Good Enough Mother has had the joy (and sometimes frustration) of having three strong men in her life.
First: My father. William Henry Syler. Bill to his friends and family. He was the very definition of the strong, silent type. After a 22-year military career, he became a civil servant, working first as a postal carrier, then in an administrative job for Social Security.
My dad was my hero for the things that don’t really garner headlines in our society. He took great care of our family, financially and otherwise. We never had a need for anything (of course, as young girls, my sister and I WANTED everything but that is beside the point). I remember when Tracy and I were pre-teens and one Valentines Day, Dad said he needed to make a call (this was WAY before cell phones). When he dialed the number, oddly enough, the ring came from inside our house. We ran excitedly down the hall and there, in each of our rooms was a princess phone! He had arranged for an additional line to be installed in the house that was our very own. There was a method behind his madness because that meant that his line would not be tied up with kids calling all time of the day and night. Smart man.
But one day he took on super human status. He came home from his mundane job at the Social Security office and poured himself a drink. He looked like he really needed one, this day more than the others. So over dinner, mom begged him to tell us what happened. Turns out some man had come into the office, upset about the government and his benefits and started trashing the place. Just as he picked up a typewriter and was about to throw it at someone, my dad stepped in. “STOP!” in that booming voice which made it clear it was a command not a request. He continued to talk to the man until he dropped the typewriter and crumpled into a sobbing heap. Wow, my dad was a hero that day, and not just to me.
We did not have a perfect family or upbringing but my father was the first, up close and personal look I had at what a man does for his family. It wasn’t just about making money. He guided our family through some turbulent times. He showed us love and support in his quiet, gruff manner. He taught me a lot about life.
He cared for us for so long that it really took me aback when I realized he was not invincible. Carrying around too much weight, smoking and drinking too much all took their toll. He battled high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer before finally dying of a stroke at age 59.
I miss him. I would have loved for him to see the woman I have become, the mother I am. I wonder what he would say about my beautiful daughter or my spirited son. I think he would be proud of the man I married, because Buff Parham is so much like Bill Syler. I wish they had met.
Second: My husband. James Parham, Buff to his friends and family. The man I married 16 and a half years ago, continues to amaze me to this day. I was attracted to him because he was a lot like my father! He even looks a bit like my dad. He is the strong, silent type as well, one of those who takes care of business. Like my dad, Buff is brilliant and I have always found smarts to be sexy.
Buff is not a big complainer no matter the circumstances. He’s more of a can-do kind of guy and has been from childhood. When he was a kid growing up in Southern California, his father, a truck driver and mother, a nurse, worked odd shifts. Every morning when his father left for work at 5 am until his mother got home at 7 am, little Jimmy was in charge. He was 8 years old at the time! He would have to get his little sister up and ready for school as well as himself and make breakfast for them both so that they could be ready by the time their mother got home to take them to class. Can you imagine all that responsibility at 8? When I look at Buff today, I know why he has the sort of put-your-head-down-and-get-it-done mentality.
The first several years of our marriage were consumed with career and getting our family started but it’s the last several years where he’s earned his stripes in my mind. He has been the consummate partner, keeping our little dinghy afloat. He works hard to provide a steady hand morally and financially for our family. While he and I have completely different parenting styles, it works for the most part.
But the thing I will love him forever for is his unwavering support of me in everything I do. When I was offered the job at CBS’ The Early Show, he pulled up stakes and moved to New York with me. Now keep in mind, he was already quite established in his career there. But he loved me enough to allow me to follow my dreams, even though it was the biggest gamble either of us had even undertaken.
Sometimes, I feel completely inadequate as I look at him and wonder what, on earth he sees in me. But instead of getting hung up on that, I am just eternally thankful. Words seem so inadequate. Thank you Buff, for everything. I love you.
Third: My Son. Cole Parham, Cole to his friends and buddy, honey, Cole Bear, King Cole or whatever to me. I knew he was going to be the unconventional sort when we held my baby shower for him in a Hooter’s restaurant. Yep, even before he was born, he was destined to swim against the tide.
Cole is the kid my mother warned me about when I made her angry. “Someday you will have a child just like you.” You know how it goes. And when you are a kid you roll your eyes with a yeah, yeah attitude, because how could that possibly be? Well guess what? The universe has a sense of humor and Karma is a you-know-what. On June 15th my debt came due with the birth of my son.
After my experience with one, relatively easy-going baby, I got this boy. He was strong willed from the moment they pulled him from the womb, the operative phrase being “pulled” as he was already exerting his will on the rest of us. Early on, I used to say he would make a great leader of a third world country, if only I could get him out of the third grade!
Cole has challenged me in ways I never thought possible. Not that I wanted children who would blindly go along with what I said all the time but is it too much to ask that at least part of the time I am not subjected to the push back? Unlike my daughter who has a core group of good friends, Cole never met a stranger. He’s outspoken and loves to talk, which means he sometimes runs afoul of people in authority.
But he has an incredibly soft side under that hard façade. I’ll never forget when I came home from the hospital after my mastectomy Cole greeted me at the door, his big eyes taking in all that I had become. I was wearing an industrial sized bra and under that, I had bandages and tubes sticking out from under my arms. One night, he and I were lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and talking when he quietly said to me “Mom, I think you did the right thing” (my preventive mastectomy). I said, “Really buddy, why?” He said, “ Because women die from breast cancer.” I told him that not ALL women die from breast cancer but there was that chance if they did not catch it in time. I thought that was remarkably perceptive for an 8 year old and what I really think he was trying to do was to make sure I was going to be around for a while. I will never forget that moment.
There is a theme that runs through the guys in my life, past and present. In each of them is strength, courage and wisdom, even in the youngest. It all started with my dad, modeling what I would ultimately seek in a mate. Now my husband, shows my son, what a father should do and be. It is one of the great joys in my life, these men of mine and I am overtimes overwhelmed with profound appreciation and gratitude.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Buff and to you too someday, buddy.