When he was three weeks old, my wife and I brought home a baby boy. He was and still is a foster child, a child needing a home, and we chose to give it. Driving home that evening, the little guy buckled into the newly installed car seat, I thought, “What the heck are we doing?” I’d never changed a diaper or given a baby a bottle before meeting him, and we were taking on the total care for someone not even a month old. Like every parent, we knew it was fly or fall, and we flew. Nineteen months in, now, he’s still a part of our home, and thanks to my wife we’re still flying.
I realized I have a unique gift to give him, a gift most parents can give, but a gift I’m uniquely abled to give. I can hold him up high. When I lift him above my 6’4” height it’s no problem for him to touch most ceilings. It’s one gift a tall daddy can give his child. He’s still light enough to hold above me, and he’ll stretch his hand out to touch whatever has grabbed his attention. He isn’t afraid of heights yet, and I’ll hold him up above me and say, “Look how high up you are!”
I remember a Saturday, I was maybe six or seven years old. My dad and I were at our church. The pastor was there, too. I don’t know why we were there, but the pastor took us up in the church’s steeple. We went through an almost secret door in the balcony, behind the pipe organ. The door led to a series of rickety ladders and stairs. One ladder brought us into the attic above the sanctuary. We went higher and higher, my dad helping me up and up until finally we were looking out of the bell tower. My seven-year-old mind almost couldn’t comprehend the view; I was looking down on our little town, all the roofs and trees below us.
My grandpa was an amateur pilot. It was his one hobby. He even had his own plane and he’d take it up on a nice afternoon. I remember several days I went with him, too. I would sit in the seat next to his, and we’d go down the runway of our small town airport and take off into the air. I was young; I didn’t know to be afraid. Up-up-up we’d go above the town, above the church steeple we climbed. We’d fly over our houses, pointing out things we only knew from ground level. I don’t know why my grandpa enjoyed flying; he was a practical man and didn’t talk about much beyond practicalities, but I still remember the feeling of my grandpa taking me up in the air to fly.
Isn’t it the wish of a father or grandfather to lift his children higher, to boost them up above it all? Doesn’t a dad want to hold his child up and say, “Look what you can see?” I know I do. If I can give my little guy a boost in life, a higher view--if I can hold him up for a bit to see a deeper vista, then maybe I’ve given him something. When I do I’m saying, “Look how far you can go.”
Last Friday the boy and I went kite-flying. I have a kite that hasn’t felt the wind since the ’90s, but when I took it out it was intact and ready for flight. We went to an open space used for outdoor concerts in our city. The old kite collapsed to the ground on our first few tries. Eventually, though, the right gust of air arrived. Here was this little tiny boy, only able to stand for six or seven months now, looking up at the kite holding onto the wind and flying. I held the string, but I knelt and he held it, too. He tried to take it to fly solo, but I knew the wind was strong enough to pull him over. We held it together, he and I, and it flew.
Dear boy, your time is coming when you’ll fly the kite on your own. You’ll climb your steeples, fly your planes, and send your kites up in the air soon. It’ll happen before I’m ready for it. Until then you give me the gift, and it’s the gift of letting me raise you a little higher. You give me the gift of seeing a little further through your eyes. The future with you is unknown, as it is with any life, but what a privilege it is for me to hold you high now.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict