Earlier this year, the father of one of my 7th graders met with me for a regular conference. He shared his new situation: that he was a single father and after having been out of work for months, had finally landed a job in the unrelenting oilfield.
"I'm so thankful to finally have a job, but it means I work sometimes seven days a week, twelve hours a day, " he said ruefully. "What concerns me the most is my boy. When my wife left, he had a big decision to make, and it was hard for him. He chose to live with me, and I don't take that lightly. I'm away, though, so much at work, that I don't want it to affect him in a bad way."
Then this stoic man with muscles forged on the oil rigs cleared his throat several times and his face reddened as he worked to keep his composure. "I don't want him to grow up hating me because of that. You know, ma'am, I am doing all I know how because I want him to know just how much I love him. He doesn't know it, but sometimes I go without lunch so I can give the money to him for his. He doesn't know that when he has games, I go without sleep just so I can see him play. Sometimes I drive an hour and a half to one of his games to just catch 15 minutes of it before I have to drive back the hour and a half to go to work... " his voice faded as he rubbed his finger on the desk.
"I do it all gladly because he's my son. What a great kid he is to be a father to. He doesn't say much, he never has, and really doesn't tell me he loves me, although I tell him everyday. I hope with my whole heart that one day he understands how strongly I feel about about him; that I would literally give my life for him."
Yesterday, his son turned in an essay to me about making decisions. I was able to read it later last night. With permission, I'm sharing a portion of it here. He started with writing about the biggest decision of his life; choosing to live with his dad over his mom.
"...I love my mom, and I always will, and I know she loves me. I guess I didn't know my dad very well when I was younger, and I wanted to know him. Now I'm getting close to him. I'm so lucky for having the dad I have. He does anything for me. I've seen him give up his own lunch money for me, even though he doesn't know that I know about it. He always thinks about me first before he ever thinks about himself.
"He's raising me right. He's taught me to play basketball, to do well in school, and to always respect my elders. Most of all, though, he spends not just his money, but his time on me. I think I am pretty rich because my dad gives me all that he has of himself, and a lot of kids don't have that.
"He says that when I grow up, I'm going to do some great things. He makes me believe that because I know he believes it.
"I'm so lucky to have someone love me the way my dad does. I hope he knows how much I love him."
When I call his dad later today to share this essay, I hope he knows, too.