I will never forget the day that I found out that I was going to be a grandpa. I was shocked but so excited at the same time that my lineage would be carried forward. The thoughts that go through your mind in the early years of a grandchild's life are "what is he/she going to call me?" Well, Thomas eventually settled on PaPaw for me, and a mixture of different names for Amy. Some of those are mamaw, and other times she is mommy. I have the blessing of seeing Thomas most weekends, but I have noticed now that he is four years old, he is commenting and asking about his daddy a whole lot more. We have been very deliberate from the beginning to tell Thomas that David passed, and is now up in heaven. We have taken him out to the cemetery on multiple occasions, and have looked through photo albums showing him pictures of his daddy.
When David was in South Korea (not to be mistaken with that other Korea to the north), I assured David that I would be a temporary place holder for him until his return. In no way could I ever replace the father figure that Thomas needed in his life, but David was appreciative that I was able to stand in the gap for him while he served in the Army. Upon his return from Korea, I once again told David that I would be honored to fill his shoes while he was in Colorado, and Thomas was in Kentucky. I never could have imagined that I would permanently have to step into that role. I will always be Thomas's PaPaw, but I also will forever represent a daddy figure for him in person, as his has passed on.
When I talk about Daddy not being spoken in past tense, my point is that nobody should lose their daddy at a young age. The older we get, we tend to change the word daddy to dad or perhaps father. However, when you are four years old, it is just plain ole daddy. This past Saturday we had Thomas for the weekend. Amy and I have been busy constructing a beautiful "Honor Garden" for David (future post and pictures when complete). Some call it a memorial garden, but I like removing the "deathy" word of memorial, and just keep it that I am honoring my son. While Thomas was helping us haul dirt, mulch, bricks, and shrubs, I was telling him that I was building this in honor of his daddy. His face lit up, and the rest of the day he would say this was his daddy's garden.
How do you reconcile the past with the present? I am not sure I know the answer to this question, as sometimes I talk about David in the past tense, and sometimes in the present. A friend of mine who lost his son still talks as if his son is going to walk in the front door any minute. It is just different for each person and there is not any one correct answer. What I would say is that I want to keep David's memories alive. That means that I have to drag his memories from the past into the present and future with me. I say drag lightly, as it is not a burden, but they do not just slide to the present and future on their own.
What do you do about all of those children out there who's dads are not dead, but have abandoned them and their mom, or just simply moved on. It is more prevalent then you realize. I think it is so important to come alongside other children (no matter the age) that don't have a dad figure in their life, and mentor them to greatness. There are so many emotional scars created in the absence of a father in some ones life. My dad passed away about 5 years ago, and I don't remember shedding a tear. Not because I am a cold hearted jerk, but merely because he was never a "Daddy" to me. He was dad, but he was never there for me, as my parents got divorced when I was 10 months old. This is a sore topic for a lot of people, as much pain in life comes from the absence of dad in their childhood and adolescence years.
I have no regrets as a dad. I always did activities with my three children, and continue to, even though Nathan and Hannah are in college. I was present and accounted for, which is step #1. You can have a family, but if you are a workaholic and away 80 hours a week, then you are missing out on your children's life. Be vested. I remember thinking that this parenting thing was over once they turned 18 and went off to college. Boy was I wrong. I worry more about my children's safety now that they are out of the house and at college, then when they were here. You never stop or outgrow being a parent. It is for life.
In closing, even though Thomas might continue to mention David as his daddy in past tense, I will do everything that I can to keep his memory alive by speaking in the present tense. David, I stand up and am accounted for. I will continue to be that permanent placeholder for you as both his daddy figure, and as his actual PaPaw. I will continue to smother that kid with my love and affection. Most of all, I will continue to let him know how incredible of a man his daddy IS!