The Gifts I Hope My Dad Gives To My Boys

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This post first published June 9, 2016, when my oldest - now 20 - was still a teenager.

My teenager was forced to emerge yesterday from his dark hole of a bedroom because it was the first day of summer break, and we had to go get his passport renewed.  

Just a few days before, I'd stood on the front porch, bantering with him as he walked out to his car, watching him pull out and waving goodbye to him as he left for one of his last few days of his junior year.  

He hates when I do this.  

"Why do you do that?  It's so weird," he'll say in a tone that makes it clear he's disgusted by the whole thing.

I've explained to him many times that my dad used to do the very same thing: walk me out and wave me off when I left for school each morning.  It kinda drove me bananas, too, but I'm not sure why.  

Here we were now, getting an early start on our first official day of summer break.  

As usual, I'd lost track of some details during the last few weeks of school, with all the juggling of end-of-year junk, so I had it in the back of my mind that it was my other kid's passport that was expired, and planned to pull him out of school early one day and get it renewed.  

As it turned out, it was the teenager's passport that had expired, and he couldn't miss any school, or he'd forfeit final exam exemption.  

So it had to wait until school was out for summer break, and by then, all the area passport offices were booked up until the end of the month, and - of course - we are on a very tight time schedule, so we had to drive 45 minutes to a nearby town out in the sticks of the Texas hill country.

"We'll make a day of it!" I said to him in my most excited-mom-voice.  He replied with, "Um no.  We won't."  

Using my favorite parenting technique of pretending I didn't hear him, I jumped in the car, and cranked up the radio to 80's hits, which I'm proud to say my child appreciates and enjoys, and actually knows many of the lyrics.  

He gave me some side-eye, but I could tell he was dying to sing along, and he eventually did.

I glanced over as he looked up something on his phone to share with me, and I watched his hand holding his phone, his thumb scrolling down to find whatever it was he was looking for.  

I noticed how much his hands look just like my dad's.

I've noticed this before, just like moms do; we see glimpses of our parents in our kids' eyes, or in their walk or their mannerisms.  

Usually they're those moments where you notice the similarities fondly, with only a few of them eliciting a small gasp and a sometimes out-loud voice where you'll say, "Holy shit, my kid sounds just like my mother."

When I've pointed it out to him before - about how much his hands look like his Granddad's - he's said, "I know they do, but I can't stand my hands. They're small and stubby."

He's right.  They really are.  Mine are the same, just a (slightly) more feminine version.  And I've thought the exact same thing.  

While my son scrolled through his phone, I lost myself in thought.  

I thought about those mornings when my dad would walk out with me before I left for school, saying some goofy thing he'd always say to make me laugh, waving me off with those hands of his.

In the wintertime, Dad's hands scraped the frost from my car windows, so I didn't have to do it myself.  And he'd surprise me by filling my gas tank when he'd come to visit me at college.  

My dad reminded me recently about how he'd babysat my now-teenaged-son for New Year's in 2000.  

I don't remember what my husband and I had done that New Year, but my parents had kept my son overnight.  

Just before sun-up on New Year's Day, my dad walked down to the end of his street, where a bank of trees opens up revealing the horizon, with my infant son in his arms.  He held my son - only nine months old then - so they could watch the first sunrise of the new millennium together.

My son doesn't love his hands.  He thinks they're too small and too stubby.  

But they're so similar to my dad's, in the way that they look, it makes my heart burst.  

My wish for my boys is that their hands can have the same experiences as the ones they've descended from.  

That their capable hands will work hard, doing honest work, not just tapping on the keys on a video game keyboard.

That they'll repair broken parts on a car, or a bike, or a toy, or piece of furniture, like my dad's hands have done many times.

That those precious, stubby fingers will write thoughtful, moving words to someone they love.  

That they'll hold out a bouquet of flowers for someone who steals their heart, or to their daughter when her heart's been broken for the first time.

That they'll scrape ice off frosty windows, and wave goodbye on school mornings to a son or daughter of their own.

That they'll hold the squishy softness of a grandchild in the warm sunshine of a chilly morning.

I wish these gifts and so much more for my boys and their hands that look just like their granddad's.  

And I wish for my sons to one day tell me how much it means to them, looking back, that I'd said goofy things to them as I waved them off in the mornings with my own stumpy little fingers.  

Just like I'm saying to my dad now.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.