When I think back on my father and our relationship I think of strength, guidance and strictness, but most of all love. Don’t get me wrong – if you know me and you know my family, you know it was/is sometimes a bit chaotic. If you’ve met my dad you would probably remember him by his handlebar mustache, and if you saw us interact you either saw us hugging and goofing around or me somehow trying to avoid a conflict. My father and I had an interesting dynamic of fear, respect, love, anger, and plenty of tension. I was too smart and afraid to argue with him directly, so when he grounded me, I ran away. When he took out the coil wire from my car so I couldn’t run away, I stole the coil wire out of his truck and drove off again. Because of our relationship, I’ve wondered and sometimes feared what type of father I would be. In some ways I completely reject parts of who my father was. In other ways I am my father. How would I be as a father? Would I fail? How would I handle conflicts and stress? How would I balance work and family? Would my son respect, love, and admire me? These questions still scare me to this day. I’ve seen the best and worst a father can be. Where on that scale will I fall?
As Luca sleeps upstairs and Kitty is busy sewing his Halloween costume, I find my thoughts, as they often are, filled with my son. I can’t say I’ve ever been as scared as when Luca had his first fever, as proud as when Luca jumps into the water at swim class, as happy as when Luca yells Dada and runs into my arms, as frustrated as when he refuses to listen and follow my well laid out plan, or as amazed as when he was born. With that I can say becoming a father has been the single biggest life changing event I have experienced. I told Kitty the other day that I noticed how emotional I’ve become. I find myself crying at all kinds of movies, books, even some commercials, and anything with a father and son theme. Growing up I became a master pragmatist and learned to control and strategically expose or block certain emotions. Becoming a father sort of blew all that away. It’s interesting because this isn’t something that happened consciously. I didn’t say to myself, “I have a son now let me open up.” It just happened. I can’t say I always like it. At times I feel far too vulnerable for my comfort level. It’s with that that I come to the sometimes cliche realization that as I try to guide, protect, and teach Luca I myself am changing.
To sum it up Luca I am growing with you. I won’t always make the best or right decisions. And while I may not always guide you perfectly and we will definitely have our differences, I will always do my best to be there for you to dust you off when you fall, stand by you when you are in trouble, wipe away your tears when your heart is broken, answer all your questions about life, girls and baseball, and most of all I will always be there to love you and your mother with all my heart and more.
Until you have a son of your own . . . you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to be.
– Kent Nerburn – from Letters to My Son