To my dear husband, father of three,
I have learned this past week of a father’s love because our household had to go without. Unannounced and undetermined, you fell sick and grew worse each day. In pain and overcome with fatigue, you were quarantined and in your absence we saw what life without you would be like.
Acknowledging that “a wise woman builds her house,” I’ve attempted to embrace my role as mother. And slowly, I’ve grown with faltering enthusiasm and courage, weaknesses and dependencies. But it seems that I’ve spent so much time focusing on all that I give, I’ve overlooked what a father gives to a family.
Of the many things I prayed for while you were sick, I also asked that God would teach me more about Him during this time and He was faithful to answer this prayer. My eyes were opened to the fact that if there is any good I may do each day to build our home, if there is any aroma of love and care, order and peace, it is only because I labor by your side. You are the foundation for my efforts and the covering that allows for us to flourish.
I fell asleep exhausted at the end of each day and realized as if for the first time (in over 10 years of marriage and 5 years of parenthood) how much work you do for us, not just off at your job, but directly for us in our home.
And it was only waking up tired, that I realized how often it is you that gets up in the night to comfort a crying child or take someone to the potty.
It was only when I carried out yet another trash bag that I realized how often you take out the trash.
When I turned around to find another full dishwasher, full diaper, or full load of laundry, I realized how often you quietly do these things.
And how quiet life was without you.
Thoughts, worries, and ideas bounced noisily around in my head that I usually share with you. I grew lonely.
With you laid up in bed, there was no rough housing, shrieks from being thrown up into the air, or giggles rolling around on living room floor. This was the first thing G. asked for when you came downstairs yesterday still weak, “Hey dad, wanna wrestle?,” a daughter longing for her father’s affection.
And sweet baby climbed into your lap, pushing away anyone else who tried to come near. Though I would describe her as “always on my hip,” this must not be so because it was your affection she sought desperately last night. She screamed in the car until you sat by her side. She toddled everywhere after you, even pounding on the bathroom door. She had become a thirsty, drooping flower that blossomed afresh with your love.
And little man, don’t you think he looks much older than he did a week ago? Perhaps again my eyes were just being opened to what was already there, but it was him I thought missed you the least. That is, until on day 7 of your absence, he announced solemnly, “I guess, I’m the Daddy now.”
And for me, it was when we finally laid in bed together again, side by side, hand-in-hand, after I had slept for a week on the living room couch, that I knew how much I need your love.
I’m humbled now. Humbled that in my self-absorption, I missed all this to be grateful for. Humbled that you were willing to work and give without the praise and fanfare I often demand. I’m reminded of the lines of the Robert Hadyn poem about his father in “Those Winter Sundays:”
Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him…
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Oh, what did I know, my dear, what did I know? Although you were sick and sleeping, you taught me how little I know of the offices of a father.
And in teaching me about the offices of a father, I have now a better glimpse of the office of our Holy Father. I know now more of what a steadfast love is. A love that I also allow to go unnoticed and unthanked, yet continues to be poured out anew.
I prayed that I might learn something during your illness and I thought I’d learn more about patience and self-sacrifice, the beauty of a mother and wife caring endlessly for her children. Instead, the Father answered my prayers by revealing to me how little I know, how much I need, and how much I’ve been given.