I arrived home yesterday evening to be shocked by the sight at the end of my street. A ferocious thunderstorm felled an old tree in my neighbor's yard, two doors up the road. I say "in" the yard but it was really out of the yard and completely into the street. The tree was so tall it actually hit the adjacent house across the pavement. The sight made me blurt out "Wow!" with wide eyes. It really isn't something you see every day.
What it sparked me to thinking was about deep change, about how the confounding circus that is life can uproot your expectations and imaginings before you think to reach for the battens. This is how I felt about this Sunday, Father's Day in June 2013. The notion that I am a dad still knocks me flat now and then. Just like the fallen tree that now occupies a big chunk of my imagination.
I guess I cannot entirely escape that "Imawhat?" feeling, even now when my daughter is on her way to her ninth birthday. If we are trees, she is a sapling, I am mature growth, my own father old growth (and impressive).
A father? Me? It is a miracle and a puzzle. I often wonder what it is I did to deserve such a lovely, good child, and what I can impart to her that someday she will look back and say "He did have wisdom."
Mostly, I worry and pray that I will not totally screw up this fatherhood thing.
I keep that from her. She has no need to know how scared I am, how much I worry that I will fall from grace in her eyes. This seems to be part and parcel of the Fatherhood Gig, to my mind. A constant drumbeat in my heart and soul that is hammered out by this desire for my child to understand the good parts of me, and improve upon them in her own life. I think of her and the life before her, and the specter of failure on my part sends a bolus of ice water through my veins.
It is true, I am my own worst enemy and critic. I judge myself by standards I do not apply to others, because I know how unfair and unforgiving they can be. Thus I generate most of the pressure on myself to get this right, but it puts everything I think and do in a blinding, actinic light shining in my head. Nothing escapes scrutiny, nothing is to small to analyze...or criticize.
Harsh, but true. I am learning to overcome myself. This I believe is necessary if I wish to be the good father I want for her. Others have pointed this out to me, and I know they speak the truth.
Ah, enough self-mortification. It is Father's Day, after all. Looking past the commercialization and cheap sentiment that too often seems to cloy such occasions, I know there is something of note for us to acknowledge. The terrors and ecstasies of being a dad are things I would not willingly trade for anything on this mortal coil.
In the indigo haze of deep twilight, I look down the street at the fallen tree. All things must pass, I reckon, but the tree reminds me that we are all possessed of strengths we may not know we have. I think of my own father, who I am lucky enough to still have on this planet, and the things he taught me. His life was not perfect, we both know this, but through him I learned many things about being a man and father.
Seeing myself through my father's eyes, I know I am blessed by my daughter. She is student, she is teacher. I have much to give and to learn. It is to know and understand, on Father's Day.