When my wife told me that I was going to be a dad, I think I did what most guys do when they are given the same news…I freaked out. Once I had sufficiently calmed myself down, however, I did the next thing that many guys do…I thought about all the wisdom that I had to pass on and the lessons that I would be able to teach my child.
How to throw a ball.
How to tell a joke.
How to shoot a puck.
How to ride a bike.
How to program a computer.
How to cook a meal.
How to change a light switch.
How to drive a manual transmission car.
The first five years, I was checking things off my list all the time. My son had a wicked slapshot, he could throw a ball, and he could expertly tell three knock-knock jokes.
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
(It’s still funny.)
Of course, that was before he had his first seizure. After that, his epilepsy got complicated. We spent weeks at a time in the hospital trying to get a handle on his seizures and, suddenly, my list didn’t matter. What mattered was something that I was woefully incapable of teaching him, and that was what it meant to live with epilepsy.
It was a punch to the gut. When I dreamed of being a father, it always involved my son coming to me with a question and me, for some reason around a campfire (we haven’t camped since long before he was born), wisely answering his question with a profound philosophical response, expounding on complex theories and providing fatherly guidance. But here he was, on only his fifth trip around the sun, and I had already run in to an answer that I could not give and a lesson that I could not teach.
I’m never going to be able to teach my son how to live with epilepsy. But I can teach him to never give up. I can teach him, even when life gets hard, to believe in himself and to stand up for himself. I can teach him that he can rely on his mother and me, and that he is never alone. And I can teach him that his life and what he can accomplish is still wide open.
In the end, these are the lessons that are most important, anyway.