I am nearly seventy now and have been afforded some of the most marvelous treasures from my marriage to your Mom, to friendships, to tangibles. I have seen stunning places and people do extraordinary things to, for and with one another. I have witnessed the process of aging, without much regret. But, singularly, you have always been and are the greatest gift of my life.
When I was much younger, your Mom and I newly married and just learning to merge our singular lives into two, a friend asked if we were interested in having children. We had no credible answer. We didn’t know. We hadn’t thought about it. The friend turned to me with that facial expression you will learn over time, which says “I am about to impart incredible wisdom on you”; eyes open – mouth drawn tight – slight furrow to the brow – she said; “you should not have children!” It was emphatic; to her it rung as a fact of nature. It was not said to us both, but to me.
I was shocked and a bit curious; “Why not?” I asked.
She replied; “You are too selfish, self-centered and rigid. You would not make a good father.”
You came as a gift on a glistening and very cold November day, with sparkling blue eyes resonating curiosity from the moment you emerged, urgently into the world three weeks ahead of schedule, I had been told by someone skin to skin contact was essential, so after you were cleaned up a bit, your APGAR scores were right, and you had time being held by your mother, I took off my shirt and held you skin to skin to my chest. You were quiet, not asleep but perhaps as shocked by the sensation as me. You had come from a place dark and warm into the cold and light. In my arms you were small and fresh into life. I held your tiny frame and face against my chest, resting against my fur. You instantly captured me. I hoped my warmth infused you. I hoped you would recognize my smell and texture as I hummed and you settled in. It was such a fully tactile moment – sight, sound, touch and smell – no sense left out.
From then on, so many of my important memories of you are tactile. Rocking you late at night with a bottle. Singing Angels from Montgomery until you would drift back to sleep. You fit in the nest of my arms or rested in the right position on my shoulder – a weight of no weight at all. You giggled, splurted, slobbered your baby way into our hearts, into my heart. I know moms have great difficulty when they return to work after giving birth, frequently crying and agonizing over missing their new child. I don’t remember being much different, leaving you home with Mom or later dropping you off to day care. I tangibly missed you.
In the meantime you grew and smashed cake all over your 1st birthday face. You took tenuous steps and haboomed your way down the stairs on your butt, calling out “haboom, haboom, haboom” for each step assuring us of your inevitable progress and safety; not that we weren’t inches away the whole time.
I can close my eyes and feel you ride on my shoulders – “uppy, daddy, uppy” your small hands interlocked in my hair or holding my forehead as I clasped mine behind your back so you would not fall. I can feel the grip of small fingers about my hand as I would walk you into the door of daycare, you never afraid – seeing life as an opportunity to make friends not as dad deserting you to the care of others. I can feel you small at my neck the first time we saw the ocean. I would try to get you to dip your feet in, but you clung on as if I held you over a precipice.
I have vivid memories of you running around until exhaustion took over. I would stretch out on the couch, you would climb up my chest and fall soundly asleep, sweaty, hot, content and calm and I could feel my own heartbeat slow, as it does even remembering.
And your laugh. Hamlet says “that was wont to set the table on a roar” how it could and can bring such loft to my spirit. Whether a giggle or peals of it that would cause a snort and then more laughter from that burst, it filled the room, it fills my heart. In that happiness your bright blue eyes always sparkle, even now. It is always a joy to watch your expressive face and relish in the light of that smile.
I know your stubborn face, as well, as you fended off my rigidity with your own sense of moral outrage – “I will not eat dinner it is awful, I don’t want it, you can’t make me” – and sit on the steps – “are you done yet?” I would ask and with set jaw you would say “NO”. While it made me angry – it gave me pride. Clearly, you would not be swayed by the casual urgings of makeshift friends. Even young, you had fortitude and strength, while parentally frustrating, it will always serve you well.
It is that boldness that kept you from getting into the drama of teen years, took you to college with relative ease and to London – because you knew you could do it. In all you do, when you are patient with yourself, rest secure your bravery and boldness will move you effectively forward in life. It won’t ensure you avoid trouble, but it can ensure you will get through those troubles. It may not be in the quick timetable you want, but like habooming down the steps, it is inevitable you will get there – wherever there is.
In the interim, while you work to find and achieve whatever it is you finally want, you do not neglect life and its myriad responsibilities. Yes, there is the drudgery of everyday work (which you do admirably well), but there are additional important responsibilities. You are a best friend – engaging, communicating, consoling, immersing yourself into the lives of those important to you. You do this, too, with tenacity and unwavering commitment – even when it is not easy. That isn’t only admirable and unusual – it is spectacular. I wish I had such skills, which you seem to have come by at birth. You will find over time all sorts of ways to use that compassion effectively making lives of others better in both small and significant ways.
I have watched you grow into a spectacular woman and it fills me with both awe and pride. You have found your way to character and that is no easy feat. It gives you spine, which will stiffen and become more substantial as you live life. But, you have it!
I think what I have realized in our 26 years together is our friend was most likely right. I am self-centered, selfish and can be quite rigid. I would not have made a good dad. Except, I had your mom to love me everyday and temper my will. More important, I got you. You fluffed my hard edges and filled me with extant passion for someone not myself. You never parted from me without an “I love you” always reminding me we are uniquely connected. If I performed well as a father it is because you made room for me and held me accountable for my best efforts. I didn’t always achieve, but I always wanted to try for you.
Thanks for being my child.