The house is quiet. The dog is asleep on the couch, tucked in an Auggie-ball in the corner. My wife is asleep. Our baby sleeps too. In this house full of sleep, I am awake. The sounds of the train rumble a few blocks away. My neighbor watches TV on his front porch, a well-stoked fire burns in his yard, an open living room to which the neighborhood is invited. It’s in this quiet that I think about fatherhood. I should be joining my family in dream, and yet, here I am, awake.
The topic of fatherhood came up in conversation the other day. Partly, because I am a new father, but also, because I mostly grew up without a father. I don’t know what that means in terms of learned behavior. After my dad died, my mom raised us alone. I watched her fight for her kids. I grew up in a household full of books and music and curiosity. My mom took us fishing. She fearlessly drove our old Dodge Caravan down overgrown logging two-tracks in the Upper Peninsula, sand spitting and tires humping over pine roots. From my mom, I’ve learned a parent is patient, uses seriousness and humor like sticks and carrots in diplomacy. I have no idea what it means to be a dad. I don’t identify with those caricatures on sitcoms or in Sunday commercials.
I will be there for my daughter. I will teach her to be curious, to ask questions, and to learn. I will watch over her with my wife. Protect her and nurture her. I will do all that I can for her, like my mother did for her sons. We’ll have fun. We’ll all go on adventures, whether they begin in a book or start near the shores of Lake Superior, in the dry heat of August, playing among Blue Spruce and Bracken ferns, the scent of wild blueberries in the breeze.
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