Editor’s note: Pope Francis has proclaimed 2021 as “The Year of St. Joseph.” Pope Francis describes Joseph – the father of Jesus and spouse of his mother, Mary, in the Christian tradition – as “a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.” Contributor Bill Peebles wrote this tribute.
A young man holds an infant in an oak rocking chair. The baby fusses and cries, uncomfortable in its new surroundings, inundated with sights and sounds so new and unfamiliar. The father soothes and smiles, his rough hands stroke the dark hair and chubby cheeks and the baby calms and begins to coo and eventually nods off. The room is dark, but a simple lamp fills it full.
The toddler, two-and-a-half, now laughs and chases a kitten across the wooden floor of a dining room. The same father watches, a warm drink in his hand, and encourages the little one to be gentle. He lifts the kitten and teaches the little one to pet it with care. A morning glow fills the room and speckles the orange and black calico with a light that seems from within the kitten and kid.
That toddler, a boy now, 7 and full of energy and boundless love watches as the father makes his breakfast of bread and milk and sweet honey. He dances in his pine chair in happy anticipation and sighs at the taste of the honey and milk-soaked loaf. He knows he is safe even as a storm blows up in the trees outside the home, unafraid even as the room explodes in the flash of lightning close by.
Ten now, the boy runs and chases and tags and tackles his friends as they play outside the school. They rejoice in the temporary freedom, away from the hard wooden desks and dusty classroom. Another boy falls hard, and a sharp stone slashes his forehead, our boy runs towards him pulling off his garment, unafraid of the blood and pain of it. He comforts and tends the wound. The father watches, not proud but sure, sure in the lessons learned and taught, from both to each other.
An older boy, a young man perhaps, the rings of his years building up around him, protecting, comes into his age. There are celebrations and woodfires and wine and cheese and incantations. Some blood, perhaps, is let. The time is upon him now to look to the future – outwards, forward and in, always in. The father knows, though, the rough and wondrous way ahead.
A job — a workshop, a woodshed, a quarry, a brewery, a bakery, a sanctuary – where is not important, but the boy is gone, his own man know. But, he is also his father’s son and shall always be.
The tenderness he shows others is in indeed his father’s.
The grace he has seen is only illuminated through his father’s eyes.
All that he finds sacred in the wood, and in the thorns and in the sorrows; all that is sacred in the sky and lakes and clouds and smoke is through the father.
All that he finds holy, the very whole of it all, is the Father.
After a time apart, both seconds and eons, they meet again.
The boy, always a boy to the father, smiles and simply says:
The joyous father beams and whispers back, “My son …”
About the author
Bill Peebles left a 30-year career in the restaurant business to become a stay-at-home dad to twin boys. He writes a blog, I Hope I Win a Toaster, that makes little sense. He coaches sometimes, volunteers at the schools, plays guitar, and is a damn good homemaker. He believes in hope, dreams, and love … but not computers.