Lawrence Emmerich, my 24-year-old son living in Texas, called me excitedly the other night. He was in San Antonio with friends and they diverted to the Alamo to see the Davy Crockett statue. He texted me a photo.
“I just had to go by and see the statue,” he told me.
Distracted, trying to watch some late-night pro golf on TV, I said, “Why is Davy Crockett so important to you.”
“Dad, are you kidding me?” he said. “You told me Davy Crockett stories every night to put me to sleep for years. I can’t believe you’ve forgotten that. You remember, Davy Crockett and the mad scientists and the alien invaders and his fights with Daniel Boone?”
My oh my. Time flies. I guess I sorta had forgotten. I mean, after all, it was 20 years ago or so.
Lawrence was the cutest little boy you could possibly imagine. Curly copper hair, an exuberant personality, a smile as big as the Mississippi River. He was a sweet little soul and I loved him so dearly.
After my children grew up, I noticed something remarkable that nobody ever talks about or acknowledges. We never get to grieve for the loss of our precious little children. Yes, for me, and most people, thank God, they are still alive as adults, but that precious little child is gone forever and we never really get to grieve over that loss. My precious little Lawrence is gone forever and will never come back. All I have is memories and photos.
My mother-in-law Dottie tried her best to get little Lawrence a commercial gig on TV. He was cuter than all the other little red head boys in the commercials. But Lawrence would have none of that.
Lawrence had atopic dermatitis. Several times a day we had to lather him down with expensive prescription skin creams. When he got out of the swimming pool, he immediately turned into a swollen red lobster. He would itch so much he couldn’t get to sleep.
So to put him to bed, I would snuggle up next to him, massage his back and tell him a Davy Crockett story until he drifted off to sleep. This became our routine for years and years. Every night.
Over time, this posed quite a challenge to come up with new Davy Crockett stories. Davy fought every animal imaginable, encountered every wilderness situation and every Indian tribe I could come up with, but I still ran out of storylines.
So, basically, I had to launch Davy into situations that far exceeded his historical niche. Davy time traveled. He encountered an evil mad scientist that invented a wide assortment of diabolical plots. Davy traveled through space.
How I wish I had recorded those bedtime stories and transcribed them into a children’s book. I could be retired by now.
I can’t recall how or when the Davy Crockett bedtime stories faded away into oblivion. I vaguely recall the first time he told me he was too big for a nighttime story. Surely, tears came to my eyes.
I’m reminded of the old Peter, Paul and Mary folk song, Puff The Magic Dragon.
A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant's rings make way for other toys. One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more. And Puff, that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
Time passed by and Lawrence became a teenager. I recall thinking an alien had taken over the body of my sweet, loving child. Testosterone is a powerful hormone.
I remember taking Lawrence to Dr. Aubrey Lucas, my dear friend, after Lawrence broke his hand slamming it into a concrete wall in a rage.
A year later, he was in another rage over something I had done or said. He started to raise his hand and slam it into the wall but just before impact, he pulled up. I looked at him. He looked at me. And I calmly said, “Well, at least you’re learning.”
Ginny and I would go out of town and Lawrence would have a blowout party, which did not please my neighbors or the police. One neighbor irately told me, “These parties have been going on for years.” My reply. “And you’re just now letting me know?”
Ironically, Lawrence, the ultimate promoter now makes thousands of dollars staging music events and festivals in Austin. He makes good money doing the very thing he got in trouble for in high school. Life is funny.
Much to my disbelief, Lawrence did indeed mature. Despite all the fights, thank the Lord, we never burned the bridge. Now, it’s all come full circle.
“Dad, can you ever forgive me for the hell I put you through as a teenager,” Lawrence tells me again and again, now proclaiming me to be the best dad ever. I just laugh. “Lawrence, you’re forgetting all those other years when you were my precious little boy. Those are the years I remember best.”
I know so many Northside fathers. I watch them work hard, grinding away, and then spend their precious leisure time going to their kids’ soccer and baseball games. I see them being faithful to their wives, going to church with their families every Sunday and trying to be good examples for their sons and daughters. It is amazing to see. It’s the way it should be. It’s what this society needs more of. This type of self sacrifice comes from the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible doesn’t give much parenting advice at all, especially the New Testament. Really, only one line. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” But that one line was the one line that saved our relationship. That’s the amazing power of the Bible.
I have two other wonderful children. Ruth, the easy one, is a sophomore at Ole Miss. John, my eldest, is still living with us at home. I have previously written about both of them. My adventure as a father is far from over. I will continue to embrace the challenges to come.
Mother’s Day gets more attention than Father’s Day. Most dads just want a day off without complaint to hunt, fish or play tennis or golf and such.
How can we compare to women, our saviors, with their maternal instinct filling their sails? For us dads, it’s all sheer willpower to do right. Just give us a bit of credit for that.