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The greatest gift

By Jim O'Neill

Publication: Theday.com

Published June 16. 2012 8:00AM   Updated June 16. 2012 8:57AM

He is, in all likelihood, the most talented person I know. He is a blend of intellect and compassion, a person with an equal ability to solve a differential equation or calm a crisis through sensitivity and sincerity.

He might be the funniest person I know and I know many who would attest to that having watched him light up a room with his improvisational wit and unique brand of self-deprecating humor. He can sink a putt, write a book review, throw his chips all in on a bluff, and lift 100 pounds right over his head. OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top. But I think you understand where I am coming. 

Exaggeration aside, there is no man alive I would rather spend time with. He is, of course my son.

I will admit to a hint of bias but none of what I said is untrue, especially the part about spending time with him. It is always a joy even if it’s just talking to him every morning as he prepares to head off to work. We can talk for hours and frequently do. It wasn’t always this way.

My son’s mother and I were divorced when he was three and you don’t need me to tell you what an impact that can have on a youngster. The feeling of abandonment can be profound and only the wisest parents, along with a great deal of help from others, can help a child of divorce navigate the turbulent waters that await a child whose foundation has been rattled by the disappearance of a parent from that child’s everyday life. Even the best of intentions are no guarantee that there will be a happy ending because there is no ending, only the continuance of life, which sometimes involves lugging that baggage around forever.

Divorced fathers find that there is no easy way to find a role in your child’s life as so many things can conspire to make that task difficult. Changing addresses, new relationships, strained old relationships, and your own uncertainty and discomfort can prove formidable obstacles to the divorced father as if just dealing with the fragile psychological issues that present themselves weren’t enough.  There is a great deal of guilt to resolve and it translates into worries about the damage you can cause to your son, particularly in later years when he becomes a parent. Some fathers just can’t deal with it and disappear, if not physically, then emotionally.

I made the decision not to disappear and thanks to a mother who cared more about the welfare and stability of her child than she did about whatever she perceived as the hurts she had endured, my son and I were able to carve out a relationship that we could work on and make it work for us.  I loved my son and I knew he loved me but it was hidden at times amongst the tangles of confusion that divorce can breed.

For us, the glue was baseball. No matter how little we could say to one another about some things, baseball was always there to give us an opportunity to share in something we both loved.

I coached. He played. We argued. He got upset.  I got upset.  He resented me. I was confused.  We would be back at it the next day. 

I coached.  He coached with me. We argued. He got upset. I got upset.  He said nasty things. I was confused.  We would be back at it the next day.

Today we get together and compete at fantasy baseball.  He says something snide. I say something snide.  He laughs.  I laugh.  He calls me in the morning and we laugh again. 

This Father’s Day I will be reminded that he has given me the greatest gift a divorced father could ever receive. You see, my son took all those considerable gifts, all that enormous store of emotional and physical energy, and put them into a singular task.  He has invested all that he has into being the best possible father and husband he can be.  I marvel at the focus he has on making sure that my grandson’s upbringing is one of pure nurture, that his world is safe and secure, and that he is given the foundation for a happy and fulfilling life.

And when my son says things like “well, you always taught me” when relating a tale of how he and his son had negotiated their way through one of those inevitable parenting minefields, it is such a gift, one to be appreciated and understood.

So, on this Father’s Day, I pay tribute to the son for allowing the father to learn how to be one.  Happy Father’s Day, Casey.  Thank you so much, my son.

Jim O’Neill is a member at Great Neck CC.

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