When you lose somebody you love, every memory you have of that person somehow crystallizes and remains etched in you permanently. Loss is hard, particularly when it’s somebody you were close to, or a parent.
I think a lot of people lose their parents at a very young age, and bury them when they’re older. What I mean by that is that I think the relationship between parents and children often fails to realize its fullest potential – which is an active relationship that continues the care, nurturing and love that was exchanged between parents and their children.
It’s been nearly 16 years since I lost my Dad. In so many ways, my life feels like it’s forever marked by the moment I picked up the phone on July 29th, 2007.
That moment changed my life in an instant, and I would never be the same Aaron Plaat that I was before that call. I’d never be the same Aaron Plaat I was before I picked up the phone a few years prior to that and heard the news that he had cancer.
When I look at Atlas, sleeping in bed as I type this, I remember that I, too, was once a little boy.
I was once a little boy that looked up at adults, thought people in their 20’s were old, wanted to be a cowboy, firefighter, underwater photographer and football star. I had hopes, dreams and expectations of the life ahead of me.
I was a little boy that loved to play, cuddle, laugh and make messes. I wanted what I wanted and I didn’t comprehend many of the difficulties my parents went through while they were raising their family.
I was once a boy that dreamed of riding motorcycles, having big muscles, making things with my hands and exploring the ocean.
I was once a boy that my Mother loved and held close to her while she rocked me to sleep. I was once the boy that she promised God she would protect with her very life, and I know she would have.
I now hold Atlas tenderly in my arms and try to forever remember these precious years of innocence. I hold his little hands knowing there will someday be a day where I have to let go of them as he ventures into the world on his own.
Moments with my Dad played a really pivotal role in my life. I don’t know if it’s because he was a man and I was a boy, or simply because he loved me, but the times we shared together are forever bonded in my memory.
I’m a Dad now, but I still remember the feeling of being held by my Dad. I remember how his hugs felt, and how safe I felt whenever I was with him. Those things went a really long way in my life, because they helped shape the person that I am at my core.
As a Dad, I hope that Atlas has a life experience with less pain and hurt than the one I’ve had. I hope he never feels the pain of being laughed at, bears marks from being hit or feels the shame from being abused.
I hope he falls in love. I hope he has a family, and one that stays together and goes the distance. I hope he learns the joy of being a Dad, while also experiencing life as a human being in its entirety before that day comes.
Before Atlas goes to bed, he often rolls around and protests his bedtime. Admittedly, it can be frustrating at times, yet he always goes to sleep shortly after being put to bed, and one of the last things he does before he falls asleep is raise his arm and motion for me to come in for one last cuddle. I wrap my arms around him and give him one last hug while he falls asleep.
This week, I had a particularly difficult time putting him to sleep and I felt like the moment would never come as he continued to toss, turn and fuss. I closed my eyes and set my head against the back of the bed while I took a deep breath.
“Connin!” I heard.
Looking down, I saw little Atlas with his arm held up, inviting me to “come in” for a cuddle – which comes from me saying “I’m coming in!” In a silly voice.
That moment melted my heart and gave me a complete reset, where I felt aware of the preciousness of the moment, as well as its fleeting nature. It reminded me just how important every second is with your children, and what a privilege it is to share time together.