Dad has taught me much about life. How to be responsible. The importance of keeping my word. Of doing good when duty calls. Thinking of others. Thinking of my family before myself. Remaining faithful to my wife. Being honest, so that I never have to remember what I said (one’s honesty will say it for you). Being a good friend. And rooting for the Seahawks.
I’m a neophyte in terms of fatherhood. My son is only 9 ½ months old. I have a lot to learn. And I know I’m going to make many more mistakes, as I have already. But I am determined to be a good father, the way my dad was to me. I am a flawed soul, but I am eager to give David a good childhood, and a good life. I want to be there for him. Hold him. Hear him.
I’ve learned that there is nothing more precious on this earth than a newborn child. David is delicate. Supple. Innocent. Needy. Honest. Beautiful. He laughs easily whenever I tickle his ribs or hold him upside down or put my face in his belly or simply when I act goofy around him. His little giggles warm the home. He is innocently trusting. Whenever I hold him above my head, he has no idea of the danger of falling but instead, he looks at me and smiles. Christie and I suffered a miscarriage before David came along, and now that David is here, we feel lucky and blessed. I had no idea that parenthood could be so good.
In my novels I approach the relationship of fathers and sons from different perspectives. How Well the Sailors Run addresses the rebellion of a prodigal son from his father. In Warm Gold two men, one older, one younger, are both looking for and trying to mine the love from their fathers and inevitably discover it in a father-son-relationship between themselves. In A Season for the Blessed, a PGA-wannabee golfer tries to make his way seemingly aimlessly on the golf course having grown up in foster care without a father, as he struggles to navigate marriage and fatherhood in his own family. By the way, my dad read this story and he said it resonated with him. He’s the first person to have read Blessed. And in my fourth novel, called Hope of Home, which is in the process of being published, a money-driven grandson wrestles with reconciliation with his grandfather, who wrote an entire novel just bring him home for Christmas.
Fatherhood is important to me. It is the singlemost issue, in my mind, which can help restore a culture more rapidly than any other method. I may be wrong about this. But I’m thinking of my own relationship to my heavenly Father—that restored relationship with Him can immediately improve any and every other area in my life, even the darkest and most painful areas in my life. He can fully heal them. As if they’d never been.
Just as my relationship to my heavenly Father can heal, I believe my fatherly relationship to my son can be one of perpetual health and healing, and a source of strength. This is exciting to me.
To be strong. To have a foundation. To hold up, rather than to push down. That is fatherhood.
I suppose even us weak men are the stuff of great courage—that even in our sins, in our mistakes, even in our dark thoughts—God can use them to turn shadows away and to beat back the cold with the warmth of our hearts. That is what fatherhood means to me.
Yesterday my dad celebrated his 65th birthday. He’s retiring from his law practice this year. I got to see him two days ago when Christie and I met him and Mom for lunch at Gandolfo’s. He told me that on his birthday he was planning to soak in his hot tub. And enjoy not having to work. Work is another one of the best things he taught me, the joy of hard work. My dad is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever been around, a man who exemplifies the spirit of diligence.
I hope to model that character trait for David, to show him that any and every good dream begins with hard work, sinks or swims by it, and that good solid work is a reward in and of itself.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my dad is perhaps the most important of them all—to be present in my child’s life. Simply to be there. There’s never been better proof of a good father than this, to be present.
My hope is the same for my son and me.
Happy birthday, Dad. May you enjoy the fruit of your labor in your budding retirement.