Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Today I am grateful for my son, Patrick Braun. “Packy”, as his brother nicknamed him when he was just a baby because he couldn’t say Patrick and it came out Pakrik (shortened to Packy), celebrates a milestone birthday today. If he thinks it makes him feel old, he should be me. Wow! Good thing we’re both still so good lookin’!
When Packy tells me stories about his son and the mischief he gets into, his attitude, his empathy, his conflicting passions and irritations, his hatred for having his picture taken and his love for amphibians, mostly frogs, all I can do is smile. When his son presents a penchant for being ecstatically happy one second, then turns into a throw-down-hissy-fit-pitching-wackadoodle the next second, I smile. When a mother has a child who nearly sends her over the brink of insanity (mostly because she sees a lot of herself in him), her one wish is that he will have a child just like him. I got my wish. Yes! Yes! Yes! Smiles all around!
But that was Packy as a child. The Packy I’m getting to know all over again as an adult is beyond amazing. I only hope his son turns out half as well as he has. He works hard. . .the way his grandpa Willie used to work, moving from one project to another and not stopping until the task is completed. He is a wonderful husband (from my vantage point) who married the perfect woman for him. Karen understands his sensitivities and appreciates his over-the-top sense of humor craziness. So do I. Who in the world can make you laugh as hard as your children?
I have rarely met anyone as determined as Patrick. One year for Lent he decided to go without sweets. . .for the whole year. And he did. This year he was determined to do an act of kindness a day. So he did. He bought lottery tickets and put them in the mailboxes of strangers, paid tolls, bought food for strangers at a take-out place. I would have never known any of this if I had not drug it out of him with a mother’s crowbar.
One of his acts of kindness, when his daughter was feeling a bit blah, was to write positive things about her character on post-it notes and slap them all over the mirror door in her bedroom. Yellow notes with “energetic” “clever” “funny” “helpful” “Kind” “Smart” “proud of YOU”, surprised her. No one ever did anything like that for me as a kid. Although my dad was great, he wasn’t very affectionate and sometimes I think, “Gee, I wish I could have had a dad like Packy.” He appreciates being a dad like Forrest Gump, with innocence, awe and joy.
You don’t really teach your kids to be parents. Wouldn’t we all want a manual with all the answers? You hope that you don’t screw them up too badly and that maybe you did one or two things right along the way. . .something that they will pick up and use with their own kids. Packy has great common sense and is a natural at parenting. He coaches most of their sports, whether he has time or not. He makes chores fun, he’s fair and he encourages his kids to express their opinions. Yet when they really need it, and all kids do, he knows how to come down hard with discipline and time-outs. The opportunities he is giving his kids are amazing and I make sure they know it. Quality time is the one thing Packy always gives his kids, whether he’s going berserk at the Grand Canyon or just chatting around a campfire in the Poconos, each moment with him is memorable.
They say you can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his mother. That might be true, but I believe you can tell more by how he treats his mother-in-law. Of course Patrick is there for his wife and kids and us, but watching my son hold his mother-in-law as her husband lay dying pushes his true character beyond the beyond. He was there. Supporting. Running traffic control between the nine siblings, setting up schedules for visiting and urging the discussion of “difficult” subjects when no one could face the inevitable. All the while he was stuffing down his own anxiety at his father-in-laws illness. He was the rock when all around him were turning to sand. He was surprised when he was asked to do the eulogy, but I wasn’t. He was the perfect choice. He was the perfect person to speak about a man he loved with all of his heart. I’ve never seen him nervous about speaking publicly before, but this made him nervous. . .furthermore, he admitted it. His father-in-law would have loved that. “Hah! Big shot all over the place, Packy, but it took ME to bring you to your knees!” I can almost hear him saying it, then laughing like crazy.
To see Patrick love other people has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I see him communicating with his wife and kids and my heart nearly bursts. I watch him put his arm around his mother-in-law when she is finding it difficult to ask for help with some impossible task at her house. He waits for her to finish, then asks, “Do you need it done?” When she apologizes for having to ask, he says, “How about tomorrow? Just ask. I’m there.” And he is. For anyone who needs him. Always. Just like his grandpa Willie. I am in wonder at how he turned out. . . in spite of me.
So today I am grateful for my son Patrick. How dull and boring life would have been without him. He was a goofy, silly, sometimes annoying little kid who grew into an amazing, responsible, loving, gentle, kind, goofy, silly man. I suspect he’s not going to be too thrilled about this post. And he might take some crap for it if his friends see it. But I always wondered what my parents would write about me. He won’t have to wonder. I’m proud of him on more levels than he will ever know or realize.