Saturday, November 24, 2012

Things Gumpy would want me to know as a dad

My mom enjoyed this Thanksgiving dinner with my burgeoning little family.  It was our first official holiday with The Kid, and Gladys and I were happy Grandma Roz could join us.

Inevitably, Mom and I talked about how Gumpy would react to me becoming a father.  He was pretty funny about me aging in the first place, often remarking that he felt older on my birthday than he did on Mom's birthday.  Mom is steadfast in her belief that he would be thrilled for me, and I happen to agree.

She did amuse me, however, when she stated Gumpy was great with babies.

He is the same man that went upstairs to tuck in a newborn baby Roz, only to mistake the baby with a full head of hair for the teddy bear that was in the crib with her.  When Ema went upstairs to check on the baby, she found Baby Roz uncovered and the teddy bear tightly tucked in for the evening.  Mistaking the baby for a teddy bear was a topic of debate between my grandparents for the rest of his life.

I really don't remember anything remarkable about him and my Aunt Mary's sons when they were little either, other than I always changed diapers for him when I was around.

Still, I think he would be thrilled and he would be looking for excuses to come home to visit The Kid this winter.  Everything he did was for his family and that is where my lessons would begin.  I think he would sum his thoughts in this way:
  • That child is the most important person in your life.  
  • Do everything you can to make sure she gets a good education.
  • Do everything you can to provide for your family financially and emotionally.
  • Teach her how to laugh.
  • Don't take yourself to seriously.
  • Make sure she understands our family history and knows her extended family.
  • Don't allow her to suffer from OCD (only child disease).
  • Do what you can to protect her.
  • Don't let her become a Republican.
  • Do show her you love her.
I've been pretty calm as we progress through our adoption of The Kid, which seems counter to the way I usually operate.  I thank Gumpy for a large part of my calmness because even thought I can hear his voice tell me I will be fine, I saw him approach his daughters this way.

In case you're reading this from heaven Old Boy, I promise to not only do as you said but do as you did when raising my own daughter. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

My road map for being a good father

Gladys and I have finally found a spiritual home we are both comfortable with but we've been terrible about attending Sunday services the past few weeks.  We're in the process of adopting a little girl who has been in foster care since the day she was born and Sundays have been the most feasible for our visits the past few weeks.

When we walked into today's service, we had no idea the spiritual theme for the month of November is gratitude or that we would be honoring the people we are grateful for at a "community alter of remembrance."  The unexpected theme and exercise provided me with a few extra minutes to think about Gumpy, a welcomed time to reflect on just how much I've thought about him the past few months.

Some people brought photos or momentos to place on the alter in rememberance, for those of us who did not have anything physically with us we were willing to share, leaves were provided.  I took it as symbol of the circle of life we were celebrating, something that had lived with a great purpose and continued to serve the community in death.

I was the last to approach the alter.  I started to look at the leaves.  There were plenty of oak leaves, a few ginko leaves and one maple leaf.  I grabbed the maple leaf because it was Gumpy in that moment to me.   

As I walked back to my seat, I couldn't make eye contact with anyone because I was afraid I'd start crying.  Not that I was upset, rather I am grateful for the relationship I had with Gumpy and all the random thoughts that had been running through my mind the past few months finally made sense to me.   

Meeting our little one for the first time
I have been feeling oddly calm about becoming a father.  I do worry a little about my ability to always be a calm, loving, firm, caring guide, and protector of my daughter, but that worry has not risen to a level of grave concern.  It does not keep me up at night the way many other things do.  Instead of dreading the changes that are about wreak havoc on my life as the result of becoming a parent, I'm looking forward to all the things I can share with my daughter.

I think of Gumpy most days anyway, lately I've been thinking about him more and in the context of how he would react to becoming a great-grandfather.  And I realized walking back to my seat that it was these thoughts that were helping me stay calm.  He gave me the road map for being a good father just by being.  There are no big lectures or great speeches that I can recall him giving on fatherhood.  Instead, he worked three jobs for years to take care of his family.  He made sure we all knew we were loved.  He made sure we all had someone who would protect us, someone who would be there for us in our darkest hour.  He was a friend and confidant to us.  He was a fierce defender of us.  He was someone we could all depend on.

Will I do things differently than Gumpy?  I know I will, I am not him.  Regardless, the old boy gave me a valuable gift by showing me how to be a good father.  Actions always speak louder than words.