Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Adventures of Father-man
On the third Sunday of June, we stop to recognize the men in our lives whom we call "Father." Of course, while every single one of us had to have some man contribute his DNA to the woman who bore us, not all of us have had the gift of a father because it takes more than genetic contribution to wear that badge of honor.
So the question is . . . What does it take?
So on this special edition of TAOF, I will cover the attributes that make one a father while recounting special moments in my life that made my journey as a father special. Using actual quotes, I will go in reverse order from the present to the past.
Unconditional Love "Papa I love you." I count myself equally spoiled and blessed to be able to hear these words literally everyday. No one is worthy of unconditional love, but everyone requires it. In order to appreciate unconditional love you receive, you have to provide it as well. I love you too Aimée, but this is not the day I became a father.
Caretaker "Papa I don't feel well." No parent wants to hear these words, but knowing your child looks to you and needs you to make her feel better gives you a sense of purpose that is like no other. Papa is here for you always, but this is not the day I became a father.
"Mr. Coleman, you'll have to take the baby now." 3 months after my daughter was born, my wife underwent a series of life-threatening surgeries that debilitated her for a couple of years. I have never heard a more horrible sound than the scream of my newborn baby being taken away from her mother after 3 months of breast feeding while they wheeled her mother into surgery. Want to know fear? Face having to calm a baby that can't be calmed. Want to know why I praise God with passion? He delivered all 3 of us.
I will pause for a praise break. Hallelujah!
Yes, we're still here and grateful to be healthy. But that was not the day I became a father.
"David, it's time!" The day Aimée was born was bananas. The OBGYN told us that we should pack our bags and that it will be anytime soon. Excited, we had the bags ready to go and were watching every hour for those famous labor pains.
A day went by.
A week went by.
3 weeks went by.
We were pretty mad at the doctors. We took walks. We ate spicy foods. We tried to put ourselves in inconvenient situations (Murphy's Law doesn't work when you want it to). Then after a night of sitting around waiting, we just went to sleep.
On a Thursday morning around 7:30 a.m. the water broke - at home! After the now famous quote above, we grabbed the bags and got into the car on our way to Beth Israel. I'll just hit the Mass Pike and . . .
RUSH HOUR. FAIL!!!!!
"David!!! I'm having this baby in the car!!!"
"No you are not!!! We did not go to those Lamaze classes and register at a first-rate Boston hospital for my child to enter this world in a Chevy Malibu!!! And honey don't beat the windows too hard. I don't want you covered in glass."
"Just shush and drive!"
We sped through I-90 into town best we could. As I pulled up to the front of the hospital everyone could hear my wife screaming from down the street, and they were ready to help. I handed the Malibu keys to an absolute stranger who said he would park it for me, got a wheelchair, and wheeled my wife into the elevator. A nurse in the elevator said "what floor?" After looking at my face and hearing my wife scream, she answered her own question. And then we got there.
45 minutes later, Aimée Fadie Coleman was here - eyes wide open and ready for day 1.
Of course, this story is about being a good husband as well as a father. But this was not the day I became a father.
"I'm pregnant." In movies and television, this moment is often satirized as being terrifying. It was the opposite for me, but my wife already knew that. I WANTED to be a father. I wanted to be a father with my wife by my side. I wanted to sacrifice my energy, time, and life if necessary so I could give back a portion of the love that was given to me. But that was not the day I became a father.
You: Well, before your wife was pregnant, how could you be a father?
The moral to this tale is that fathers are not defined simply by their experience in having or raising children. How many of you celebrate your grandfathers this day? Your uncles? Your pastors or rabbis? Your best teachers? Any man in your life who nurtured you along the way? They are all fathers in their own right because what we really celebrate this day (and Mother's Day) are nurturers. The very day I was old enough to help someone younger than myself in any way, I became a nurturer. Therefore, the day someone looked up to me for help and I provided it, THAT is the day I became a father. I may not have been THEIR father, but I played a role in the group of male nurturers in their lives. And honestly, I can't really know what day that was.
You: Just because you're a role model doesn't make you a father.
Fair assessment. However, in 2012 plenty of people have neither. So, if you have a man in your life that provided unconditional love, watched over you in sickness, helped you conquer a fear, was there to save the day, or just wanted to spend time with you, celebrate him on this day. Count your blessings.
And, if you are man who can say honestly that he had no one like this in his life, then BE that person for someone else. Reverse the cycle. Break the curse. All men should serve as nurturers to the proceeding generations - making us all part of the fatherhood. However, the statistics are depressing regarding how many men are active nurturers. Women have been the nurturers and mothers to us all for millennia. It's not only our turn to help, we're very late.
Blessings to you all this Father's/Male Nurturer's Day. Celebrate the men in your life that chose to be a part of life, not just make it.
I will take time out today to appreciate my greatest adventure - being a father to Aimée, and tomorrow continue in my secondary quest to be