Chatting with Lexi: On Getting Up

It wasn’t my fault. I swear. It didn’t matter what it was, or if anyone had even scolded me about it by that point, I was in defensive mode. Because, sooner or later, everything would come back to me in some way, shape, or form, and I had to be ready. Not that being ready did me any good. My mom was still always at least 3 steps ahead of me when it came to everything I ever did, or was going to do.

I still have no clue how she did it.

The life of a 13-year-old is tough. They go through so many changes, both physically and emotionally. Their brains are processing information at a frantic rate, so no wonder we see them as paranoid bundles of energy. I never quite understood this until Lexi turned 13 this year, and boy, am I understanding it now! Funny how things do come full circle. My mom told me this about 3 steps ago, and I am just catching up now.

I hate when she’s right.

A few days ago I tried to wake Lexi up, to get the day going. It was the weekend, which is prime sleep time for any self-respecting 13-year-old (“Like, seriously, Dad!”), but after 10 am all bets are off. In my book anyway. Apparently, not in the Book of Lexi. Continue reading “Chatting with Lexi: On Getting Up”

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The Tone & Timbre

My father called here this morning. Why does he have such a hold over me? I hadn’t heard his voice in 6 months, and yet the tone, the timbre, are as familiar to me as my own, yet so foreign at the same time.

Alexa answered the phone, but she didn’t recognize him. After all, she’s only talked to him twice before. She covered the mouthpiece and asked me who he was, if she should speak with him, if it was okay. I wonder if he wants some sort of relationship with my children. He claimed he did once, but that was a dog’s age ago, and he disappeared again.

Is he back? Or was this just a Mothers’ Day surprise?

Why does he, even now, hold such sway over me, over my thoughts? I ask myself this less and less, but always when he calls again, after so much time. And I know I should make up my mind. Do I want to try and craft a relationship with him, even now, even after all this time?

Continue reading “The Tone & Timbre”

The Uneasy Truth of Fatherhood

“Any man can be a father. That simply requires DNA. But it takes a real man to be a dad.” ~Anonymous

It’s just so messed up, this idea that fathers aren’t as necessary to a child’s development and sense of security as mothers. I honestly have no idea where it came from. Maybe some psychologist somewhere in the late 1800’s or something decided this was true, and the thought just floated down the timeline. But it’s false, patently false, this thought that kids who grow up without a father are getting just as much.

They just aren’t.

I don’t say this to try and discredit single mothers. Quite the opposite. Single mothers are the backbone of love, of support, and of teaching their children to be quality members of society. Because they have all the responsibility single mothers often take it as a challenge they do their best to meet, because they love their children and give them the absolute best of themselves. All I’m saying is that kids need both, that they need two committed parents, two committed guardians, to care for them. Continue reading “The Uneasy Truth of Fatherhood”

Hopeful For A Dry Season

“Casual match in a very dry field. What could be the season’s yield?” ~Suzanne Vega

heavy_rain_001The rain is coming down. First fast. Then furious. Then so blindingly swift it ceases to be rain, but instead becomes a curtain of water shielding me from the outside world. I don’t reach out to touch it because I don’t like being wet. I don’t like the knowledge that comes with feeling wet more often than not. And even though I know when it’s coming nothing ever makes it any better.

There is this Enya album called A Day Without Rain, and it brings me back to Ireland every single time I play it, back to the lush verdant green fields, and the endless days of rain keeping them that way. I guess it’s a tradeoff then, when I think about it, how the brilliant green doesn’t come without the steady downpour. But that day without rain, it’s precious. It gives us a chance to actually enjoy the brilliant green for what it is, not for how it’s obscured in the downpour.

I called my dad this week. That in and of itself doesn’t really qualify as news, except that it’s the first time I’ve spoken with him since his stroke, which was two months ago. We fell back into those patterns, not unlike riding a bike. We pedal one foot at a time, the rotation moving us forward in incremental steps, but we never truly go forward. We just go around in circles because that is our dynamic. It has always been our dynamic. I don’t know if I expected it to be different since his own life-altering experience.

a-father-is-a-man__quotes-by-frank-a-clark-16Strike that. I did expect it to be different and I was absolutely devastated when it was the same. Something about arriving back in the same place we’ve been so often before made my soul ache, made my spirit break into a million disparate pieces. If hope truly is the thing with feathers, then the conversation grounded me in a way that few things ever have in my life. It was like I was waiting, looking up at the sky, hoping it would stay dry, but like clockwork the clouds came and unleashed the rain. Continue reading “Hopeful For A Dry Season”

Let’s Hurt Tonight

“Oh, I know that this love is pain, but we can’t cut it from out these veins, no.” ~OneRepublic

im-just-trying-to-avoid-being-hurt-again-quote-1I’m in pain. I guess it’s time I admit that to myself after all this time. Because I’ve been in pain for a very long time. Because I channel it differently, though, it wouldn’t have been easy for you to see it. So I don’t blame you for not noticing. I blame me for being that good of an actor. But every actor has to leave the stage at some point, and this is my time. Because I’m in pain, and I need another outlet.

My father had a stroke a few days ago, and the news of it hit me like a sledgehammer, but that is not the pain I spoke of before. That pain came a long time ago, when he disappeared from my life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exclusively blaming him — far from it. I’m taking responsibility for my own part after the fact. It cut me to the very core when he left, when he took off, first emotionally, and then physically. But I smiled. I said I would see him soon, that I would visit often, and he said the same.

That didn’t happen, for many reasons. Then my life happened. It exploded into many different offshoots, and I was able to bury myself in all of that, to hold my breath while he did whatever he was doing. I don’t think any of it would have mattered, because it was obvious he too had moved on, that the mantle of father was a coat he wore twice a year. It was like the act of moving on physically was the dividing line. There were no longer any excuses to pretend a relationship.

And I hurt. I hurt because I depended on him to make those things right, because to me it was a two-person effort and my mother was straining at the seams doing everything for us, as she had always done. I hurt because it seemed like no matter how many times I called him, how many plans he made for coming up, that nothing mattered. Because there were always the excuses, the other things that materialized that were more important than me, that were more important than us.

All this while I burned inside. Not a white hot anger, but a slow burn, a crackling and withering heat that turned that part of my heart to ashes.

“I know you’re feeling insane. Tell me something that I can explain.”

What hurt the most were all the promises. Perhaps if he had just left it alone, if he had allowed me to stop missing him the wound would have been cauterized, cut off from that part of me that mattered. But he couldn’t bring himself to go that way, to allow me to stop hoping, which was so much worse. And I guess I was always a glutton for punishment because I would put my misplaced faith in him time and again. I opened the door time and again, just to have it closed once more in my face.

So this stroke, the call that told me the news, it hit me just as hard as if I had seen him yesterday. Because even now I can’t close off that part of myself. Even now I see a reunion where he will realize how much he misses me, where he will become that perfect father I always wanted him to be, or at least a reasonable facsimile of such. Even now I have these pie in the sky ideas of what my father should be and could be, those old wounds once scabbed over bleeding again.

992ccde83c279b535e65281153600837Someone asked me how I feel, and the word that keeps coming back to me is confused. I guess I didn’t realize how much I still want those things, how much I felt I had closed myself off but I really hadn’t. When I thought in that moment that he could have died, that he could still die, it hit me hard like concrete. And this pain, I realize it will always be with me. I will always hurt when I think of those wasted years, all those missed opportunities, all the excuses and misplaced trust.

Because I love my father. After all of this, after all this time, I love him. Maybe it’s because I’ve been conditioned by society to love him, or maybe it’s just that’s part of my nature, or maybe it’s even as simple as biology. I don’t know, and I guess in the end it doesn’t even matter. My heart broke when I got the news, which says something more profound than words and contrivance ever could.

So this pain, this hurt that I’ve lived with for three quarters of my life, it’s here to stay. It means that I’m still alive, that I have a lot to be thankful for, but that my life is not securely mine, that it belongs to this heart of mine too, and to the people who fill it, for better or worse. He’s hopefully coming home from the hospital today, and I will be trying to find a flight to get down there, because that’s who I am.

And life is too short. So let’s hurt tonight.

Sam

Fathering the Nest

pop_Birds_Nest_Minnesota_1When I first found out I was going to be a father I had a ton of questions. Unlike motherhood, impending fatherhood doesn’t come with a training manual (or a dozen), so it’s easier to freak out for incoming fathers. I know I freaked out, but after the initial daze that came with getting the good news I knew I had to figure out what kind of father I wanted to be. Then I had to dig deep and determine what kind of father I was predetermined to be.

You see, this thing called fatherhood is just another nebulous term that we can treat any way we want. For some it means being heavily involved in their children’s lives, while others think it’s meaningless, those kids just a few in an endless assembly line of kids they don’t plan on being anything to or doing anything for. The vast majority of guys out there are somewhere in the middle, trying to figure things out as they go.

So, getting back to this whole predetermination thing. There’s something about nature vs. nurture, and how we turn out being one, the other, or some mix of both. I knew that my father wasn’t there for me when I felt like I needed him, and I knew I wanted to be different with my own kids. Did my father’s absence mean I was already destined to be an absent father? Or was it up to me to remember what he did and use it as a guideline of what not to be?

Then I asked myself “Can I do this?” Which means, could I be a solid father? Could I be someone they would look to down the line and say, “Yeah, that’s my dad. He helped raise me right. He was always there for me.” A friend of mine lost her father a couple of years ago, and the first thing everyone said who posted on her Facebook page when they found out was that he was not just a decent man, but a devoted husband, and a wonderful father. If I died tomorrow I would want that to be my epitaph. A decent man, a devoted husband, and a wonderful father.

And the answer was YES. YES, I can do this fatherhood thing. No, I won’t turn out like my father was. I can be my own man, and even though I have my own demons to fight, I will keep fighting them so that I can┬ábe there for my children. Now it’s 10 years into this thing called fatherhood for me, and while I know I haven’t been perfect, I have definitely been what my children need, what I expect from myself as a father, and a helpmate for my wife in this parenting gig we created for ourselves.

But it’s not all about reflecting on what’s gone on so far. It’s also about dealing with each issue one day at a time. It’s about having fun with my kids, but also about teaching them life lessons, sometimes hard lessons, that they’ll remember. I want them to grow to be independent young ladies who will look back on this as the crucible from which their lives sprung like flame, touching many lives with their own.

Maybe it’s true what my mother said so long ago when I asked her what it was like to have kids. She told me it’s the most amazing and the most petrifying thing at the same time. And I agree now. I’m so worried I’m making the wrong decisions sometimes, but I do my best for them always, and I hope that’s enough. That’s all we can do, right?

Sam

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