In honor of Fathers Day, I am reposting one of my favorite Father themed writes. On this day, may we each remember the fatherless among us. Thankfully, none of us is truly fatherless in the end.
“Mister Kedabal, you’re back!” the little boy shouts as I exit the driver’s seat of my work van. “Mister Kedabal” is the five-year-old’s attempt to repeat the name “Mr. Incredible”, which was what I called myself a couple days prior when he asked who I was. The name makes sense, not because I’m as strong as the movie character, but because I do look a lot like him. (Not the young, strapping Mr. Incredible at the start of the movie, but the older, repressed, out of shape Mr. Incredible with the receding hairline.)
“Are you here to fix our house?” he asks enthusiastically.
“Yup!” I answer. In fact, I am only here to pick up various pieces of drying equipment that don’t need to be here in the first place. That’s a big part of what I do – dry things in peoples’ houses that don’t need to be dried. Silly, I know, but the equipment makes people feel better, so there is a market for guys like me. Still, the presence of this boy makes me think there is much more to my being there than pretending to dry an already dry house.
“Did you see what my dad bought me?” he exclaims, kicking his feet up in the air to point out a pair of new, white Nike sneakers.
“Hmmmm, very nice, buddy. But did you notice you have them on backwards?” I point out that he has his shoes on the wrong feet. Geez, the kid’s dad drops by long enough to give him some sneakers and doesn’t take the time to show his kid how to put them on.
I walk into the house with the enthusiastic youngster right on my heels. While I am anxious to collect my stuff and get home, the little guy is asking if I can bring my son to his house so they can play baseball. I tell him that my boy is too little to play baseball, but maybe someday…
The house is hot as hell inside, thanks in part to the ongoing hum of my superfluous equipment. The boy’s grandma is camped at a computer playing solitaire while his aunt reclines on the couch, staring fixedly at her cell phone as she feverishly sends and receives text messages. I proceed to the laundry room to check on my equipment while the boy shoots questions at me with rapid fire consistency, wanting a play-by-play of every little thing I am doing.
“What are you doing, Mister Kedabal?”
“I’m unplugging this fan.”
“Now what you doing?”
“I’m wrapping up the cord.”
“Aiden!” I hear the boy’s grandmother call from the other room. “Stay out of the man’s way!”
As I start to move stuff out, I encounter Aiden’s mom walking down the hall. She has an exasperated look on her face, and I am suddenly aware of the sound of an infant crying somewhere in the house. I know from a previous conversation with the boy that this is his new little sister. I get the feeling by the look of her, that the young mother has lost hope that she can get the baby to shut up. She is fairly young for a mom of two, and she’s probably quite beautiful beneath what appears from my perspective to be a permanent frown.
“Aiden, come eat lunch.” Grandma calls. The excited child runs into the dining room, grabbing a hot dog out of his grandmother’s hand before she has a chance to set it down. He parks himself on a stool next to his cousin, Coco, a two-year-old girl wearing only a diaper and feasting on an Oscar Meyer of her own. She has managed to make quite a mess of herself with the ketchup. Grandma calls into the living room and asks the girl’s mother to come help, but Coco’s mom gives no recognition and continues to piddle with her cell phone. She is younger than Aiden’s mom, with an even sterner expression of dejection etched on her face.
What a depressing house, I think to myself as I pack my fans out the door. As I am loading things onto my van’s lift gate, Aiden busts out of the house and hops onto the gate next to the equipment, not so subtly hoping that I will give him a ride on the gate up to the back end of the van. I plead with the boy for five minutes to get down, worried as I am that he will fall off, and his mother will sue me for endangering her tender child. Eventually, Grandma (not mom) calls out the door for the boy, demanding that he remove himself from the gate. He doesn’t budge. I finally resort to using my Mr. Incredible muscles, and I physically lift him off the gate. I quickly raise the thing up before he has a chance to jump back on, but I am further exasperated when he scales several makeshift steps on the van’s back corner and enters the cargo area of the van. Again, I am concerned about liability, so I ask repeatedly for him to get down.
Why won’t this kid leave me alone??!! I wonder. It is then that a voice thunders silently in my heart; it is a voice I have heard before and one I cannot get away from.
“He won’t leave you alone because you are a man.” says the voice.
And now it becomes so obvious. This little five-year-old ball of energy, this child who reminds me so much of my own boy, is dying for my attention simply because I am a man who is willing to give him a moment or two of interest, even if it’s reluctant on my part.
“Mister Kedabal, I need to show you something over there.” he says as he points toward the side of his house.
“You can show me before I leave, OK?” I answer.
I walk back to the house in order to square up some paperwork with Grandma, and I’m back at my van in minutes. Before I can get behind the wheel, Aiden is on me like sticky chewing gum, insisting on a goodbye hug. He grabs my leg with a startling grip and tells me he will miss me. Just as I am about to get in the van, he reminds me of my promise.
“Wait! Mister Kedabal! You have to come look!” he exclaims, pointing again at the side of the house.
“He needs to go, Aiden.” chides his grandmother.
“It’s OK; I promised him I’d look.” I say, and I can’t help but notice the woman’s look of surprise at my statement. I follow Aiden around the house, where he takes me to the door of the house’s crawl space – a place he had seen me enter several days prior in order to do some clean up. He had wanted to come in with me, but of course I’d refused. Now he opens the crawl space door and reveals that he has set himself up a little fort under the house, complete with a small chair and some little sticks he’d been using as tools. He’d been hanging out in the crawl space without the knowledge of any of the ladies in the home. I quietly tell him that I’ll keep it a secret.
As I finally board my work van and start to drive away, I hear Aiden calling after me. “Mister Kedabal! Come back tomorrow, K?”
As I drive, I find that thoughts of the boy are sticking with me for some reason. Unexpectedly, I find myself crying out of concern for Aiden – an amazing boy who is quite nearly fatherless in a world desperately in need of fathers. And I am humbled at the realization that everlasting God has seen fit to use me briefly, for but a moment, to father his child. I wonder if we as men shouldn’t be doing things like that more. Not that we should be striving to do it, but maybe if we understand the heart of God, if we understand how deeply and thoroughly He loves us, we will find ourselves in a place where we are used to father others when we don’t even realize it. The miles melting behind me, I pray for Aiden, and I find that I am unencumbered by my usual load of pretense as I do so. I simply ask God to continue fathering the boy – to bring him strength, to bring him hope. I believe that, though growing up will be a challenge, Aiden will be rescued into the arms of the greatest Father of all.
I hope that those who read this will pray the same for Aiden.