Fatherhood: The Beginning
I never wanted to be a father. The thought of someone looking up to me and taking after me was discouraging and at times, repulsive. It’s safe to say I’d never thought much of myself. I was quiet and awkward growing up. My parents were of the older generation, the generation that lived during the Second World War and then, gathered around the radio or the black and white television to watch Lawrence Welk or listen to the drama of the Cold War. I was born 5 years after my parents were done having children, though my mother had always wanted a third. And when I came along, I think my father was tired and ready retire. He loved me, of course. But I never had a relationship with him. I was never mentored in the art of manhood. Everything I’ve learned about being a man I learned after he lost his memory and his mind to Alzheimer’s. I’ve made numerous decisions without him. I married a girl. I bought a house. Thankfully, I haven’t cut off any limbs while operating power tools. I have great friends, wonderful in-laws and also, YouTube. But if it were up to me, I’d still have a father.
Losing my father was pivotal time in my life. Looking back, I remember shutting down and not thinking about the implications. I had watched my father forget everything familiar in a slow, torturous decrescendo of life. The heavily guarded Alzheimer’s unit at the nursing home where he lived out his remaining days always wreaked of urine and depression. I remember being angry at the extremes to which life can be both beautiful and horrible and how a good person can experience both of those in their life. And for us, it was hard to watch him go. We sat by his bed and talked of times gone by, hoping key words would spark his memory and spark our hope. But he just stared at us with the look of a hollow absence. I don’t know that I ever really dealt with the loss. I just tried to find my own way. And sometimes, I think I’m doing ok. I have a beard and I can drink dark beers and brave the cold. But when it comes to leading a family, I feel that I am utterly lost.
For my wife, the ache of having children has been stinging for years. Regardless of my objections, my reasons for not being cut out for it, she still wouldn’t give up. “You’ll be a good dad”, she’d say. I of course, thought otherwise. And I thought that for a long time…5 years, or so. And I don’t know what changed exactly. Maybe it was a mixture of guilt for hindering my wife’s dreams of motherhood combined with the realization that no parent is really a perfect role model. Maybe it was me talking myself into this aspect of manhood and thinking that, with a lot of help, maybe I could handle it. It might've been the many encounters with other friends, who's kids sparked a curiosity in me and over time, hollowed out a soft spot. For all I know, it could’ve been something in the tap water because that’s mostly what I drink. All I know is something definitely changed.