My son is a quite a man. While his work ethic and grown-up sensibilities are apparent to me now, it wasn’t always so. As a young father I was harsh on my only boy as he tested both the waters of life in general and me in particular. I worried. I always worried. And while every father wants his son to be just like him, a big part of me wanted my son to be more. To be better. To be more worldly. To have more friends. To make better choices. Those are the things I wanted for me, of course. I wanted my son to be all the things that I wasn’t, and just some of the things that I had turned out to be. But my hand was played; his was still in the deal.

And so he grew and he learned. And he was educated and he married. And I marveled at how well he had turned out. After all, I knew the little boy who used to be. And I remember the father that I was. There was no going back, no fixing the mistakes that hindsight glaringly showed me. My worry was replaced by trust and hope. And I was rewarded beyond my imaginings.

You see, eventually, my son had a son. His firstborn child, as he was to me. But unlike my wife’s rather routine pregnancy and delivery, my daughter-in-law had some problems which put her own life in danger as the baby grew to full term. My grandson was born a preemie and needed a stay in the natal intensive care unit. My daughter-in-law was incapacitated for weeks following delivery. And there was my son, his whole new, young family hanging on to life.

When my grandson was able to come home, his mother was still hospitalized. As her parents huddled around her bedside, my wife and I stayed with our son and the newborn. It was then that I finally saw the person my son had become. Here was this young man who rose to the challenge of a newborn baby with an ability and naturalness that I still cannot explain. He held, cleaned, fed, warmed, soothed and loved that baby in a profound way—profound because any of those things was well outside my experience. And he did it day after day and night after night all the while visiting his wife in the hospital and paying the bills. He was patient, he was calm, he was tired, yet he was surefooted. 

This was not something that he learned from me. Or on second thought, perhaps it was learned from me after all. I did not teach my son to care for a newborn. No one did. He met the challenge because of the family values he absorbed while growing up. An imprecise term to be sure, but a good way to express the whole of life with two loving parents who were sometimes harsh, oftentimes worried, but always, always loving. Parents who raised children to be independent thinkers and enjoyers of life. 

I could not be more proud of my son. And now as I watch him play with his boy, and discipline him and worry about him, I know that my job is completed and that his has just begun. And a father’s love is forever.
Evan Thomas Zinzi with his Dad, 2004

Jim Zinzi, Evan Zinzi, John Zinzi, Wildwood NJ, 2005