On time, heartache and the long walk ahead

Ruby

As your father I am going to watch as your go through some pretty terrible and hard things. I am going to ache for you and cry for you. Not only that if you let me I’ll do it with you. But I do believe no young woman wants her Daddy sitting at the end of the bed crying out a broken heart with them. But I swear on all things blessed and good. I’ll set myself right there beside you, right through the night until and on into dawn, if you need me to. I’ll wait out any darkness and be as solid as a mountain in any storm.

Though I think much of your growing and strengthening will come from you finding your way, much as I did. But you know baby I pray every day that you find it in a kinder way. The world was hard for me. It tore pieces out of me I’ll never find again. But maybe like some lovely glass it may temper and shape you into something wonderful, full of light and grace.

Here’s the thing, I don’t know that a person really ever becomes whole and knows the truth depth of their being until they’ve had their heart-broken and their ass kicked a bit. I don’t think the secret knowledge all humans have inside but few really see, gets known until you’ve walked in darkness and the only light you have is a flickering dim flame buried somewhere deep in your soul. Threatening to extinguish ad turn to ash. Until that terrifying and disorienting moment when your heart cries out “I WILL NOT FALL!” and a flame of life and wisdom and understanding lights you and drives you. Aching and sad, broken and beaten. Still it pushes you. Till you find that cool rest, that green valley where you lay soft in the grass and heal your wounds and contemplate the journey. And meditate on the truth, you have not won. You have survived. And somehow that is more. It has gained you far more than any win or victory. Because the victorious often walk off the field filled with pride and a sense of immortality. But in surviving you know the frailty of living and the gift of life.

Boy don’t that all sound poetic.

Truth is my dear. I didn’t get this perspective in a calm rational manner. I have dragged myself and dug through the deepest pits and worst pain. I mean I have crawled across rooms on my knees begging gods, trinkets and idols to ease my hurt. I have screamed curses at the moon and swore to the earth I’d burn it down just for some relief. And that was when relief never came. Instead I burned hotter, I ached harder and cried a thousand more tears.

You will grow and maybe see me as a somewhat sad, quiet and grumpy man. I’ll be soft for you always and love you always and you will always know. But I am stoic now. And what you may see as solid and still well the truth is that it will be resignation. That the world, God and the ways of the heart are greater than any one soul.

It’s a long trip my baby. A long walk between that first breath and the last.  No matter how you go. And I can’t lie to you and tell you it’s going to be easy. Or that it will be wonderful…not always. It may not even feel worth the effort sometimes. But if you move forward, just an inch a day sometimes. Just one breath, breathe in, breathe out. There will always be something wondrous for you. You’re my girl, my blood, my soul, we are the same thing. And I see the joy and wonder when you look at the sky and the taking in of the silent mystery. We’re special. We’re rare. I know it is tougher for us. That’s why I stay so close. Because you need me there, to give you my hand when no one else knows you need to be pulled through. That’s my job. To see what no one else does and get you through.

And on the heartache thing. If I lay a couple fellas low when they show up at the door. Just understand….I’m a tough old dog. And it’s always my yard. I know a sniffin’ hound when I see it.

You’re beautiful my girl. More beautiful than I could have made you if I assembled your parts myself. And that beauty will grow and bloom. It will be breath-taking to behold.

And I am going to have to figure out how to not pull all my hair out trying to keep it safe.

I am always your Daddy after all.

With Love

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On Love

Ruby

Now I figure it’s as good a time as any to write about love. Though it’s daunting and confusing. And at best it’s a fine case of the blind leading the blind. I figure as I turn the corner to 40 years I know a little bit more about love than I did at 16. And a good deal of that knowledge is tinted with heartache and sadness.

You know I’ve been lucky. I’ve been loved. By a great many people. In a great many ways. Sometimes I forget that and I get lonesome and selfish. But the truth is there are people in the world who never get to know the grace of falling asleep with someone beside you who loves you and wants to know you. Someone who looks at me like I am good and right. And I have been loved without question by family and friends. People I would sometimes push to their limits. And sometimes past. I’ve been one tough son of a bitch to love. I know this. It’s hard to watch someone you love trying to kill themselves. And it’s harder still to have your love spit back in your face. And I did my fair share of that. Often I pray that some kind of grace touches the heart of those I hurt. That they don’t carry my weight too heavy on their spirits. That somehow they know I am sorry. Even if I cannot tell them because of time, space and losses.

But some of them people are pieces of the happiest memories I have. The warmth of being young and surrounded by people who wanted nothing but to have you alive and well and there with them. To just be embraced. Christmas mornings. Happy wild nights. And everything between.

And then there is your love. And I want so badly to be able to write something deep and meaningful. But the truth is that I’ve never found the words to describe it. Except to say it’s the love I am most unworthy of but the love I value the most. And the best feeling I ever have known is when you just up and come to me with a hug or a kiss, just because you want to. Not because I did anything to deserve it or asked for it or you felt obliged to. Just because. And in a long life of love and hurt too. In those little moments. You’re the greatest blessing I know. And you’re proof that there is forgiveness, redemption and the grace of God the world. Yet it always leaves me sort of awed that you love me. That I could be so lucky. Sometimes I think I know what it’s like to hear your numbers read when you’re holding a million dollar ticket.

As a man who is teetering and tipping back and forth at faith. I got to tell you. I believe that God loves me too. But I don’t know what that means. Or how it plays out. I see his love in your eyes and in little fingers. Maybe sometimes I see it too in the voice of a lover. I may even see it in the blessings I have received. But me and God have had a long history of standing at odds. Mostly on my part. But I’m getting there and I cannot dismiss it. Because truth is, I wouldn’t be here right now were it not for something divine and the intercession of a loving God. And listen even if I am wrong about it all. Is it really wrong to include one more love in your life? So always keep your heart open there. Theology be damned. It’s just about saying God is God and it ain’t me. And he loves me regardless.

Now as you can see…I don’t know nothing about love. And anything I tell you is stuff  I’m learning as I go. Sort of on the fly. But there is one absolute. My love for you. It has no end. There is nothing, not one single thing you can do or reason you can give me to not love you. To turn from you. NOT ONE THING. There may be things that make me sad or hurt to watch. But I will never turn myself from you. Always know that okay baby. There is that rock and nothing can break it. The very first words I said to you were “Hello baby, I love you. Daddy loves you.” And that will always be. But do your old man a favor. Don’t test this old heart too much. Like maybe skip the teenage rebellion and the boyfriend who needs to pull up his pants. And just go to the young woman who loves her gruff and curmudgeonly old man even when he mumbles and doesn’t smile enough.

Boy if this thing is going to be cohesive I am going to have to start writing pieces that make some sense. In a literary sense anyway.

Maybe next time I do a piece on car repair and breakfast recipes.

With love

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A Beginning

Ruby
I have written you letters and notes since before you were born and were still in your mother’s tummy. I bet she has a few saved, she’s good like that. They’ll be the ones with tear stains on them. I hope at some point you get to read them.

Those were the words of a scared little guy. All through the pregnancy I would get up in the middle of the night and sit in the living room in the dark. I’d stare at the floor and shake. Sometimes I’d fill with hope and love and joy, other times I’d cry, mumble and worry.

Back then I had no idea what would come. For you at least. I knew certain things for myself. In my life I learned to see the signs. In fact we didn’t even know if you were a boy or a girl. You were a busy little bump and whenever we looked with the ultrasound you’d turn away, probably snickered too. So if you were a boy you’d have been called Henry (Hank for short) and as a girl for a bit there you were to be Veronica (Ronnie for short). Then one day I was listening to an old favorite record of mine by a guy called Buck Owens and a song came on called Ruby (Honey Are You Mad At Your Man) and I thought ‘Ruby…Ruby….Ruby Mae!’. The Mae is a family name on both sides of your family.

And so there you were, August 5th, 2007 you were born. I was 36 and never expected at that age to become a father. And I was so scared. So very scared. As your mother was delivering you I was frozen for a moment. I had glanced at my hands. And they seemed so small, so weak, so callow. I bit hard on my cheek and thought ‘I’m too much a kid to be a dad. I don’t know what I’m doing, I am just fooling everyone by pretending’. But it was not a time to turn back. And you came to us. I cut the cord, I held you first and you were my girl. And that’s it. There’s no deep explanation or secret. I was your daddy and no matter how far and how long we go. It just was. No epiphany or bright light. Just a delivery room, your mother and a life. Your life.

Now it’s coming up on 4 years. It’s been a hell of a run for you and me. We’ve done lots of learning. And growing. Maybe I don’t feel as small as I used to. I don’t feel very big most days. But not so small. I’m growing into the job of daddy. I can’t read books on it. They all seem to be written for guys with middle-class sensibilities and a closet full of  Old Navy and Gap clothes. Guys who drive nice safe cars and plan things down to the dollar. Me I’m still out there, still a little wild and rough around the edges. Quickly I learned my Daddydom would be one of trial and error and feeling for the switches in the dark. A whole lot of guess-work and revelation.

I made some big mistakes, I made some big success’ and I just sort of fumbled through with a bit of help from some good people. I am not perfect and if anyone ever came to me for parenting advice I think at this point I’d only tell them they’re on their own and to do what feels right. The only real thing I can give as a father is forgiving myself for my mistakes. Everything else, it’s guesses and flying machines held together with wire, twine and rubber bands.
So that’s what this will be. Guess work I want to share. Things I want to tell and things I want you to know and learn about. They say this internet thing isn’t just a passing fad. So I’ll wage dollars to donuts this will be around maybe even after me. Maybe you can look at what is I have set out to do here and remember.

I was just a kid the day they handed you to me. And as you have grown, well I have too. And maybe by the time you can understand all this. I’ll be a man. Even if all I ever want to be is Daddy.

With love.

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