Sunday, December 18, 2005
I was lying in bed this morning holding my daughter, watching her smile and giggle, looking up at me with eyes filled with love and joy as I kissed her nose and forehead and bit her little cheeks. I laid her on her belly and watched her struggle to find her coordination as she attempted to crawl for the first time, making progress but still not getting the hang of it. At one point she almost fell off the bed, but I grabbed her before she could hurt herself, gathered her in my arms and kissed her little nose again, which brought her to a fresh round of giggles. Then I put her back on her belly so she could try again.
I love my daughter and she will always know that as long as I am alive to tell her. I'll always be there to catch her if she falls and kiss her little nose and put her back on her feet because that's what fathers do. That's what we expect of them. We expect a father to protect and provide for his children, to hug them,and nurture them, and let them know that they are never alone. We expect them to prevent injury when they can and relieve hardships when they are able. We don't expect them to let their children starve when they are able to feed them, to let them suffer when they are able to soothe them, to let them feel alone and unloved when we are able to hold them and love them. We expect a father to show his love through his presence, through his actions, and through his words. These are our expectations of our earthly fathers. They are lofty but infinitely attainable and not unreasonable for even the most flawed among us. Should our expectations of our father who art in heaven be less than these?
I look at my beautiful daughter's face and I wonder what it would be like for her if she only knew me through what she'd read about in a book or heard others say about me? I wonder what it would be like if she'd never heard my voice or felt my arms around her? If I'd never kissed her on the nose and made her laugh? I wonder how easy it would be for her to have faith in a father she'd never even seen? If it would be fair of me to expect her to love me or to believe that I love her? I wonder what it would be like if she sent me letters and emails and left messages on a voicemail hoping that I would hear her and reveal myself to her, that I would appear on her doorstep one day and gather her into my arms, catch her when she fell, or mend her wounds after she's fallen, not ever knowing if there was anyone on the other end listening? Not ever getting any confirmation of my presence? I wonder if she would think her mother was a liar if she was to tell my daughter that her absentee father loved and adored her? I wonder how she would feel about others who claimed to know me or to have seen me or spoken to me? I wonder how she would feel as she looked into each supposed sighting of me and found not one credible story, not one that she could verify or authenticate? As she heard one conflicting story after another? I wonder if she would begin to doubt not only my love but my entire existence? I wonder what kind of love and trust I could reasonably expect from a child for whom I'd never been anything more than a fairy tale and an occasional check in the mail, a miracle that others attributed to her father but which could have just as easily come from the IRS or a secret admirer? I wonder about the intelligence of anyone who would call such a father loving and good.
I wonder this now as I hold my daughter on my lap, listening to her snore as I type away. And I know that she will never have to go through any of that because she will never have but one father and I will never let her down.