A tale of fatherhood

Sunday, June 21, 2009

By Bob Miller

There once was a boy, about 5 or 6 years old, who saw all the attention his mother and father were giving his little brother. The little brother had casts on his legs from surgeries due to birth defects.

"Daddy," the little boy asked. "Do you love him more than me?"

The father put the boy in his lap and explained that he loved both boys equally.

A few years later, having gone to school for a few years, the same little boy lay in his room crying. His mother came into the room.

"What's the matter?" she said.

"Will you and Daddy ever get a divorce?"

"No, honey. I promise."

The little boy grew into a teenager. He was sitting at the dinner table when his father told him to sit down, and his mother told him she was pregnant. The oldest brother was scared, not knowing what the future held for himself, his mother and his little brother on the way. What would a teenager do with a baby brother? Would he have to hold it? Change its diapers?

And the third brother was born and soon he was walking, a ping-pong ball with legs, bouncing from one wall to another. The teenage brother saw all the attention the new baby was getting. Secure in his parents' love, the teenager asked himself "How could I possibly love a child more than this?" He even learned to change dirty diapers.

A few years passed by, and the oldest brother had to leave his little brother behind. He became a young father with a boy of his own.

The young man had little money but a large heart. His new son was sweet and smart and eager to please. The young man watched his first-born grow into a 3-year-old who liked to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and the Blues Clues song. The boy was just old enough to understand that leaving Mommy on weekends was torture. The young man asked himself, "How could I possibly hurt a child more than this?" But the child's love grew, despite the father's failures.

For eight more years the adult man was astounded by how love evolved and endured over time. With every milestone, with every challenge his resilient son overcame, the father asked himself, "How could I possibly love a child more than this?"

The adult father found a cute and talented woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. A few years passed, and another son was born. The young lad was loud for a long time, and the tired father asked himself "How could a baby make so much noise?" Then the boy learned to smile, and he did so every day when the father came home from work. Every day the father tossed his son in the air, heard his little man squeal and thought to himself "How could I possibly love a child more than this?"

Perhaps as early as this week, the father will have another son. Another blessing. Another opportunity to watch a child grow. When he goes to bed at night, the man often worries about less important matters such as money, work, his weight, his time. But sometimes he gives thanks to God for the miracle of childhood. And sometimes, if he listens hard enough, the worried man hears a whisper in his soul, "How could I possibly love you more than this?"

Bob Miller is editor of the Southeast Missourian, a columnist and soon to become a father of three. Reach him at bmiller@semissourian.com.

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