When we are infants they are giants to us. Booming voices that echo around the periphery of our Mother’s world. We come to learn their smiles, and their laughter, and the feel of their rough strong hands.
When we are toddlers they are the kings of the world. All knowing, and all powerful. They can swing us over their heads, and make us laugh like no other. As we grow we come to learn their place as Atlas, holding up our world upon their backs. They are gone from us more often than Mom, but we learn to listen for the sound of their car in the driveway. We become aware that there is something hard in their world that takes place when they are gone, even if we can’t understand it. We see the exhaustion and the pain slip out when they are too tired to hold it in. We become little weathermen, reading the moods that blow like weather systems across the map of their face.
They teach us not with words, but with action. How to start a lawn mower, handle a tool, drive a car. They are the silent owners of the mechanical world, masters of a knowledge that isn’t taught in school. We are in awe of their ability to restore everything to wholeness.
Once we become teenagers we see that they are human, and we never forgive them for it.
As we ourselves age, they become part of the background of the family. Like the house, and the car, and the great edifices upon which the history of the family is acted out. They become an anachronism, a source of laughter for the way they dress, talk, and act. Men out of time, in an age they no longer understand. We begin to see their frailties. We roll our eyes and sigh.
Then they begin to appear like ghosts in the mirror. We catch glimpse of them in the corner of our eyes. Slowly we come to understand what it must have been like. We find a new appreciation for the sacrifices that they made, that we never knew, because they never once complained. If we are lucky, we have time to say thank you before they are gone.
All too soon, they are gone, and we are left with a face in the mirror that conjures up memories. So we smile through the tears at the memories, and dig deep within us to live up to the example that they set before us when we weren’t looking, like granite monuments to inspire us. We hope that somewhere they can see us, and know. And we pick up their shop worn tools, close our eyes, and using our memory of those strong rough hands, we set to work chiseling out our own monument.