Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Belated Father's Day Reflection

About the only thing I didn't like regarding my most recent trip overseas was its timing. I left for the Institute on Saturday, June 17. One day before Father's Day. One day before my Father's Birthday. I wish going to the Institute didn't mean I had to miss that pair of celebrations. However, there were three small tales that give me cause to take great pride as a father, teacher, and son. 

Photo of me taken day after Fathers Day by the grave of one of my childhood heroes. 

First, I did get a chance to celebrate my dad's birthday early. We ate dinner with him on Friday and I had the joy of seeing him surrounded by grandchildren. He spent much of the evening with two of his granddaughters, Caroline and Lilith, watching a movie in the basement. I also gave him a book, Olivier Wieviorka's Normandy, a fairly dense academic treatment of D-Day and the subsequent battles in that region of France. When I got home I found out that Dad had read the whole thing. In less than two weeks. I'm gratified that he was so interested in my trip that he did that, but I can't say I'm surprised by this from a man who lives for his kids. 

Second, I learned later that the students on the trip nicknamed me "Dad." I can't help but be very flattered. Grownups outnumbered students on this trip. Fifteen versus plus fifteen teachers, a lead teacher, four staff members, and a guest professor (and his spouse). So, they were challenged keeping track of who was who. So, probably around Father's Day, I got the moniker Dad because, well, I guess I struck them as most dad-like. I could say something witty about my fashion sense or penchant for bad selfies to credit for this, but I'll keep it serious. I'm honored that the students on the trip saw in me what they think a dad is, and I'm very glad that that's where I find myself at this age after 19 years of teaching. 

Third, I got emotional at two points on the way home when I thought of Sam and Caroline. There was very little homesickness for me on the trip. There wasn't really the time or place to get mopey about being away. But as I settled in to my flight home, I watched the beginning of La La Land, which makes me think of Caroline very directly. I teared up. Then, I teared up again when, as the train rolled into Lansdale, I heard Sam yell from outside the train "I see Dad!" His joy was obvious. 

Truth be told, I didn't really want Sherry to bring the kids down to the station to meet me. I knew I'd have a student with me who was reuniting with her own family. That would be emotional enough. But then to see my own kids at the same time . . . I knew it would be a little much for me. It was. 

There's no such thing as a free trip to Europe. My opportunity to go on that research trip was paid for, but had a cost in that I missed two weeks with my own two kids. And those two weeks started at Father's Day. But in some ways, I feel like I was a dad on loan to a group of students who afforded me the honor of seeing some of dad in me. It's hard not to be proud of that. 

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