FATHER'S DAY 2012

The Fifth Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. -- Exodus 20:12

I wrote this piece years ago, before I met my dear husband, after my parents had visited. I dug it out for Father’s Day last year, and shared it because I believe the experience is shared millions of times. By request, here it is again.

THE BACK SEAT

Today, my parents left for home after visiting their little girl, a visit that demonstrated to me how quickly the hands of time are spinning. I don’t feel any older, but I see that their steps are a little slower, their hair a little whiter, and I must face the facts that I have, until now, been able to shove to the back of my mind. Time is doing exactly what it has always done, but it seems to be doing it so much faster than when I was a child.

As I watched their car growing smaller in the distance, I thought of how quickly my childhood passed, that childhood I was so anxious to be rid of so I would be able to make my own decisions and wouldn’t rely on those two people who were now so quickly leaving my sight.

So much of my childhood took place in the back seat of their car---trips to the supermarket, school, and church, excursions which caused me boundless frustration because my mother obviously did not know or care how much I hated them. How selfish she was, insisting my brothers and I go to these places with her, when we’d rather stay home and play with our friends. Didn’t she know we weren’t getting the same joy from these trips she must be getting?

Only a parent’s love could have motivated her to continue buckling three children into the back seat to make sure they were safe, only to hear them screeching about who was crossing the line. Only a parent’s love could have kept her from boxing our ears as we moaned our way through the supermarket because it was taking so long. And only a parent’s love could have compelled her to continue taking her three children to church each week, knowing full-well there would be more wiggling than she and my father could control.

My father. Another example of how only a parent’s love can prevent a man from killing his offspring when every logical reason says it’s exactly what they have coming to them. His job often kept him away from home, so to spend more time with his family and ensure his children had experiences they could remember fondly, each year he took us on vacations he believed would be both fun and interesting. He would have to stop in some town to work as we travelled, which was a source of unspeakable irritation to us. Why did he have to do that now? Didn’t he know we were tired of riding in that back seat? Didn’t he know that all this riding was seriously getting on our nerves?

The time that passes so quickly now dragged mercilessly during childhood. Freedom, to me, was the front seat—not only the front seat, but the driver’s seat. My father taught me to drive, and lived to tell about it. My mother watched me drive down the street on Friday nights, and was waiting when I tiptoed in 15 minutes past curfew. Did the woman never sleep? Didn’t she know I was old enough to drive, which meant I always made responsible, mature decisions?

I have now been in the driver’s seat for years, and it isn’t quite what I had imagined as a child. The constant presence of decisions, bills, and obligations isn’t what I had in mind all those years ago, as I watched the two adults in front of me. I have no idea how it must have felt to have three young lives completely dependent upon the decisions they made. The freedom I had envisioned simply does not exist—it did not exist for them, and it will never exist for me.

The world can be so big and cold, and that back seat was so warm and safe. We could lie there with a pillow and a blanket and know that no harm would ever come to us, that those two people in front were an impenetrable barrier between us and whatever was out there. I didn’t know then, as I wished I could unbuckle and go outside and taste freedom, that today I would give anything to lie down on that back seat.

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Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.


~Shyla Lefever