I stormed out of the door with my hands in a balled up fist. I wrinkled my face in a make-believe angry mess. I wasn’t angry, but at 6-years-old, my imagination had taught me how to fake it. Well, my imagination and my favorite television show, The Incredible Hulk.
I had just finished another episode and my adrenaline was pumping. Normally the fact that my mother would turn my jeans into summer shorts with three or four cuts from the scissors wasn’t very appealing. I was able to get over this slight embarrassment by including the crooked cuts and dangling strings from unraveled fabric to give my impersonation of an angry Hulk even more realism.
Related: Fathers Grieve Too
At one time, all of us dads have wanted to be super-heroes. We have envied them since childhood, marveled at their ability to always be in the right spot and more importantly at their awesome special powers, whether it be flying, strength, web-slinging or speed. It seems like our own children instantly see a super-hero in us, or in some cases, had our child lived, would have.
It wasn’t until I became an adult, that I found a super-hero power in the most unlikely of places. If I could literally choose a superhero attribute, I wouldn’t look to the comic pages of old. I found what I wanted in an oddly popular sitcom that aired in the nineties and now, in syndication: Saved by the Bell.
Zack Morris, a popular blonde-headed student with an unrelenting dose of charisma, had the power that I, as a grieving dad, so badly wanted. It wasn’t his ability to finagle out from the thumb of his principal at every turn, his charm to get any girl he wanted or even the fact that he could get away with wearing giant white tennis-shoes every single episode and still remain the most popular kid in school. His power – that I wanted – was that he could freeze time.
If you are not aware of the show or this power, Morris, usually at a pivotal moment that might see his devious plan to skip school or trick a student uprooted, would simply say, “Timeout.” With those words, all the other actions, students, and happenings on the screen would pause. He would then have time to re-evaluate the scenario. After shifting gears or making the needed adjustments, he would call time-in and the dialogue would continue among the oblivious cast.
Last March, as my stillborn daughter came into this world, I didn’t want to fly higher than a plane. I didn’t care about being faster than a speeding train. I didn’t want to be able to shoot webs out of my hands and swing through the city buildings. I simply wanted to call for a ‘time-out’. I wanted to freeze time.
I wish I could’ve called for a time-out when they first said that her heart had stopped, or when they handed my beautiful still daughter to me for the first time, or a day later when they took her back from us after the final goodbye. What I would’ve given to be able to stop time during those hard moments.
As dads, we want to be the super-hero in our family’s life. As grieving dads, we also want to be the ones who show strength and support all while boxing our own emotions away. With the busy days of work, stress, and responsibility, we have a tendency to bury the feelings we may have felt from the child we lost. When something so tragic happens and we realize how little control we actually have, it can cause us to quicken our pace, hide the feelings and shelve any angst.
I simply want to challenge us on this Father’s day. Call a time-out! Take the time to stand still. If you have children, stand still with them. If your only child is gone, grab your spouse, and stand still in the memory of them. Unbridled words of emotion may never flow from your mouth, but there is strength in silence that can be felt by our families who know we are standing with them. If our child is here or on the other side waiting, we are still fathers. Let your families know that you are still standing.