A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Joe was sick. There was no question about that. His eyes were red-rimmed and watery, and his forehead felt cold and clammy when I bent to kiss it.

"How are you feeling, son?" I asked as I gently stroked his sweat-soaked hair.

He forced a feeble smile.

"Iím OK," he said. "Better than I look, Iíll bet."

"Well, that wouldnít be hard," I said, "because you look awful."

Not exactly good bedside manner, I know. But Iím not a doctor. Iím a father. And fathers can get away with saying stupid stuff because itís more or less expected of us.

"Heís been really sick, Dad," Joeís wife Jennifer volunteered. "I donít think Iíve ever seen him this sick."

I could think of a time or two. But then, my history with Joe is 16 years longer than Jenís. There was the time he threw up in the Volkswagen. And the time he tasted the canned squid his Uncle Tony brought home from Portugal. And the time he threw rocks at the shiny new red Corvette that was driving down the road near our house.

No, wait. I was the one who was sick THAT time. Especially after we found out how much we were going to have to pay to redo that shiny red paint job.

Itís amazing how weak and needy a 6-3, 220-pound 23-year-old can seem to be when he is sick. And Joe looked so weak and needy. Now that I think about it, the time was perfect to challenge him to another wrestling rematch. We havenít wrestled since he was 15 Ė and he beat me. Iím pretty sure I could have taken him now.

But this wasnít the time for wrestling. Instead, I sat down on the floor by him and put my arm around him and patted and rubbed him. We talked. We watched TV. We laughed a little. I tried to engage him in a little political discussion, but he wasnít up to it Ė which tells me he REALLY wasnít feeling well. And before I left, we prayed together for his health and well-being.

And I rejoiced at the opportunity of being able to do so.

As I drove from Joeís house to mine, I couldnít help but think about all the fathers around the world who would give anything right now to have similar experiences with their adult sons and daughters. These young people are fighting in a hotly contested war. Some of them have been injured, captured Ė or worse. And I can imagine how much their fathers and mothers would like to be able to stroke their hair, pat their arms and pray together.

All of which reminds us of one of those inescapable realities of parenthood. You donít stop loving your child just because they have the audacity to become an adult. Sometimes you love them all the more because of all that history you have together Ė from the Volkswagen to the squid to the Corvette. And when your child is sick or injured Ė or worse Ė you yearn to reach out to them, to hold them, to love them and to take away the hurt.

Even when your child isnít a child anymore.

Clammy forehead notwithstanding.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through