at 10:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.

At some point, you will be the oldest person in your family. You will be an orphan. Might happen at birth. Might happen in your sixties.

Happened to me two years ago. My 90-something father passed away, joining my mother in whatever great beyond the Irish are consigned to.

A friend said, "Now you're nobody's little boy." Translation: I was no longer the nurturee; I had become the nurturer.  

I did not cry at this funeral. I was too busy ironing my son's pants and negotiating floral arrangements with my sister-in-law, trying to do just like my father would.

I was not ready to be the patriarch. But my sons, Zane and Aidan, needed someone to sit at the head of the kitchen table. They needed someone to decide on what school to go to and whether to have spaghetti for dinner. The first time a teacher asked my advice I felt a little like I was imitating a grown up, but by the time that a nun asked me to be on the parish council I had somehow become the wise old guy the other cops called before they called the coroner. 


After a while I discovered that even patriarchs need a matriarch, so I chose a fairy godmother. When you find that you have become the patriarch, look for someone who will answer the phone when your son gets suspended or when you ask yourself why you are a peace officer.

I picked Amanda, a college professor in New York. Three thousand miles away, she counsels but does not judge. She doesn't have children, so her parenting advice boils down to, "I suppose corporal punishment is out of the question?" But it both humbles and comforts me that there will always be one woman in the world who knows more than I do about the Harvard comma.

So at the kitchen table, when Zane announces he does not like spaghetti, I look at him and say, "Be patient. Some day you will be the patriarch."

With a Perspective, this is Kevin Fisher-Paulson.

Kevin Fisher-Paulson is a captain with the San Francisco Sheriffs' Department.