My mind can’t move away from thoughts of fatherhood ever since I wrote “An Unrequited Wish” for the OB Rag sometime ago wherein I shared my belief that my late soul mate’s dad’s indiscretions with her throughout her childhood led to her taking her life.
Most of my reflecting has been about my own experiences as a dad starting back when I first heard that I was a father to be. The news caught me off guard completely. I mean, in one moment, I was strutting down the halls of Tucson High, wearing my big red “T” for my basketball artistry, All-City, All-State, All-Star, All-Ego, in the flow, high fiving and asking “What’s happening?” of everybody I happened to know, throwing in all the latest dance steps just to diversify the show – and, in the next moment, somewhere in the middle of all the festivities my girlfriend managed to say to me: “I’m pregnant.”
The world, as they say, stood still. I replied “Say what?” at decibels that had to have awakened the dead, even those who had died deaf. I was as stunned and confused as if she had said she had grown another foot. At the tender age of 18 I just hadn’t had the experience of someone looking me in the face and using the words I’m and pregnant in that order.
But a part of me, even as I stood in the throes of shock, understood that fatherhood, no matter what else came with it, wasn’t something to be taken lightly. And in January of ’57 when I gazed down at my first child’s beautiful round face her expression said to me ever so earnestly and clearly: “Hey, dude, I don’t know nothing from nothing; I can’t walk and I can’t talk so I’m counting on you big time.” I caught her drift and my mind, on its own, although I didn’t “know nothing from nothing” either, zeroed in on lessons I would have to teach someday, those “look both ways before you cross the street” and “don’t talk to strangers” admonitions. And I began mentally forming the lists of things I would have to protect her from, those activities that parents fear could break their children’s neck or stunt their growth, fears that have haunted parents across the ages.
Now I know I had a lot to learn, having to dive into adulthood overnight, but I was up for the task and over time I’ve welcomed three more daughters into the world. In the process of daddying, if you will, I’m sure I’ve done some things that weren’t in their best interest, but I’d like to think that since I’m nowhere near being perfect that whatever wrong I committed was due to ignorance or stupidity. But the propensity to protect my children has always been and still is as natural to me as breathing.
Growing up each one of my daughters were pretty little girls and they all matured into physically attractive women but acknowledging such is as far as I can go when it comes to objectifying them.
I guess what I’m saying, as I struggle to make sense of things, as I ponder fatherhood, is there’s just nothing within me that can comprehend, to any degree, how a father could do anything intentionally that would or could harm his children immeasurably, for the rest of their lives – like molesting them sexually. How does one go there, knowing the magnitude of the harm that could befall one’s progeny, members of the offspring branches of one’s family tree?
As I look back I think being a father is pretty much, in the grand scheme of things, all I’ve ever wanted to be. It’s an honored position, I would think, in every society. And now that I know, up close and personally, how damaging and tragic immoral parenting can be, I can only dedicate myself, in whatever way I can, to, as a man recently suggested to me: educate, prevent and protect.
I owe that to my beloved, the mother of two of my daughters, and to all the girls in the world who live with fathers and uncles and whoever else who has no sense of boundaries when it comes to their warped proclivities. I will speak for them until my last breath on this earth comes to me.
Hey, I’m just daddying. Can’t help myself.