I knew it might happen. Today at school our youngest daughter, Cozette (8), was teased about not having a grandfather. Somehow, she and two friends got onto the subject and when they found out she doesn’t have one, I suppose they saw that as an opportunity to exert power over another person. Children are cruel. And so they teased her about it until she cried. In retelling the story to me at dinner, she cried again. I sat her on my lap, squeezed her and told her that it would be ok. After she’d settled down a bit, I said that I was a little disappointed that she would let the other kids win by letting them make her cry. Cozette’s more like her mother in most ways than she is like me. But like me, she wears her emotions on her sleeve. I told her to be prepared for things like this to happen again, even if it’s about something else. Because she has a glow about her that others will always envy. And so there will always be people who will try to pull her down to their level.
As she told me her story, I grew angry at my fathers. And my wife’s fathers. We each had two. And none of them stuck around. Men who turned their backs on their families, and on life. And it doesn’t stop with our fathers. Men abandoning their wives and children for selfish, destructive desires is a pattern that goes back a few generations in our families. Both our mothers had to fend for themselves for most of their lives. Their mothers too.
When I quit drinking 20 years ago, I didn’t really think I’d make it a week. I thought I was destined to die alone. This concept seemed to be part of my DNA and so for about 10 years in my early adulthood, I lived like I was going to die young. Now that I’ve got children of my own, I sometimes wish I’d have started to have them earlier – so that I could have more. But then I remember the man I used to be – and if I had become a father sooner, I would have probably abandoned my wife and kids too. Because doing that was just part of me.
One of the things I’m most proud of today is that I’m here for my family. It’s so simple. And yet, despite what you might think of me from what I share in this blog, the truth is that I’m far from being a great dad. I make a ton of mistakes. I lack patience. I have a short temper. I can’t fish. But the one mistake I haven’t made is giving up on my family. And unless something terrible happens, like waking some slumbering demon inside of me, my daughters will never think of me as absent. And who knows – maybe one day I’ll be a grandfather to their children so that this issue never comes up again in our family. Ever.
Because being a man means more than following selfish desires. It means being a man.