IF I WERE TO WRITE A MEMOIR ABOUT BEING A DAD, it would begin, like any creation story, with an inky darkness. Which is to say it would start at Brightstars, four doors down the hall, the moment he reminded me to teach my daughter to share and it hit me that was the first time in 23 years he’d tried reminding me of anything and neither of us had the dimmest clue how to be a father nor how to be fathered.
I’ve heard it said that those knocking at the door of brothels are unconsciously looking for God. I can’t claim to know if that’s true, but I do know that most of my life has been knocking at all kinds of doors looking for father.
I do know there was a summer where I pretended ‘Just the Two of Us’ was written & sung by God borrowing Will Smith’s voice. I do know I spent another summer burning through dozens of pages collecting all the things I knew about family history and all the nice things people had ever said about me to piece together a cohesive identity, and all the other seasons where I sat with Bible verses that whispered of God’s parenthood in hopes of finding an image I could pray to.
I do know I worshipped at the altar of any man who’d play Tecmo Bowl with me. I do know I wrote mythologies in 1st grade about father figures who’d run into a smoking World Trade Center and break 124746712535 bones in order to save dozens of women and children. I do know I took entire weekends hoping that by staring at the word ‘father’ long enough it would save me.
I remember clinging onto the men who lined up to mentor me just as well as I remember my secret wonderings if they would be my dad just as well as I remember when they weren’t just as well as I remember wondering if it was my own fault.
And I know today your atta-boy is an invisible IV rammed up so deep in my veins I couldn’t get it out if I wasn’t addicted to it. I want to know if I’m your beloved child, if you’re well pleased, if you’ll speak into the formless void that’s my identity, if you’ll make order out of my chaotic heart, if you’ll separate my light from my dark.
I’d tell you that, like my dad, I could wax about being a father but it would mostly just be smoke, mirrors, and some phrases I’d read recently from Thoreau. Truthfully I don’t know a single thing.
But if it was really a creation story, I’d need to include something about a Spirit hovering like a bird above me, anxious to make something new. But we’d already have rehearsed all the reasons it couldn’t come from the , so I’d tell you nothing
except that upon hearing the first heartbeat I had a small moment where I forgot about all the my rights to feel wounded and wanted to toss all my shitty scripts about dadhood in Lake Harriet in favor of all the dark & sleep-drunk hours where this emissary from God and I would make a new way.