979, while the mother’s name and birth date was engraved. She was obviously still alive because the date of her death was not yet in stone.

I could not help but hypothesize and wonder what happened. Was it a car accident? House fire? Somehow the mother and maybe even other kids were not involved. Whatever the case, last year was the 30th anniversary of the death of this woman’s husband and son, and I could not help but put myself in her shoes. How troubling that must have been and how it must still be difficult to handle.

It was a reminder to me how lucky I am. Perspective is sometimes the best medicine for this harsh world of reality. For me, my family keeps everything balanced in my life. Others may get this same sense of perspective from their pets, art, exercise, movies, reading, surfing, hobbies or whatever.

When I walk in my house and find my wife and my 20-month-old and 11-week-old sons, I get refreshed. On good days and bad days, I know this is what matters most. Whether it’s a no-teeth smile from my youngest or my toddler crazily running to me with open arms, they have the ability to erase any negativity I brought home instantly. That’s magical to me.

If you have not figured it out by now, I am essentially giving myself a pep talk here, and I hope to encourage all of you to keep your head up and your eyes and ears open.

There’s a lot to enjoy in life, and most of the time it’s the little things, which can easily pass by if you are not willing or able to take note. We all need to remember there are many roses to smell along this journey called life. It’s unfortunate the checks and balances seem to be unfairly tilting toward the unfortunate of late, but there’s still a lot to see and appreciate. We just have to look a little harder.

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