What does it mean to be a father? It means lying on a beach at night on a lake in Maine staring at the July sky resplendent with a thousand stars and knowing that there aren’t enough stars in this universe to add up the love you have for your children. But those stars shine back at you stories of your failures. The times you didn’t pay attention. The time you couldn’t be bothered with story time because the world series was on. The time you actually pulled the jeep over to the side of Gaskins road at rush hour so you could give undivided attention to screaming at your screaming two year old girl who had hurt you by not wanting to leave the sitter. Your failures were epic and they haunt you forever.
The stars shine back your triumphs too. The valentine’s day breakfasts with your little girl. Twenty two years of them. That 11 hour drive through a snow storm so you could call her from the parking lot of her dorm on valentine’s morning to tell her how much you miss not being able to have breakfast with her for the first time since she was three. Then telling her that if she could get dressed real quick you might be able to work something out. For that day you made her a princess and for that day she knew that she was the most valuable daughter on campus. So, you had your moments.
“…Goodnight Moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon..”
I used to read that book to my children. They would crowd onto the couch in their long t-shirts smelling of soap and lotion as I would read about the cow jumping over the room. I think of that book now because there is also a moon in the sky this night in Maine. Its where my children live now. It’s a whole other place from where I live. There is a vast chasm between them and me because they have grown up. Their orbits are different from mine now. They have gone onward and upward as it should be. And I am still here on the ground staring at the sky. And tonight my son strides onto a stage in a packed hall for an hour of music that thrills and captivates. Before the last song he speaks into a microphone about how any success he has had is a result of gifts given to him by God . How could he not offer them back to him? Then he and his friends perform an original arrangement of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. All of the parents in the crowd begin to weep. All of them. I take it all in astonished at what he has become and thankful that I lived to see it. That’s what it means to be a father.