I came to appreciate fathers in a whole new way when I began working on the book The Heart of a Father. That book is a compilation of essays by 50 men from around the world. Most of the men are fathers of children born with congenital heart defects. Some of the men are adult survivors of congenital heart defects. We even had a chapter by grandfathers of children with congenital heart defects. The Heart of a Father is the companion to The Heart of a Mother. The Heart of a Father was published 10 years after the mothers’ book and we discover what happened to some of the families we learned to love when the husbands shared their own stories.
The men had a different story to share. Their stories focused on different themes than the mothers’ essays did. The fathers talked about how having a child with a heart defect affected their marriages, their faith and how some of them felt stuck in a Catch 22 situation. The essays were touching, loving and brutally honest. They made me feel their anguish, their pride and their quandaries. I left feeling like I better understood what men feel like when their worlds fall apart because they’ve been told their children could die from their heart defects, or worse — because their children have died due to their heart defects. The mothers’ book had one chapter devoted to losing a child; 10 years later the dads needed two chapters — one called Shooting Stars for the essays of the babies lost too soon and another chapter called Short Journeys for essays by contributors sharing the lives of adult loved ones taken too soon.
Many of us enjoy buying something special for our fathers during this time of year. I know that it means as much, if not more, for children to make something, write a card or letter or, better yet — to get together to spend time with their fathers. If you would like to find something special for your dad, you can help out Hearts Unite the Globe and the “Heart to Heart with Anna” radio show by shopping using the AmazonSmile program. If you go to http://smile.amazon.com/ch/46-4352863 before you shop at Amazon, then 1/2 of 1% of qualifying purchases will be sent to Hearts Unite the Globe. This will allow us to continue free programming for the congenital heart defect community. Our programs feature dads, moms, survivors, nurses, siblings, doctors and many others in the heart community. This year, I hope you’ll pay special tribute to the remarkable men in your life. I know I will.