Recently, my son celebrated his 16th birthday. The sixth one without his father. Birthdays are now so bittersweet.
I hated that he had to celebrate his birthday in quarantine. So we arranged for friends to line our sidewalk and surprise him. Family to spread out in the front yard and sing happy birthday. He was so surprised. And excited. And for a brief time we celebrated the joy of the day. Didn’t even notice the bitter. Only the sweet.
Then I noticed that my normally upbeat, happy, live life like there’s no tomorrow kid is not himself. He sleeping more, talking less, and his appetite has decreased. So I asked him if it was about his dad. And he said yes. That is missing his dad. Wishes his dad could be here. He was thinking about the things he and his dad would’ve done on his 16th birthday. Things they probably would not have told me about. And how he wishes he could just see his dad one more time. Hello bitter you just had to make an appearance. Couldn’t let us just experience the joy.
And today my son got his driver’s license (yes, my checkbook is crying). Another milestone that his dad has missed. Another event his dad could not participate in. Another time that I’ve said I wish Jared was here. We celebrated his accomplishment. Took the obligatory photo. Someone commented how he looks so much like his dad. And I said yes, he is my living reminder. Again we have to embrace the sweet and the bitter. And hope the sweet wins. And today it did.
When my son is sad, lost, missing his dad my heart physically hurts. When he says I wish I could see my dad, I think me too sweetie, me too. What I wouldn’t give to give him a little more time with his dad. What I wouldn’t give for his dad to have been here for his birthday. Hell, any day. What I wouldn’t give to take away my son’s pain. What I wouldn’t give for him to not know the heartbreak of losing a parent at such a young age. What I wouldn’t give for him to know only the sweet.
Being a teenager is hard enough. Being a teenager and navigating the loss of a parent is nearly unimaginable. I can only hope and pray the counseling, love, and support my son has received will help him navigate the road ahead of him. Help him embrace the bitter and the sweet. Help him focus on the joy of living. Help him be a young man his dad would be proud of.