My Son The Father
He tells his daughter he loves her a million times a day
It is almost one year since my son became a father. I don't know a job that suits him better, although he would vociferously object to my using the word job in this context. I walked into the tiny hospital room shared by six people five hours after his daughter made an unwilling entrance into our world. He sat ramrod straight in a chair, baby cradled in his arms, elbows resting on nothing. I don't know how his entire body did not fall asleep, enduring that position. I guess that's what a good father does.
He had an enormous smile on his face that hid his tired eyes.
Because the couple did not share the name they had chosen for their baby before birth, I took to calling my incipient grandchild Theodosia, after Aaron Burr's daughter, popularized in the show Hamilton. It was probably the one name that I knew for certain they would not use, so I was comfortable with it.
"When you came into the world you cried, and it broke my heart." sings Aaron Burr to his daughter Theodosia as Alexander Hamilton harmonizes with "When you smile I am undone," crooned to his infant son, Philip.
My son tells his daughter that he loves her a million times a day, maybe more. I look on in amazement, a proud mother of a girl-dad who is getting it so right. His daughter will grow up secure in her own value thanks to many things, but implicitly because of an encouraging, compassionate, and dependable father. He is gentle, generous, giving and oh so grateful. Maybe the thing he does that I admire the most is how much he loves that baby's mother. They are a team.
His siblings and siblings-in-law have been good role models.
Perhaps it is because I did not have a father that I admire it so. Believe me. I am well aware that one doesn't need a male parent and a female parent to become a well-adjusted human being. But, it couldn't hurt to have a good father.
I am told stories about my father and how much he would have spoiled me but in truth the point is moot as he died a day or so after I turned two. Bad genes: a massive coronary as he sat beside my mother on an Eastern Airlines flight from New York City back to Montreal, their home. He was cognizant of what was transpiring only long enough to tell my mother to take care of herself. She yelled for a doctor and a man did appear, announcing that he was a dentist. He did say, however, that he was enough of a "real" doctor to proclaim that "this man is absolutely, positively dead."
Today they call this type of heart attack a widow maker. When my other son had one at 34, the stars were aligned: I called the ambulance soon enough and the first responders, two burly firemen, knew exactly what to do. When we arrived at the hospital, two teams of doctors and nurses stood on each side of the gurney, just as you see on E.R. My son waited until all the equipment was around him until he coded out and they brought him back to life. At some level, he must have known that I couldn't have lived without him.
It might only be in my imagination, but one of the things that I always felt that fathers could do was stand up for one's children.
My mother loved me but was a peacemaker at heart, not a fighter. I pictured a father, an Atticus Finch, who would, kindly and politely, of course, without ever raising his voice, assure the individual harassing his daughter that this was not going to be permitted. She was an important person, not because of anything she had accomplished but because she belonged to him. She had worth and significance.
He would keep the demons at bay.
He would be her staunchest supporter.
I spent an unusual amount of time imagining that I was the undiscovered daughter of a famous actor, even though I resembled my biological father physically. Fatherless children have really great imaginations.
Without the clear reassurance of worth, one can spend the rest of one's life looking for it, and often in all the wrong places. Trust me.
As a society, we accept that children with involved fathers have higher levels of self-confidence and it makes sense. When someone is there, not to criticize but to endorse, risky behaviour seems less necessary. They have better social skills, including tolerance and a facility to accept those different than themselves.
They have a better ability to groan at dad jokes, something my son seems to already be mastering.
We are all so fortunate. My son and his wife have a beautiful baby girl who will celebrate her first birthday soon. I have a son who understands how important he is to all of us, his family, but especially to his daughter.
Lin-Manuel Miranda explains fatherhood:
We'll bleed and fight for you
We'll make it right for you
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you
And you'll blow us all away