Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fathers Looking at People They Love

Jim looking at his niece.
Relationships with fathers are rarely idealistic. I choose the word idealistic purposefully, because there is no such thing as perfection, and relationships that don't live up to our idealist expectations make us grow. There have been many fathers in my life - those who fathered me and those whom I have observed fathering others. I appreciate them all.

Hans looking at his granddaughter.
Dear fathers - my own fathers and grandfathers and uncles and my partner and brother and extra brothers and in-laws and cousins and dear cherished friends...
I Love You.

Everhard looking at his daughter.
To the fathers who go to work every day, missing out on many of their children's milestones, feeling sometimes detached or unneeded, but making an effort to fit in when they're home, you are not unneeded. I used to sleep with my Pappa's smelly shirt when he was away. You teach your children that sometimes love takes sacrifice; you teach them about surviving loneliness. And when you do come home you are the superhero - sometimes the unsung superhero. It was a party every time my Pappa came home from the bush. You teach your children about elation and overwhelming joy. You teach them that love persists through absence and struggle.

Wout looking at his niece.

To the fathers who have given every shred of their being to raise children on their own, or, as my partner does, to provide, and literally build a roof over our heads, out of sheer sacrifice and determination, you are teaching your children that they can. You empower them to persevere and to have faith in their emergent skills.

Markus looking at his son.

To the fathers who become their boyish adventurous selves in the presence of their children; who take them on crazy funny bike adventures, who take them climbing around in shipwrecks and wandering aimfully over high mountains and through deep valleys: Sometimes you are expressing your love through adventure and your children know it. You teach them to explore. You teach us that it is important to be happy.

John looking at his niece.
To fathers who have lost children and grandchildren, sometimes to unspeakable tragedy, but pulled themselves out of despair to continue parenting their other children, to be strong so that others could be strong, too. You have held the world up when others couldn't do it alone. You have held the world together.

Adrian looking at his nephew.
To the men who don't have their own children, but whom children flock to, for the wonder and generosity in their personalities. These men like my brother, who takes the job of uncle-ing very seriously, as much to his own niece and nephew as to a gaggle of other adoring children. You teach us all that parenting is everybody's place in society. And you give children a safe place to be.

Gerhard looking at his niece.
To the men who are terrified of holding their friends' children or even their own newborn babies, confronted with the fragility of life and love, you have discovered and expressed the tenderness of your hearts. You have given children a promise of gentleness, and empowered them to be gentle, too.

Pat looking at his daughter.
To the fathers who have been vulnerable, telling me about their fears and struggles either with raising me or raising children I have loved, you have been brave, in your efforts to grow and evolve and to do the best you could for your children. To the father, even, whose children I have housed while he was struggling, you are raising children who know that they can change; you have empowered them to become their best selves.

Ernest looking at his granddaughter.
To the fathers who, in addition to fathering their own children, reach out to father others, as well, sending care packages of Kraft Dinner for newly-independent grandchildren (yes that was my Grandpa!), taking children who are not their own on marvellous adventures, giving advice that wasn't wanted, but sometimes greatly valued, and just plain being there for the kids who need them. It was my uncle who rented and furnished my first apartment for me. You empower all of us to be generous with our time, our resources, and our love.

To the fathers who have loved through pain, heartbreak, struggle, drudgery, and apathy, thank you. To the fathers who have brought hope and trust and joy and adventure to each generation, thank you! We look at you and we see that we are loved. We see that your face shines when you look at us and we know that's what love is.
Thank you for finding your way. 
Thank you for showing us the way. 
Thank you for your gift to humanity.

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