"I don't know how I'm going to tell him," she said to me. Her eyes were red. Her life was in a whirlwind. Suddenly she was single, suddenly she was left with the burden of taking care of a son alone. More than that she was going to have to tell him that his father left him without saying goodbye.
"Oh, he doesn't know," I said involuntarily covering my mouth.
Tears stung my eyes as I watched the mother and son walk off to their new life without a father. I had been in that kids shoes. I had been in the same situation at the same age when my dad up and left.
What must I have looked like the first day we were all on our own? A little blond head and a small child. I can only remember it through my own eyes. I always wanted to be strong and hold my family together. It is sadder if I look back at it through different eyes and see a little girl there in that situation. Back then, I never thought I was a child.
I can't remember much about the days when we were trying to figure out the what now of that situation. How could one broken hearted woman raise three little kids (7, 6, and 3)? How could the three bright eyed children comprehend this situation? Who would keep that family safe if they ended up in the poorer section of town? Would these kids be the same people they would have been if this tragic situation didn't occur?
My Grandad's life must have changed right then too. He thought he was done being a parent to children until that moment. He thought he was done supporting a nuclear family. Yet, at that moment, he must have realized that he had three more kids.
So, would I be the same person I am today if tragedy hadn't been a part of my young life? I don't think so, but it was the act of kindness that left a deeper impression on me than the tragedy. It is that act which taught me what the true love of a father is. Maybe I could have thought that being a father meant taking care of your obligations. In my life, I knew one man who chose not to meet his obligations as my father and I knew another man who chose to meet the obligations as my father when they weren't his obligations. Who was really my father and who did I learn from? I can only hope that I will be like the man who raised me.