When I saw my son Lincoln for the very first time, I knew my life had changed. There was something about this small, vulnerable human being that made me want to protect, teach, and love him all at the same time. His dark blue eyes stared at me inquisitively.
He hadn’t made a peep since he entered the world. His mother was being cared for in her hospital bed not far from her son and me. Her task had been hard and exhausting lasting, three days. She looked beautiful. I watched her as a sense of pride and relief washed over her. I looked back down at my son. The nurses had been measuring his height, checking his lungs, heart rate, ect. He gave me a subtle smirk as he peered into my eyes. It was at this moment I became aware of the array of roles I would play throughout my son and my time together on earth.
My father was a diesel mechanic and a glorified man’s man. He seemed to run from the time he got up in the morning, to the moment he would lay down. Growing up he would wake up at 4:00 a.m. and make his morning commute to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he eventually would manage a freight fleet at Cornhusker International. We lived in a beautiful two-story colonial type house that he had stripped down and rebuilt to my mother’s and his liking. It was near a small town called Bennet, about 30 miles east of Lincoln.
He would get home right at dinner every night. After we ate, he would invest the time that remained in the day fixing a bike, repairing the family cruiser, listening to a story, and settling domestic disputes between my brother and me. I swear the man was the epitome of patience. The guy hadn’t been able to keep his own fishing line in the water for more than 5 seconds for years until my brother and I finally became coordinated enough to catch fish instead of everything else that surrounded us including each other at times.
As time passes, the familiarization of fatherhood is constantly taking me back in time. Back to unanswered questions as to why my father did things with such specificity and consistence, pride and purpose, patience and poise.
My son is now 2. Raising him along his mother’s side has made me realize that my dad was providing a template for fatherhood, a guide that would take over a quarter century to pass on in full.
Now, I consciously and most of the time unconsciously follow this guide that has been ingrained into my mind. When the timing for a moment of encouragement or discipline occurs, my father’s classic “thata kid!” or “you better shape up” phrase instinctively comes out of my mouth.
For every day of fatherhood that passes, I am thankful for my father’s guidance, and for my son. Together, they have given me a life that allows me to relive moments of love, joy and wonder. Only this time, I get to watch these moments through my father’s eyes.
Colton Jones is the sourcing manager for Wild Idea Buffalo Company, and Dan & Jill’s son in-law.