the love of a father

"on behalf of every man looking out for every girl
you are the god and the weight of her world
so fathers be good to your daughters
daughters will love like you do"

john mayer - 'daughter' lyrics

i have a friend [or two] with whom i share the silent bond of growing up fatherless. it isn’t something we discuss at great length. issues of abandonment – like everything else – simply become an unspoken part of who we are. a part of our identity that – in adulthood – doesn’t necessitate verbal elaboration. (well, not outside of therapy, anyway.) that said, there are times when discussing eerily similar aspects of our personal lives, I have to pause and blurt out (in my best Johnny Olson impression): “[Insert Name]! C’mon down! You’re the next contestant on…. 'Our Daddies Didn’t Love Us'!” And just like that, any repressed pangs of abandonment are washed away by our tears of hysterical laughter.

the last time this happened, once the laughter subsided, i started thinking more about that common thread among us and the similar ways in which it has weaved itself into and through our lives. i thought about my own daughter, who i watch in awe with her daddy – knowing her love for him is something that i am incapable of ever truly understanding. i study them – not with a self-pitying remorse – but observational intrigue. parenting is a strangely vicarious path, paved with familiar milestones. one generation removed, we relive and revisit most with joy, others with bittersweet sadness. but this – my little girl and her daddy – this is unfamiliar territory for me. unchartered waters. a lifetime of witnessing from afar, i now live in the midst of a little girl basking in her father’s love. i am merely an observer – looking in. i can only feel the warm glow. i can see everything that is on the surface, but know nothing of what runs so deeply beneath.

i am not equipped to theorize about what a father’s love is exactly or what it evokes in the heart of a daughter. i can only speculate about what her little heart and mind are taking in… and i am desperately trying to learn along with her the lessons of life and of love that run so deeply between a father and a daughter: learning to accept love. learning to give love. learning to love without fear. learning to trust. learning to rest in the peaceful security of embrace.

what is already a part of intrinsic emotional aptitude for my daughter, remains – for me – an area grave debilitation - and inevitably, devastation. without a father – or father figure - my sole model of giving and receiving love [with a man] were consequently derived from my own personal montage of familial television and movie clips, pieced together with Norman Rockwell paintings. as a result, my relationships with men have been extraordinarily messy, even – if not especially – with my heavenly father, who’s unconditional love i repeatedly rebel against.

i blindly felt my way into adulthood - and into marriage - with my mind, but not my heart. i knew from years of afar studying everything about what it was supposed to look like, what i wanted it to look like, but knew nothing of how it felt… or how to feel it. grasping and groping in darkness... stumbling and invariably, falling. hard.

i live with the constant fear and anxiety that i will somehow end up – ultimately – as a failure to my children. i pray – often – that the Lord will supernaturally instill a hedge of protection, guarding them from the “I’s” in my life: inadequacies; inconsistencies; indecisiveness. And i’m constantly reminded that it is our love for them and our time with them that matters most. since i’m home on fridays, we call them “fun fridays”. (i’m always scheming up something for us to go and do and see. i still let them choose, but i always have options for them.) recently, chloe asked, “mommy, can we just stay home all day today?”. of course we can. i hug her tight. i see so much of myself in her – “only better”, i think to myself, "less damaged". and when she’s giving her “squeezy, kissy” daddy one of her signature “squeezy, kissy” hugs, i silently thank God she’ll never have to hear, “Chloe! C’mon Down!….”


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