Henry's Blog

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dad's Post-Father's Day Reflections

This is a family blog. As such, even though the posts all carry my byline, it has always been a collaborative endeavor. Mama and I have consulted on most entries, and edited and proofed each other. We strive to speak in one voice.

Today I selfishly write just for me.

I was not with Henry last Father's Day. I had an event at work, so I put Henry and Mama on a plane to New York for what we thought was to be the second phase of Henry's treatment at Sloan Kettering. I joined them the next day.

After working the event, I went home to find Henry's sweet and tender voice wishing me a happy Father's Day.

We saved that message all year. On Father's Day, I listened to it over and over. I played Rock Band on Henry's wii. We visited Henry's bench. I listened to his message again. Anything to feel closer to Henry and feel a little bit like a father again.

Shortly after I went back to work last October, a friend stopped by my office to see how I was doing. As she glanced around the room, taking in the the family photos scattered rather haphazardly on the walls, shelves and windowsills, her gaze landed on two little keepsakes to me from Henry: a computerized "#1 Dad" certificate and a plaque procured from a theme park proudly proclaiming "World's Greatest Dad."

"I just realized," she said, "you're not a dad anymore!"

While the words stung, they were perceptive. Losing Henry is profound in so many ways, and my attention has been on missing him, on the emotional devastation, and working with Mama to nurture his memory and ensure that his short, star-crossed life will be remembered with honor and purpose. But I have not yet reconciled the earth shattering impact on my place in the universe. Such a huge part of my everyday life was focused like a laser on Henry, on being his Dad. There was all the standard breadwinner stuff: worrying about a good home, the right school, and so on. There were the small things, like not being able to stop at the store on the way home without finding something for Henry, whether it was a new cereal, chicken nuggets, or a Pokemon key chain.

And there was being a role model: struggling to be the kind of man that Henry would be proud of and would want to emulate when he grew up. While I never got that right, it was a joy and a privilege to try.

A couple of days ago, we dug out the old home videos which I started archiving onto DVDs. It's a joyous heartbreak to view Henry: days old, so beautiful, so free - and to know his fate.

In one video, he was seven months old when I carried him onto a California beach to show him the ocean for the first time. As I watched the tape of the beaming child cradled in my arms, I was overcome as I realized how much it resembled his last days when, unable to walk, speak, or even hold his head up, I would cradle his fragile body as I carried him from his chair to his bed.

I wept as I watched it. I weep now as I write it.

In the twelve years between those images, Henry taught me much more than I ever taught him. The child is the father of the man, after all.

I will spend the rest of whatever life I have left trying to emulate him.


Blogger theatreknitter said...

You will always be a dad. You have so much to teach and share with others. By keeping the memory of your beautiful boy for all of us, you will forever be a father.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, my heart aches for you and for your lonliness. There is nothing I know of that can ease your pain, but I do know that the beautiful memories you have of your life with Henry are so much more than some people ever get to experience.

You write so eloquently and I hope that you will take this entire blog and make it into a book so that, for all time, people will get to know Henry. He was indeed a most remarkable child and you and Cynthia were so very blessed to have him even though the time was much too short.

I think of you both daily and I hope it helps you to know that.

Caroline Jenkins

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought of you all as Henry's birthday, Mother's Day and then Father's Day went by -- I weep as I read this knowing your deep love for your son and each other. Never have I known a family so close as the three of you even before Lamar struck. Your collective (3) courage remains an inspiraton to all who know and love you. KB

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and I wept when I read it. jc

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did get it right and you continue to get it right. Love, Sharon and Kevin

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree that you are not a Dad anymore. The lose of a child doesn't take that away from you... ever.
Diana in Portland via Montgomery.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only every child had a father of such commitment and loyalty. You are forever Henry's father and forever a hero of mine.


10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only every child had a father of such commitment and loyalty. You are forever Henry's father and forever a hero of mine.


10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This entry brought pain and outrage to my heart. Terry and Cindy, you will always be a father and a mother. You will always be Henry's parents. My husband lost a sister when she was 18. He will always be a brother to a sister. His parents will always be the parents of a beautiful young lady who was taken too soon. You have experienced the joys of welcoming a child into the world and nurturing him as he grew. That makes you parents. Your love for each other made you Henry's father and Henry's mother. It is because of you that Henry was the amazing child that he was. It is because of you that we all fought for Henry, and with Henry, to beat this terrible disease.

Now, is your time to take what Henry has left you and put it to use. I'm sure that if you look at yourself in the mirror, you will see a completely different person looking back at you then the person that was there three years ago, 1 year ago, 3 months ago, even 3 weeks ago. You've made it thru the worst storm that there is, now you can help others in ways only you can understand. This blog is more than just your documenting of Henry.

My heart goes out to you and Cynthia. Remember, you were important in the life of a very special person, your child, Henry. You will forever be parents. Henry's parents.

Elizabeth Napolitano

3:40 PM  

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