I don't know why it didn't hit me like this before. But I suddenly saw my 7 year old son's toothless grin while my dad carried him on his shoulders around Disney world in the rain.
Then I saw my dad planning and then facilitating an "ushering into manhood" ceremony for my son when all of our family went to Myrtle Beach for my dad's birthday. He was adamant we do something like this for Sam since he never had one. It was 2004 so he was 18. That ceremony usually happens when a boy is 13 in many cultures and religions.
Then I remembered how Sam spent 2 weeks every summer with his Grampa and Gramma Judy. He always did something interesting, like going to NY, planting a tree to watch it grow as he grew, crabbing at the shore, and on and on.
Those were father and son times....and I felt an overwhelming swelling of emotion and love when I realized that my dad had stepped up and been the best father he could to my son who didn't have a father anymore.
It all kept coming, picture after picture of our lives.
And then there was my mom. My mom had done the very same thing, stepped in over and over and over as my son's other parent. I remember her saying to him "who's your best friend"? "You are Gramma"! She always took his side in our arguments, she always was there when he needed a ride to karate class or home from a party if I was working. She was there for the fun times, the hard times, the painful times, the victorious times.
She was close by and as I look back it seems she sacrificed an enormous amount of time because that boy needed a father. She was the other parent for me. I was angry with her often and we fought a lot because "he could do no wrong". That's ok in a grandparent role. But her role was much more and I was worried she was too much of a buffer and he'd be spoiled to the point of not listening to me as a young boy growing into a young man.
He is respectful of his elders.
He adores women and treats them with gentleness and kindness.
He is wise beyond years.
And he has persevered and succeeded.
My son was fatherless at 3 years old and both my parents tirelessly and with great enormous love took that boy and made him theirs and I couldn't be more grateful.
There are no words as my heart swells so big it feels it will burst and my eyes fill with tears.
And my mind fills with picture after picture of their involvement in his life, year after year, event after event, milestone after milestone, supporting him in everything he tried and did, fighting for him when I didn't or couldn't, cheering him on every step of the way, getting on their knees and covering him with prayer, loving him the exact way only a parent can love, unconditionally and with a knowing that either one would die for that boy.
He is the luckiest boy I know. He was Covered with love and protection and God used my parents to give him everything his father and I didn't or couldn't. They were his father.
They are his father along with God. God knew I needed that for him and all along it had been provided and I look back over 26 years and see all they did for him, all the times they were there for him, all they shared with him and I am speechless.
We were just living life but it was a gift he was given, I was given. I have the best parents a girl who became a single mom could have and I really didn't know it until now.
Not the expanse of it anyway.
I know I needed them and I took it all for granted. Of course they helped. No big deal.
Well, yes Big deal! Huge deal.
We all are and as we all read this we cried knowing what it took to get here. We are so proud and happy and letting out big sighs and brushing the sweat from our brows that was from worry that he would be alone and sad and snap at some point. His story could have gone so differently if they hadn't stepped into the role of "father" for my son.
I wrote a letter to all of them not knowing what was coming in the next couple of months. And I am so glad I did. I lost my dad. He lost his grandfather. To Alzheimers. It was rather sudden. We thought we had more time but over Christmas 2015 he died. He was a doctor and one of the best diagnosticians in the country. The town came to see him on the day of his funeral. We all stood in a receiving line for 3 hours. Each person had a story of how he had touched their lives and helped or saved their loved ones. I knew he had a good heart but didn't know all the things he did for the community. I did know what he did for me and I want to honor him and my mom in this story.
They all did an amazing thing and without wanting anything in return. It was just who they were and I'm proud to call them my parents. Thank you dad and Judy. Thank you mom.