On Fathers’ Day

Suddenly the young man standing one tier below me in the amphitheater sits down and hangs his head. His torso trembles beneath his short-sleeve cotton shirt. The woman I know to be his wife stands beside him, her right hand resting on his shoulder.

On the other side of her sits the couple’s young son. The little boy has picked up a small sprig of clover from among the stones at his feet and nibbles the tiny green leaves, as though he were a rabbit. He squeezes past his mother and climbs up into his father’s lap. The father gives him a big long hug. As the father turns his head, pressing his cheek against the little boy’s face, I notice that the stubble of some of the whiskers is white.

When the boy turns and sits on his father’s knee, you can see the mid-line surgical scar coming down from the back of his baseball cap along the nape of his neck. No hair protrudes from the scalp beneath the cap. As the boy stands up, he seems a bit unsteady on his feet.

The man sits with his head down for a long time. Even after he stops shaking, the woman’s hand remains gently on his shoulder.

Today, on Fathers’ Day, this father is suffering; not because of himself, but because of his son.

When a father faces daily the possibility of losing his only son to a devastating illness, the prospect of an empty ache on Fathers’ Day haunts him for the rest of his life.