|This picture, taken the weekend of my brother's|
wedding in September, shows the first time my
daughter read to my father. He cried proud tears.
Let me tell you about my father . . . He came from a family where his hard, overbearing Italian father didn't show much love or affection and his brothers were no kinder. He was told by his high school guidance counselor he would never make it as an educator (his dream career) and he would be lucky to make it through a trade school. He sings like an angel that smoked too much for most of their adult life (the high/long notes get a little pitchy, dawg). He worked too much when we were kids. He was always battling against something. He wasn't horribly handy with tools and repairs (he once called a professional to swap out light bulbs in flood lights on the garage). He loves his Catholic Church with all his heart. He loves my mother the best way he can and with a sense of appreciation most would never understand. He spent 30 years doing what he loved (teaching and being an administrator (I should point out)). He has friends who adore him. The respect and love of his children and the women in our lives and our children. He is a profoundly lovable guy. His sense of duty and commitment and dedication is a tad short of absurd. He drove to/from Quinnipiac in a single day (a 12 hour, round trip drive) four different times for me in the three and a half years I was on campus. My friends love him. Their families love him. He is kind. He is grumpy. He is very book smart. He has zero street smarts (literally, I would get so scared every time he came to DC). He's all these things and a million other things, too.
My father is the man that set the bar I've been chasing for the last seven and a half years (since the minute we found out we would adopt our daughter). He's NOT perfect. I would not want him to be. What he is, instead, is a work in progress. Even as he nears 66 years of age - he's growing and improving (in some ways, in others it is long, long over (smile)). I don't know how to best grab the lessons and pearls that my father gave me along the way. I know I want to emulate all the good and run from all the bad. I know I want to have a relationship with my daughter EXACTLY like the one I had with my father (I trusted him, 100%, on everything in my young life and he was never, ever not "there" (he would run in as the event was happening sometimes or be five minutes late picking me up other times and he hated sports as much as I did so Little League nights were not ideal but he was ALWAYS "there" anyway). He asked questions. He answered - and not in that "because I am your father/do as I say not as I do/you're too young to understand" way but in the "I am going to tell you things far beyond your current life experience now because to answer any other way is to fall short on what you need to hear" way.
I don't know if I'll ever be a fraction of the father my father has been to me. I would happily settle on that sweet spot where I have as many of the positives and as few of the negatives as possible and a lasting dynamic with my child where she'll never hesitate to tell me she loves me or kiss me on the mouth (even in public and as an adult). I hope that when Ava is 36, in the middle of every possible life crisis (if that is her lot) and filled with anxiety while on the drive to a family function and just flipping out I can look over, like my father did to me, and calmly tell her to "Get her sh*t together and worry about everything else tomorrow." . . . and have her calm down.
I am not a perfect dad. I'm fine with this. I learned how to be a dad by watching you and that's good enough for me.