Story by Bob Perks
My son is getting married on Friday.
I suppose many Father’s don’t get caught up in the emotional stuff of an event like this. They are too busy tending to details and making last minute arrangements. They tell me it’s different for a Father when a son gets married.
But, not for me. Keith and I have been through a lot together.
So why of all the things that I could possibly reflect back on, do I think about his feet?
His birth, his entry into our lives was a miracle. We wanted a baby from the first year we were married. It took five years for that to happen and then nearly ten hours of labor. It was appropriate for him to arrive on this Easter morning. Like the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Keith was indeed a miracle.
Back then Dads weren’t permitted to be bed side at birth. So, as unfair as it was, Mom suffered all the agony, pain and I assume the joy of birth. I could only walk the halls and drink coffee.
As the time approached I anxiously watched the door at the end of the long hallway. Suddenly it opened and a nurse, yes a perfect stranger, introduced me to my first son.
I always teased Keith that as beautiful as a newborn is there was an odd, elongated shape to his head when I first saw him. His dark hair swirled around his cherub-like face. The image of a newly hatched bird squirming, stretching blindly into the new world rushed through my mind.
Then I saw his feet.
They were tiny, soft and wrinkled. In the miracle of creation they were absolutely perfect in every way. But they needed to be. For they would take him where he wanted to go on his journey through life.
For now they were pampered and powered, kissed gently and held softly. One day, at just the right moment, after crawling his way into the world, he would suddenly pull himself up and stand ever so briefly alongside a chair. Bravely, or perhaps just out of curiosity, he would make his way around the room hanging on to anything that would support him.
Then, without him even realizing the significance of it all, he would let go and balancing like a man on a tight rope, he would stand alone.
It was with that first step, that magical moment that our son would begin his journey away from us.
Yes, it is a fact that our sole purpose as parents is to nurture, strengthen and guide our children to stand on their own one day. Everything we do prepares them to leave us.
In the years between that moment and his wedding day, I have cherished each step he took.
I have seen his feet walk up and down the stairs for the first time. I have seen him running to greet his “Pop Jugie” and watched them swing in the air as his Grandfather lifted him high above his head.
I have watched his feet running through the park, jumping out of bed on Christmas morning. I watched them on his first bike and prayed they would guide him safely as he peddled away from the security of our grasp.
I watched them walk into a classroom for the first time.
Then, years later, in one of the darkest hours of my life, I saw them wiggle nervously, painfully as I told him that I was leaving home. This day, his feet became stronger as they needed to support the weight of a million tons of worry and confusion I had wrongly dumped into his life.
But they carried him well in spite of me.
I watched from the passenger side of an automobile as he nervously stepped on the gas for the first time. Then from the side of the road as a State Trooper tested his skills and knowledge needed for a license to drive away from us.
The years that followed would see him walk down across the stage to receive his high school diploma. He would walk along side of and hand in hand with his first love. He would walk down the hallway on crutches to hear a doctor confirm he had cancer. I would painfully stare at the foot of his left leg as the doctor suggested that it may be necessary to amputate. He would walk along the corridor in a hospital holding onto the pole that carried his life saving chemotherapy.
In a moment that seemed surreal to me, in a huge auditorium, I heard his name called out and watched him as he stood this time to receive his college degree. It was a graduation that by all medical odds should never have taken place.
Then, in the next few years he would walk in and out of my life as he began to make decisions that a young man struggles with. We were at odds. But he always stood firmly in my heart and soul no matter where he was.
Now, this Friday he will walk down the aisle on the next incredible journey in his life. He will stand at the alter before God and next to a most wonderful, beautiful young woman. Sarah is his life blood, his love and dreams all wrapped in one. The Pastor will unite them as husband and wife and I will watch proudly as they take their first steps together.
And the future?
In my dreams and prayers I see Keith walking toward me as he holds his first child, my first grandchild. I will again see the face of a miracle, an angel sent from Heaven and memories of what seems like just yesterday will envelope my soul.
I will look at my grandchild’s feet in awe and wonder what path they will venture on. I will caress and kiss them in a déjà vu flashback in time.
Thanks Keith for walking with me for 23 years. Promise me that you will return often from your journey. You’ll find me standing there with my arms open wide.
“I love you!”