In a sense I have two families. No, I have not had more than one marriage. My two families are a product of my one and only marriage. We had our three boys quite early in our marriage spacing each two years apart. We made no decisions to quite having babies at that point, but the babies quit coming. It looked like our three boys would be only children. We were fine with that and happily went along with life.
About three years after our then youngest son was out of diapers my wife surprised me by announcing that she was again pregnant. I remember my first response being, “Dang, more diapers.” This pregnancy brought us our first daughter. Whatever had turned off in my wife’s body that stopped her from getting pregnant for six years turned back on. After this daughter we had four more children to make the count eight.
And so, just as my first family of sons is reaching adulthood and leaving the home, I have a second family coming along with the oldest child being my twelve-year-old daughter and the youngest being my three-year-old son. It isn’t lost on my wife and I that if we had not had any more children after our third son we would be empty nesters now with a lot of freedom to use as we pleased. On the other hand, we would be empty nesters with an empty nest. I don’t know if the peace and quiet would kill me, but I think the lack of physical contact with my children would.
I don’t remember very much about when my boys were young children. I have to go to my journals to read about carrying one of my boys on my shoulders as we walked to church. I have to look in an old photo album to see another leaning sleepily against my shoulder while I am working on my computer. I know there must have been loads of hugs and kisses and hand-holding, but I swear that I cannot actually remember one of them. Lucky for me I have a second family of children to take care of my hug, kiss, and hand-holding needs while I wait for grandchildren.
Even with my second family time is moving fast. My 12-year-old daughter has already passed over to the dark side when it comes to hand-holding. I can still actually remember the feel of her hand in mine. It was just a year ago when she would take my hand while we walked through stores or made our regular trek to the cemetery and back. I was painfully aware when she stopped reaching for my hand. Of course I didn’t mention it. It had to happen as she matured. Perhaps when she gets through adolescence and finds herself she will once again feel comfortable in reaching for my hand. Until then I have to do as the cliché says and let what I love go free and wait and hope that she will return. It really isn’t all that bad. She still kisses my cheek, give me hugs, and tells me she loves me—but I know hand-holding is out for awhile.
Lucky for me I have four more children younger than her. Yesterday my two other daughters went for a walk with me to the cemetery. While my five-year-old skipped ahead through the twilight my ten-year-old year old slipped up beside me and slid her hand in mine. The “no hand-holding”countdown has already begun in earnest with her. I have maybe one more year before the distance will grow between our hands. But last night she said,“Twirl me, Daddy.” I raised my arm, her hand in mine, and she spun and laughed. I do not want to forget what her hand feels like in mine. But after forgetting what it felt like to hold my older sons’ hands can I hope to remember holding Clorinda’s or Autumn’s hands? The answer is clear. Holding Autumn’s hand must be much like holding Clorinda’s hand a year ago. The joy in holding Autumn’s hand must the same kind of joy I had in holding Tory’s hand twenty years ago. The answer to remember the feel of a child’s hand in mine is to keep holding hands with children the rest of my life. I have Autumn and three more children after her to hold hands with. By the time they are grown I will have grandchildren to hold hands with—hopefully lots and lots of grandchildren. There will be children to hold hands with the rest of my life and, perhaps, for the rest of eternity.