Wednesday, February 06, 2013

To my father on the occasion of his 70th birthday

It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally got it.

You have often said that you weren't the best father, and when I was younger I would have agreed with you. As I got older, I tended to not think about it one way or the other. It wasn't until Matthew was born that I finally had the revelation. It's not like they give new dads a brochure or a pamphlet. They hand you this screaming ball of blood and poop and say "Here you go. Good luck!" as they laugh maniacally and run away.

Sometimes you just do your best with what you have.

You did that, of course, whether we realized it at the time or not. Puzzle magazines? Books? Pythagorean theorem? Antidisestablishmentarianism? You may have thought you were being funny, but all of your children turned out pretty intelligent, and it had its roots in those puzzle magazines. They taught us how to think. And antidisestablishmentarianism taught me how to spell. Not my fault that the elementary school geniuses couldn't spell genius :)

Every day I stop a fit, I wipe a butt, I interpret facial gestures without a verbal accompaniment, and a dozen other things that a father of a 13-year-old and a ten-year-old should be far beyond. And I do it, not because it's easy, not because I like wiping butts, but because I can't not do it. It isn't in my genetic code to not take care of Matthew and Rebecca.

After Ma's brain surgery you went to see her every day, whether it was convenient or not. And to me, that was as heroic as any firefighter or soldier has ever been. You do what you need to do sometimes, not because it's easy, not even because it's hard, but because it's what you have to do. You can do no less. And in the same way, when you were in the hospital and Ma couldn't drive, I took her there every day that she was physically able to be there. Because I couldn't not do it. She needed me, you needed me, and I love you. End of story. Wasn't always easy, but I would do it again. And again.

My Christmas gift to you was being able to serve you this year. Your Christmas gift to me? Being able to serve you this year.

Love, Sean


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