The Fatherhood Theme Park
By Janet Morris Grimes –
Father’s Day. It gets me every time.
As a child, it was as if I was standing outside the gates to a theme park. I see all the families entering, hand-in-hand. Their Daddy clutches the tickets, counting to make sure he has enough for everyone. No one goes in alone. The lines are long, but the wait just makes it better once they click through the turnstiles of triumph.
Costumed characters welcome them with waves and hugs, their plastic faces etched with permanent smiles. But the smiles of the kids are even wider. Cameras capture a thousand photo moments before they reach the first ride. Even walking, together, is an adventure inside the theme park.
The scent of something wonderful wafts over me. Maybe it’s cinnamon. Fudge? Or corn dogs? Definitely a mixture of all of them; as if happiness were a smell. Ten different versions of carousel music provides the soundtrack to the day. Their day.
Screams of delight ruffle through the tall trees that hide the fun things they get to do. Just enough of a roller coaster taunts me from above. A train of silver buggies crank their way to the top. They careen down the other side, twisting in ways I didn’t see coming. Terror turns to thrill on their faces. They line up to do it again. Just because they can.
The sun drops behind the trees, bringing a breeze that didn’t exist before. Maybe it will cool off the sunkissed cheeks of those who are now leaving. Strollers are filled with too many shopping bags to hold the children who once belonged there. Instead, their parents carry them, asleep, draped across their shoulders. The leftovers of something sticky and wonderful still dribbling down their smushed up faces. They wear hats, or ears, or both; something they didn’t have when they arrived.
There expressions reveal the most perfect of days. Content. Exhausted .Together. As if whatever they anticipated before entering was even better than expected….
Peering through the bars is no way to experience a theme park. It’s impossible. I would have given anything to get inside. Not for the rides, the characters, or the ice cream. What I longed for, more than anything, was to be that little girl sitting on top of her father’s shoulders.
But you have to have a ticket to get inside. And I never had a ticket.
This is what it feels like to be fatherless. No matter how many times you watch, from a distance, you can’t imagine yourself being allowed to go inside.
But you know you are missing out on something wonderful.
PRAYER: Father God, bless the fathers and the families that You created. Give them strength to shine for You. Mend any broken relationships, and thank You for being such a loving father to each of us. It is because of You that we know how to love unconditionally.