"When I Was Your Father"

My husband, who is now 45 years old, lost his father to a massive heart attack twenty-three years ago, when his father was 51. Obviously, this traumatic event left my husband Fred deeply scared and angry, with feelings of resentment and feeling cheated of a life with his father. When our fourth (and last) child was born, he was a boy, and we decided to name him after Fred's dad, Robert, as a tribute to his memory. Since my late father-in-law died 23 years prior to Robert's death, he knew almost nothing about him, other than they shared the same name and that he died young. Robert may have seen an occasional picture or two, but there weren't many photos taken back then. Anyway, before our son Robert had ever even saw a photo, or knew what a heart attack was, or even fully understood the concept of death, he made some interesting remarks.

Ever so matter-of-factly, on several occasions, around the age of two, when he was just starting to form complete sentences, he started claiming that he was my husband's father. He would snuggle up with his dad and stare into my husband's eyes and tell him that he was his father. He would sit on his lap and say, "You know I'm your daddy.  Remember when you used to sit on MY lap like this?"

The first time he said it, we thought it was a little strange but mostly just a cute remark. We simply chalked it up to a "Well, that's a weird one!"  But this one-time incident became a regular routine, each time with slightly more details. For instance, when he was four, my husband and I took him to the park. While my husband was pushing Robert on the swings, he said, "Daddy, remember when I was YOUR daddy, and I pushed YOU on the swings?"  As he got older there would be other instances when we would be driving somewhere or at an event and Robert would recall specific places and events from Fred's life with his father. Robert would say to Fred, "Remember when YOU were little and I took YOU here?" The really odd thing is that most of these places and/or events were ones Robert never personally experienced himself. Therefore, it's not as if he could have been recalling something HE actually did with his own father (my husband, Fred). Little episodes such as these continued throughout Robert's  life. Now, at age ten, every now and then he will look at an old photo of my husband's father and say something like, "I remember the day this picture was taken, I was at my moma's (his great-grandmother's) house."   Fred and I will just look at each other when he Robert makes one of these remarks.

I asked Robert today to tell me what he remembers about being Daddy's dad. He just laughed and said, "I was only kidding, Mom."  However, when he was very young, between two and five, he hardly seemed to be kidding at all. His statements were so sincere, honest, serious, and too matter-of-fact. Perhaps he is just forgetting.

I should mention that we are Catholic and though not totally devout, we do attend Mass occasionally, pray often, celebrate all of the traditional Catholic holidays and practice the Sacraments. The Catholic Church does not believe in nor encourage the exploration of reincarnation. Still, we can't help but wonder.  Additionally, we do not feel that we would be betraying our Catholic beliefs if we are open to evolution, past lives, reincarnation and/or other such psychic or paranormal beliefs. We believe it is possible to believe in both philosophies, without going against and/or compromising the religious beliefs with which we were raised.