At our house, Father's Day is bittersweet. Since my father passed away, my son and I no longer have a beloved patriarch for whom to buy a heartfelt (or funny) card. I have been a single mom for as long as my son can remember.
When Mike was tiny, I enrolled him in Montessori. That first June, after my work day as an anchor/reporter at a Denver television station, I arrived to pick him up from school. Mike, not-quite-3, was not his usual bubbly self.
Buckling him into his car seat, I gently cupped his chin and lifted his downcast face. "Michael, honey," I asked, "what's wrong?"
Small voice quavering, Mike told me that all the other kids were making Father's Day projects. Since he didn't have a dad, he said he didn't know what to do.
The next morning, I took him to school about 10 minutes early. Once he was engrossed in the "Continents, continents, do you know your continents?" puzzle, I spoke quietly to his teacher.
"Miss Liz," I said, "Mike's never known his dad. And when the other children are doing their Father's Day present, he feels confused and sad. I was wondering if there might be some way to help him feel less left out."
Miss Liz was a very kind woman who truly adored Mike. She knew his story: His dad had relinquished all rights to Mike when Mike was a year old.
A year or so before becoming pregnant with my one and only child, at age 35 I'd had a fertility work up. The specialist told me it was not likely I would ever have children without exhaustive treatment and intervention and maybe not then. Mike's conception was a happy miracle to me.
Arriving to collect him from preschool the afternoon after I'd spoken to Miss Liz, my little boy bounced into the car beaming. "You look happy," I said. "What's going on?"
"Can't tell," he said slyly. "It's a secret."
Making his breakfast that Sunday, I looked up from scrambling an egg to find his small self standing in the doorway to the kitchen, hands hidden behind his back. Shyly, but with a radiant smile, Mike produced an object clumsily wrapped in construction paper and said, "Happy Father's Day, Mommy."
From then on, each year it was sort of our own little tradition, but when he left for college, I wasn't sure whether he'd remember. His freshman year, the Saturday before Father's Day I checked the mail. No card. "Well," I thought, trying not to be disappointed, "that's OK. He's just distracted with all the new things he has going on right now."
The next morning I was in that fuzzy state just before waking when the phone rang. "Hello?" I mumbled. Without preamble, an equally sleepy 19-year-old voice said, "Happy Father's Day."
I once read something about mothers (and it applies to fathers, too) that touched me. The author, anonymous, wrote it as a letter to mothers from God. When I clipped it, Mike was about 4. With money inherited from my parents, I had stepped away from my TV news career to be a stay-at-home mom.
"You are a mother because that is what I have called you to be. Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye. But I notice.
"Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know. I bless him through your service and honor him through your love. Your child is even more precious to Me that he is to you. I have entrusted him to your care to raise him for Me. What you invest in him is an offering to Me.
"You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light before Me.
Happy Father's Day to all you dads and grampas – and to all you single moms.
Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at www.bloggernews.net. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.