6/16/13 Father’s Day
I’m not going to lie: We were hoping for a girl.
I’d never tell you that of you were alive. There are a lot of things I say now that I wouldn’t if you were still here.
But I’ll tell you now that is was mostly out of fear of the unknown. (Oh, and the Kardashian size wardrobe of girl’s clothes size 0-3T occupying most of the storage space in the basement). We felt like, we have a girl and we know how to take care of a girl, so lets just stick with that and hope for the best. New parents have the jitters, even second time parents, and ours shown through with this ridiculous thought. When I was pregnant with Vesta, I also wanted a girl. I imagined, since I am a girl, that the first child being the same sex as me would make me transition into parenthood easier. I would know how to relate to her, understand her experience better, and be a more successful mother. It doesn’t make and sense or any difference really. It’s the kind of thing that we tell ourselves to help prepare us for the huge, looming, frightening, and exciting prospect of becoming a parent. So that we feel like we have some control.
We began to adjust to the idea. We joked about getting “pee pee teepees” and the lifelong fart and butt jokes we’d be subject to (well, me subject, your dad a happy participant in, I’m sure). I began to imagine being a parent of a boy and thought about how I might parent you differently than a girl. What a boy needs to know in this world about being a man, dealing with the extra power society gives him for that particular roll of the dice, and if you were straight, how to teach to love and respect women in a world that encourages you otherwise.
I began to imagine the kind of relationship your dad with have with you. First, of course, was going to the ball game. I can go with him to the game, but it’s not like when he goes with his brother. Vesta can go with him, but I imagine, it’s not like when he goes with his son. There is some bonding, some intimacy, that happens for your dad with other men in the bleachers, beer in hand, yelling the most unique taunts at the outfielder I have ever heard, laughing, commentating and, with you, I imagine leaning in to teach you the ins-and-outs, the strategies employed in this situation or that, and the joy it would give him to answer your questions about the game. Thanks to your Grandma, your dad and your uncle are true gentleman: considerate, thoughtful, observant, kind, and caring. They are strong and loving and protective of those they love. I imagined the subtle ways that your dad would teach you to be all of those things. I imagined how he’d invite you and your sister into the kitchen to help him cook. He’d teach you knife techniques and how to set up your mise en place and maybe even some of the nutrition priniciples I taught him along the way. Your father loves being a father and a family man, just like his father did. He wants nothing more than to come home to his family and do the daily things with us: the outings, the activities and the big things with us: the achievements, the holidays, the celebrations. Your father, who is now a fatherless son and a sonless* father, looks at us sometimes like no man has ever loved his family this much. As if he is the first husband and parent of all time and just discovering it’s many mysterious and wonderful joys.
But son, I never could have imagined exactly what an amazing father he would have been to a living son until your service. Two days before, he handed me a thick stack of folded note paper. “This is what I’m going to read,” he said. I read through this incredible eulogy your father wrote for you, the baring of a grieving soul, the torment of a father meeting his dying son in a panic, the description of your birth stats as all that we knew of you, being in the presence of the machines and tubes and electrodes that engulfed his newborn, the grappling with the meaning and purpose of your short life and how it makes our seemingly long ones no less significant or important. I said, “You are going to read this?”. He said, “I am going to try.”
And so the candles were lit, the poems read, the words spoken and then your dad walked to the front of the room, overfull with people he has known his whole life, people he’s only just met and people he didn’t even know. In front of his high school buddies, his coworkers, his family, he spoke. He read his eloquent words between and amidst sobs, his face and his body contorted to betray the depth of his pain at your loss, as a protest of this moment and this obligation. In some ways, it was the ultimate act of fathering: to eulogize your dead son. To me it was horrific: my partner, my best friend, my true love in shreds in front of me. I looked at the face I’ve looked at everyday for 12 years and it was transformed by his grief. It was my husband up there, I could recognize him but he was different now, utterly transformed as he fathered you in the only way he could now. To me it was also beautiful: impossibly beautiful, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Having not yet adjusted to your not being with us anymore I thought, “He is going to be an amazing father to our son.” This brought me to inconsolable sobs yet again, as in that moment, I saw that your father would have taught you by example, through words and actions, exactly what you’d need in this world as a man: to be vulnerable and strong at the same time, to be both expressive and eloquent, to be scared and confident all at once. It’s a different world you were born into. A world where men must be all of these seemingly conflicted things, and yet there he was, my son’s father, demonstrating it in perfect form.
Harvey, you chose well and Vesta chose well and though I’ve always known that I chose well, I know it now in a whole new way, in a deeper place inside of me, in my every cell. He would have been a great father to grow up with. With his grace and humor, his curiosity and practicality, his intellect and vocabulary, his casualness and sureity of self, his love of simple things and simple moments, his desire to teach and be heard, his constant growth as a man, a husband and a father. He would have been a great father to you, Son, if you lived and he will be an excellent father to you still. He will protect and nurture and celebrate and father your memory.
Harvey, you brought out the very, very, very best in your dad. And as he continues to be a grieving husband to a grieving wife and a grieving father to a grieving sister, he just gets better and better. And as our grief dulls and we begin to live again, he will be never be the same, transformed for the better, the stronger, the more loving, the more compassionate, the more comfortable in his vulnerability, the more alive, the more of what it takes to be a man in this world. And it is all thanks to you, his son. Our son.
Thank you, Harv. On this Father’s Day, our first as your parents, I thank you for the opportunities that you provided and will continue to provide your dad to step into the fullness of his fatherhood for the rest of his life.
I love you, my son. I love you, Mom
*As I type, the spell check recognizes the former as a word, but not the latter. We truly don’t have the words for this type of loss.)