By John Hubbuch
I love the fantasy of the movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an obnoxious, cynical TV weatherman covering a Feb. 2 morning in Pennsylvania where Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, wakes up each year allegedly to look for his shadow. Phil Connors, on the other hand, keeps repeating the same Feb. 2 in a seemingly endless time loop until he finally gets what life is all about, and becomes a better person because he has the opportunity to live his life, or at least one day of it, over and over again.
As the grandfather of four young children I get the chance to observe my sons as fathers. I get the chance to spend a wonderful day each week taking care of young children. I have had the opportunity to assist my oldest son coach Lily and Ava in AYSO soccer, thereby realizing one of my bucket-list lifetime goals.
Unlike Phil Connors, I don't get to live my life over again. But I do find myself doing the same things with my grandchildren that I did with my own children: changing diapers, feeding bottles, holding and comforting them, helping with homework, reading books, playing catch, watching Scooby Doo, catching bugs, pushing them in swings — the list goes on and on. So I'm doing the same things, but I am 40 years older now than when I first did them.
Inevitably the time warp juxtaposition of the two roles — father and grandfather — causes thought, if not insight about being a father. I tried really hard, but I could have been better. No doubt.
If, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I could be a dad over again, I would have treated each of my children as individuals, recognizing more of their differences than their similarities. I would have tried to spend more time with them individually. We would have done a little more art and music, and maybe a little less soccer and basketball. I would have spent more time with my wife. We would have traveled more as a family. I probably wouldn't have taken all three boys, including 6-year-old Phil, to see Braveheart. I definitely wouldn't have taken their dare to put a spider in my mouth.
Most of all, I would have tried to slow those child-rearing days down. I have lots of great memories about those years, but alas with three sons, it was a rollicking blur that just rushed by. All those athletic practices and contests, movies, family meals, school drop-offs and pickups, sleepovers, Slurpees, hide-and-seeks, Olympic Days, read-alouds, parent-teacher conferences, baths and bedtimes have run together into a vast Mississippi of memory.
I would have tried to live in the fragile, precious present, holding onto the specialness of all those individual small moments. There is a bit of melancholy in all this, but then none of us get to be Phil Connors.
So I am content to experience as a father the joy of watching my sons do a great job of fathering their children. For a dad, that is as good as it can be.
Celebrate this Father's Day. There won't be another one just like it.
Answer Book 2017
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