Last week, my partners and I made our first “out” outing. We went to a baseball game, which I suppose is all full of outs, and innings. And switch hitters, and home runs. Anyway, I digress…
My girl was playing, and her whole team seemed to be “in the know” because while my guy and I sat in the bleachers with their darling three year old cheering mommy on, we were getting lots of curious stares. Nothing malicious, a few nervous smiles, some genuine warm greetings and conversation, but definitely more attention than we would have attracted under other circumstances.
That’s not the point of this story though.
While the ball game was being played, I witnessed another game unfold. My partner would scoot his little girl’s feet so her toes were just meeting the edge of the bleachers, and then he’d have her put her arms out, and close her eyes. As she trembled with anticipation, he would then give her a little push, and then immediately catch her as she erupted in fits of giggles. She demanded he do this over and over, and when he asked her if she was afraid she said “No daddy! You never drop me! Not ever!!”.
I was so moved by this.
My father was the kind of dad who, as I imagine was the case with most of his generation, treated child-rearing like it was my mother and grandmother’s job. (I grew up in a three-parent household). He was pretty hands off, and not really very affectionate. We had some good bonding experiences over music, but to the best of my memory, there were very few hugs, or snuggles, or kisses. As a result, it’s always been strange, and perhaps even a little uncomfortable for me to witness modern daddies being as affectionate as mommies are with their kidlets. Maybe my dad was terrified of being perceived as doing something inappropriate?
At any rate, this falling game filled me with such a strange mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy because I realized that this simple, silly exercise was in fact building layers of trust so deep that this little lady would never even really know where they came from; trust in men, trust in other people, trust in her daddy, trust in taking risks. My sadness came from realizing there was no such equivalent in my own childhood experience.
I loved my partner so fiercely in that moment for having such finely-honed paternal instincts.
It’s been almost 24 hours since I hit ‘send’ on the very difficult, very heartfelt email I composed for my dad after my mom outed me to him. I haven’t heard a peep. I thought about calling, but it just feels too raw, and too hard to form the words. We’ve never really been able to talk about personal things, and I just don’t even know where to begin with this. I feel like the reality of who I am, and the choices I am making have taken him to a whole new level of uncomfortable where his little girl is concerned.
My mom suggested that I give him space to digest all of the information, and of course I understand this, and respect it. I’m just scared that things will never be the same, and that the special voice that he reserves only for me will be something I never hear again.
I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my father display a lot of emotion. The first was the week that my Nana, his mom, died. He found her in cardiac arrest in her room downstairs as he returned from his night shift. He attempted to resuscitate her while the paramedics came, but it was too late. After the funeral, we were in the kitchen, and I was in the fridge getting some milk to go with our chocolate chip cookies. He was musing about growing up as an only child, and how his dad died when he was only twelve. He said “I guess your mom and you kids are all I have left now.” The warble in his voice made my throat clench up so hard that I spent an extra five minutes poking around the cheese and condiments to I wouldn’t have to see him cry.
The second moment was when he was about to walk me down the aisle. That moment is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever seen him in relation to me. He suddenly turned to me, squeezed my hand, and whispered fiercely with shining eyes. “I LOVE you.”
I’m still the same me daddy. Somewhere in all of the grown up stuff that’s been layered on is the little girl who used to fall asleep listening to your old records with your giant headphones. I’m still the duck-faced social butterfly who could delight shop keepers with my precocious vocabulary. (A snow-suited six year old me, when told by the variety store lady that I looked adorable declared “I look RIDICK U LEEZ!”) I’m still excited about watching nature documentaries and old Next Generation re-runs together. I still think you’re the funniest, smartest man I know.
I hope you still love me, and will come to embrace everyone else who loves me too.