Eamonn Kendall Liwag Sutcliffe on his Graduation Day 2009
“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” ~ Johann Schiller
I thought about what I would say in this post. Would I dedicate it to my father, Exequiel Liwag, a man I loved greatly and lost too soon? Perhaps not. I decided that I just didn’t have it in me to talk about my dad today, probably because I think that both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are holidays that are for the most part perpetuated by the retailers of the world: Make a holiday, and they will come. Impose guilt through flashy ads, and they will buy.
My father’s love for me and mine for him was something that surpasses a card-giving holiday. Even though he has been dead for eight years, I still talk to him when I am most troubled. I still look to him for guidance. So I did not want this post to be about everything that I did and didn’t have with my father.
Rather, I thought that I would use this post to do two things: Celebrate the man who is a father to my children 365 days a year, and celebrate the graduation of eldest son this past week, hence all of the photos with the handsome, smiling lad in blue.
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” ~ Author Unknown
I know that I talk about Corey all of the time in my posts, but I wanted to take a moment to point out a few things about the man that I love.
I believe that children learn as much from watching their parents as they do from listening to them. That is why a child will be aware that he or she lives in a house full of discontent, even though the adults may never speak of it. What Corey brought to this family is an ability to love wholeheartedly and openly.
All of my children know how much Corey and I love each other and how much we love each of them. We are a family that says “I love you” to one another, regardless of who is nearby. One of the first things that Eamonn wanted affirmation of after Corey became a regular part of our lives was if it would be all right to tell Corey that he loved him. I told Eamonn that it is always okay to tell a person that you love them, that love is nothing to be ashamed of, ever.
So rather than spending the last nine years of their lives living in an atmosphere of tension and misunderstanding, my children have grown up in a home that is filled with a very gratifying sense of closeness, and I truly believe that they are better for it.
“We also honor those surrogate fathers who raise, mentor, or care for someone else’s child. Thousands of young children benefit from the influence of great men, and we salute their willingness to give and continue giving.” ~ From President Barack Obama’s 2009 Father’s Day Proclamation
I know that several people were wary of what kind of stepfather Corey would be, mostly because of his age and inexperience. As I have mentioned before, Corey is younger than I, and there is a significant age difference between us.
But I knew Corey; I knew how much love he had in his heart and how much he was willing to give, so I never had any doubts that he would make a good stepfather to my children, and I was right.
Of all of my children, Eamonn is the one who is still closest to his father. But oddly enough, of all of my children, Eamonn seems to be the one who is closest to Corey. I admire this in Eamonn: his ability to have such love for two completely different men, and to respect each of them for who they are, never blurring the lines between them.
I know that each of my children has a unique relationship with Corey. Alexis will turn to Corey when she has a problem or needs help. She will call Corey first when Mike is out of town if she needs someone’s help. That is why when Alexis withdrew earlier in the year, it was so hard on Corey. He is used to speaking with Alexis every day, even for just a few minutes.
She is older than my sons by a big gap because of Caitlin, so it was never really realistic for Corey to view Alexis as his stepdaughter. But he has always been there for her, supported her, and loved her.
As to Brett, whose emotions are much harder to read, I know from Brett telling me many times that he is very happy that Corey is part of our family. Brett knows how many sacrifices Corey has made for all of us, and of the three, Brett is probably the one who asks the least of Corey but understands him the best.
“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~ Clarence Buddington Kelland
Corey took on an incredible responsibility when he married me. I didn’t have baggage. I had steamer trunks. But Corey never doubted us and never doubted that we could make it work.
When things are grimmest, as they have been this past 18 months, Corey is the one who always finds a way. He is my bulwark against the storms, and no one has ever loved or understood me in the way that Corey does.
To say that I admire and respect him is an understatement. He may have fewer years than I, but his wisdom is ageless, his sagacity keen. I value his opinion on any subject, and he respects my opinions and never belittles me for anything I say or do.
We have a comfortable relationship, born out of friendship. We banter with each other constantly, which some people have misunderstood as arguments, but we rarely argue, and when we do, you can bet that it’s over something significant, not over whose turn it is to clean the kitchen or anything else completely inane. I credit part of that to our ages: I have gotten old enough to realize that small things really don’t matter in this grand pageant of life, and Corey is still young enough to be patient over small things. We fit together well.
And our relationship gives me hope that my sons will learn by watching, and will treat their own partners with as much love and respect as Corey shows me. Since I’ve been ill and less able to do things around the house, Corey has taken the burden from me and taken it upon himself. He cooks and does laundry. I go behind him and wipe down and help to fold and put away the clothes.
And if I am having a bad day or two, Corey handles everything—pickups at school, groceries, dinner, my medication, and keeping me comfortable. I’ve known firsthand of some men who simply cannot handle illness in any form; for them, illness is equated to weakness, and weakness is frowned upon. I have known many marriages to end when one spouse loses a job, or becomes ill, or if there are problems with a child.
Corey and I have weathered all of this and more, and I am comfortable in saying that we stand stronger today than we did when we took our vows eight years ago. If I were to use one word to describe our relationship, it would symbiotic.
So this post is for Corey, in honor of Father’s Day, because he is nothing if not a wonderful father, mentor, teacher, and friend.
And for my own father, I will close with this quote by former New York governor Mario Cuomo:
“I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.”
With much love to the man who is my partner in life, the young men and the young woman who are my greatest joy in life, and the man who guided my life and unstintingly gave of himself to others.
Le Jour De Père Huereux. Feliz Día De Los Padre. Happy Father’s Day to all of the men out there who are fathers, step-fathers, big brothers who act as fathers, grandfathers who are fathers once more, and to all of the women who are surrogate fathers as well as mothers.
We never could have become what we are now if not for everything that you showed us before. More later. Peace.