Monday, October 12, 2009

On being a father

I haven't updated this blog in a while, and this is off topic for what I intended to be a political blog, but tonight I was ruminating on what it means to be a father, more specifically what it means to be the father of a young child. I have a teenage son, and the challenges and rewards of being his father are different, maybe some day I'll write about that (and I'll have to be careful not to use cuss words ;-) ), but tonight I'd like to ponder being the father of an almost five year old.

Strange as it may seem, I feel bad. Jimmy gives me so much, and all of it on a visceral level. Pure, unadulterated love. That's a heady wine to consume. All of it, all the time. "DADDY!" when I walk in the door, rushing to my arms to be swept up into an embrace. "Daddy, my car broke, please fix it", absolutely no doubt in his mind that I can somehow mend the cheap plastic toy, broken in his exuberance. When I'm laying lazily in bed, he hops in, "Let's play tent!" and we dive under the covers, imagining ourselves threatened by bears and tigers and the dreaded "Blair Witch" (a role I, with gleeful malice aforethought, usually assign to my wife), all the while cooking the imaginary meat from our imaginary conquests into a stew for us to share. A pillow is the fire, the TV remote the pot (and woe be to me if I attempt to serve food from the wrong pillow). Imagination rules the day, and it usually ends with giggles and hugs and lots of tickling. It is, quite simply, as close to heaven on earth as I can imagine. Better than recognition from my peers, better than a bonus at work, God help me it's better than sex with my wife (how crazy is that??!?).

So why do I feel bad? I feel bad because there are so many kids out there that don't get that from their fathers. I want to hug all the children of the world to my breast and tell them, love them, show them, that they are valuable. (You may now commence throwing rotten vegetables at me for my hubris). The child in Baltimore city that doesn't know his or her father because his or her mother is "stuck" with them after a single night of selfish pleasure. The child of a hard rock miner in Appalachia who beats his kids in a drunken rage, lashing out against his personal demons. The child in Africa who is destined to be brutally raped because she had the misfortune to be born into a society that holds the weird superstition dear that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, and never mind that the "virgin" in question is no more than 6 years old. I bleed for all of them, because I AM THE FATHER. In a just world my righteous anger would swell to unimaginable proportions and consume the guilty in a cleansing fire.

Sadly, we don't live in a just world, we live in this world. Each night I must go to bed realizing that there are literally billions of kids who do not have a daddy, or worse, who are afraid of their "daddy".

But here's the thing. Here's the nub, the fundamental fact that so many men miss to their, their children's and society's detriment. Almost everyone likes to fuck. It's hardwired into our human genome. I have no problem with that. But...but...sometimes the fucking results in children, and if you embrace that not as a hazard of sex but as a blessing........then your life can be enriched to a degree not thought possible when the fucking was all that was on your mind. Why so many men miss that is beyond me, and it makes me sad and often angry. How stubbornly selfish do you have to be to miss the very big and wonderful forest for the ultimately inconsequential tree? I just don't understand it now, and I never will. Jimmy IS the light of my life. I work every day to cherish, to nurture that light. As far as I'm concerned, that IS my reason for being. How sad for the children who don't have that kind of dad. How unbelievably tragic for those men who willfully refuse to embrace the gift given them in their child. How unbelievably tragic. For all of us.