It’s hard, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life. I hear glimpses of the toll it’s taking on you — the deep sigh you breathe when our son calls out for attention just as we have curled up in bed. The slight smirk you give when he and I stand in the window and wave goodbye to you every single weekday morning. I know that smirk. It means your heart is somehow breaking and healing at the same time. I hear it in your apologies for forgetting to put an extra snack in the diaper bag so that he would survive the car ride peacefully. Or maybe it’s so I can survive the car ride peacefully. I forgot which one since I was too busy convincing myself I was not going to survive the car ride with a snackless baby.
It’s hard, isn’t it? To wake up a father, without a father, on Father’s Day. Hell, it’s hard to wake up a father, without a father, on Monday. Or Thursday. I see glimpses of the toll it’s taking on you — the pause it brings when our son kisses the framed picture of you and your parents. Each time you muster up the words “that’s my dad, your Grandpa Jim” and you leave it at that. And I stand back watching your heart break and heal at the same time. Grief is never without complication. And yet you seem to hold it — the grief, the complication — so seamlessly. As if, maybe, life and grief have always coexisted for you.
It’s hard, isn’t it? To wake up next to a woman who you once knew so fully, so wholly and watch her deteriorate and rebuild herself over and over and over again as she learns how to be a mother. And a wife. And a woman. I wonder if she felt as much a stranger to you as she did to me. I feel the toll it’s taking on you — the helplessness you feel as her body and mind break open to bring new life to your family. I feel the burden you carry as you desperately try to do more in attempts to match her sacrifice.
It’s hard, isn’t it? How we live in a world of competition and comparison and yet, sacrifice and suffering and joy cannot be compared. Nor can they be separated.
It is good, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life. I hear glimpses of the unhinged bliss you hold — the laughing till we cry as we watch and re-watch videos of our son trying to swing his little golf club and hit the ball. The mutterings of ‘god he is so cute’ as we pull our mattress into his room for the night so we can be closer to him. I sometimes think you are actually telling God how cute our child is, since we have both agreed that we aren’t so sure about what God does and doesn’t know these days. I hear your bliss in his laughter. And somehow in his tears, too. You have always been a safe place for tears.
It is good, isn’t it? To not have known a safe place and yet to have somehow created one for yourself. And for your son. To wake up a father, to a son. To show up a father, to a son. Again and again and again. I see glimpses of the joy it gives you when he mumbles ‘Dada’, as if he is knighting you as a good man. It’s as if you knew you always had a father in you even if you didn’t have a father fathering you. I see the redemption unfold in games of chase, running through sprinklers, and unwavering calmness in the face of a meltdown (mine or the 15 month olds).
It is good, isn’t it? To partner with your best friend and watch new parts of her unfold as she becomes a mother, even if the new parts are slightly more rageful than you would prefer. I think you’ve always known she had a fire inside. I feel the deep love you carry in the way you still carry me — whether it’s to bed or through depression. And now, I feel the deep love you carry in the way you’ve come to let me go — to give me space to be alone, write, rest, or drive to the ocean. Carrying is never without letting go. And yet you seem to live in their tension so seamlessly. As if life, maybe, has always been about holding on and letting go for you.
It is hard, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life.
It is good, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life.
I fear that it will always be both.
I also fear that we might be made for both.
But I am grateful to do both — the hard and the good; the parenting, partnering, life — with you.
And our son? He might not be able to talk much, but you can see it, feel it, hear it in his entire being — he is grateful, too.