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.
9 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Jenifer Olson (@jenajean)
Jan 31, 2012
Nicely stated, Jim, and beautiful photo of you and your girls.
Kids can be mean to each other, just the same as adults, and it usually has something to do with their own feelings of inadequacy. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier to endure at the time, but it does help to put things in perspective as we get older. It also reminds us to be kind to others, always.
God gave Cozette a wonderful family, with a dad and mom who love her dearly. That’s more than many kids ever get. Does she know how blessed she is? 🙂
Jan 31, 2012
Ha. Thanks. And no, I think she probably doesn’t, Jenifer. And that’s ok.
Feb 1, 2012
I’ve never understood when guys don’t realize how awesome it is to be a dad, in both responsibility and reward.
Feb 1, 2012
Beautiful piece, Jim. Again and again. And for what it’s worth, all my grandparents died before I was 12. They were all very loving, but they left me early and I grew up with no grandparents. I don’t remember anyone ever making fun of me for it (who does that???), but I can definitely relate to feeling my grandparents’ absence when others are talking about theirs.
Bravo to you for breaking with your legacy of abandonment. That alone will prove to be Cozette’s source of strength in the face of insensitive kids.
Feb 1, 2012
Thank you, Laurie. Most of what I share here – I don’t realize I’m going to write, until something happens. Life is wicked and beautiful.
Feb 1, 2012
She’s saddled with the name “Cozette” and kids are making fun of her for not having a grandfather?! No, I’m kidding. Another great post, Jim.
3 minutes 22 seconds | Obsessed with Conformity
Feb 10, 2012
[…] writer, and so this blog is where I put my thinking. In short blog posts that range from fiction to personal stories to serious business. Note – this is not the best way to establish an audience as a writer. […]
Jun 17, 2012
Hey, Jim, this was a terrific piece to read on Father’s Day morning. Thanks.
Jun 18, 2012
My novel – Minor King
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