Monday, June 05, 2006

Fathers & Sons

Being a Dad means taking only the green icepops.

My father died five days before I was born. His absence created a huge, gaping hole my entire young life not knowing him, missing someone I never met and not fully understanding why. Wishing my dad was there, wishing he could talk to me or help me out of my mistakes. I wish he was there just to celebrate the good stuff and be proud of me when I did good.

Dads come in handy that way.
Fathers can validate the reason you exist simply by being proud of you.

My own son is seven years old. His mom decided to dismantle the marriage when he was just three months old. And, like his sisters, my world revolves around what he is, what he does, what he gets excited about. Which is, frankly,
everything from Batman to baseball. He likes to jump off my bed to watch his super hero cape fly and he goes to sleep holding the baseball I caught for him at a Lexington Legends game. When I wrote my books WoodSongs I and WoodSongs II, alot was included about his sisters. I've written songs and poems about his sisters ... but never MichaelB. I think not knowing my father and then suddenly having a son, a male connection to my dad, had a volcanic impact on me. It left me creatively speechless.

This is a picture of MichaelB. He hates this picture because he thinks he looks goofy. I love it because it captures the cuddly, lovable, fused-to-daddy's hip little boy that he is. And I know this mini-me part of his life is drifting away quickly. So, I spend as much time with him as I can. Which is a lot. I think I missed that chance with Melody too much, so I might be overcompensating. Either way, what a beautiful, tender, innocent and amazing little person he is. If I could go to a store and select a child like we select a car or anything else, I would have picked
exactly who he is. And Rachel. And Melody. I love them beyond my ability to express. Verbally or musically.

Last week, Rachel graduated middle school. There she was ... busy with her friends, full of her life and her future and how she looked and what I did and didn't do exactly right. Just like little girls turning into young women do to there dads. I loved every second of it.

And mom was there, too. Much to my surprise, she sat with me and the kids this time. And during Rachel's graduation ceremony, MichaelB reached for my hand, and then his mom's hand. And squeezed them both together and pulled them toward his chest. And it occurred to me that this beautiful, precious little boy
never had his mom and dad tuck him into bed at night, never had his mom and dad together at a breakfast table, never played catch with his father while his mom made dinner in the kitchen at the farmhouse.

And I wanted to burst inside myself with frustration and failure. Isn't he worth that? Doesn't he deserve that? Isn't this little boy worthy of whatever sacrifice his parents should make to give him that?

Instead I sat there, silent as MichaelB had that rare moment of holding both parents hands at the same time. And I thought about being a dad. Missing my dad. Wishing I could talk about this and vent to my own father. And I thought about being a good dad and how I had to work really,
really hard to be one for this little boy. I thought about the incredible joy of sacrifice these little souls need from their parents.

And I thought about those icepops.
How Rachel likes the strawberry.
MichaelB likes the grape.
That leaves Dad only the green ones.

... and I
hate the green ones.

Folk on,
Michael Johnathon