Posts Tagged ‘on being who you are’

Who am I?

I can’t always tell you for sure, because I keep changing.

But yesterday, I noticed that I pretty much operated as a dad.

Who am I?

I am a dad.

Yesterday, I ate lunch with one of my daughters at the Chi Thai Kitchen in San Diego. It’s near her home and a favorite eatery of hers. We both had the Red Curry with Chicken — her recommendation, and a delicious one — then we went back to her house and played with her cats and sat on the couch and confabulated twicely.

She was super-vulnerable with me — as she always is — and I was super-open with her, as I always am, listening to her carefully and respectfully, affirming her thoughts and emotions as valid. I prayed with her before we parted company, her head on my chest, much like when she was little, but different because she isn’t anymore. She is an adult, and I treat her like one. She prayed for me too.

Because we had discussed her career options, I told her, “Listen, you don’t have to be any certain thing to win my love. I love you completely and totally, and I always will. You don’t have to choose a particular career to win my approval —  like teaching at the University. You already have all of my approval. Do what you want. I love you. I will never stop loving you.” I have told my girls that all their lives.

Later that evening my daughter who I had lunch with came over to my house, and she and my other daughter and my wife and I ate dinner together, then we played Mille Bornes, a French card game, then Catch Phrase, a wild, fun guessing game. We laughed and hooted and helped each other and didn’t, as when we threw nasty cards on each other’s “Go” pile — like flat tires and speed limits — or when we helped each other guess the desired catch phrase, even across the teams.

There were some touching moments in the evening, as when one daughter helped the other daughter read the catch phrases. This was done because one can’t read. We make no big deal about this in our family, because in our family brain damage is something we live with, always have. We know we are all a bit brain damaged so it’s normal for us to help each other.

All day yesterday, I was a dad, eating with my daughters, talking with daughters, playing games with daughters. At the end of the day we all sat on the couch together and watched the end of a baseball game. We like team sports; we are a team.

Being a dad is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I love it. It’s easy for me — really it always has been. It has been one of the most natural things in my life. Being a dad is simply being there for another human being, well one that came out of you, which is kind of wonderfully weird. Really, it’s a great thing, a noble thing, a supreme thing. Having a child ennobles us. Being there for a child, any child, ennobles us — you didn’t have to have had the child for it to ennoble you. Caring for a child, any child, or any adult for that matter, is the best way I know to get free from being overly occupied with yourself, which is also easy to do, and not entirely good.

What does it mean to be a good dad?

Being a good dad is simply wanting someone else’s good and acting on that — lovingly and consistently. It is holding on tight! And it is letting go! And it is doing both these things at the same time! It is doing what needs doing and saying what needs saying when it needs saying or doing. It is praising one daughter for being accomplished, another for being loving and fun. It is eating lunch with one, going to a ballgame with another. It is doing something that is needed — with no strings attached.

I was a dad yesterday, and again today.

Of all the things I have been, this is me at my best.

I had coffee with my friend Dennis today.

His life is good, and sometimes a bit tough, as life is apt to be. Dennis recently retired from a long, very successful music teaching career. He has a long successful marriage, he has a beautiful, successful, loving daughter, he has a wonderful grandson. Dennis told me that he has no bucket list. He has done so much, lived so fully. He’s good to go!

But Dennis is coping with NF2, and he is losing his hearing, slowly, which is hard for a musician, and he is enjoying life on the terms that it comes to him now — somewhat limited — the best he can.

Dennis told me today, “I’m working on being grateful.” I’m impressed!

He is also considering designing an online class on using iPads in music education.

I like that too.

There are so many ways of responding to life, of getting along with what we don’t want to get along with, of ciphering life, of doing the math, the pluses and minuses of career and health and success and family.

People are resilient! I see that all the time. And they are smart and creative and brave and wise and full of the kind of imagination that thrives in difficulty!

Thinking of this, I wrote a fable about a man, who didn’t have a family, so he made one up! I love this man!

…………

Once there was a man named Santino who didn’t have a family — so he made one up.

“Maya”, he said to his wife, “would you mind getting me a piece of the cake you made today?”

“Certainly,” she replied. He got up and got himself some cake.

“Yosef,” he said to his son, let me see your homework. Ah, you are doing a paper on the sociology of interracial intimacy. One thought is that you focus on the varying interpretations of father craft within these families.”

He pulled out his tablet and looked up several websites on the sociology of fatherhood within the bourgeois family.

“Interesting,” he said to himself, “the pervasive maternal dominance when it come to parenting.”

“Lilit,” he said to his daughter, “If you and your sister Saki would like, I will take you out this evening to get ice cream.”

That evening he went out and got himself an ice cream. He sat alone eating it.

“Saki,” he said to his youngest daughter, looking up from his ice cream. “How are you doing with that boy at school, the one who told you he liked you.”

He sat quietly for a moment. Another family sat quietly nearby.

“Well,” he said gently, “this can be quite sensitive. I wouldn’t say that to him, but it would be best to be honest. You don’t want to lead him on, give him false hope. That isn’t kind. It’s important in life to be honest, but not too honest, if you know what I mean?”

Santino looked up. The nearby family — a father, mother son and two daughters — were all staring at him.

He looked at them, and catching the father’s eye, said in a clear voice. “The fathering, it just never seems to end, does it?”

The other father, not knowing what to say, looked down.

Santino, looking around the room, smiled, and said to himself, “I just love being a father.”

……

I love Santino!

He was a father, a natural father, a good father, one capable of the acceptance of great diversity — an international father — a real father who didn’t get a chance to be a father — and there is a sadness in that for me — and yet he was indeed a father beyond ordinary fathers.

Santino was a great father to his imaginary international family!

I wonder about Santino and so many others like him. Why didn’t he get the opportunity to live out his identity? I don’t know. I made him up, and still I don’t know.

It happens all the time, the Santinos, living with their dreams deferred, their desires unfulfilled. And yet, like my friend Dennis, so many of the semi-blessed, partially blessed, and even the unblessed are doing very well. They, like Santino, are very grateful, on some very deep unfulfilled level, for who they are.

I wonder. I wonder what do we do when we don’t get to do all that we might have done, when illness, disability or circumstance don’t allow it?

This is hard, and yet, we I can see through Dennis and Santino, that we may yet thrive!

If we are grateful for what we have been given, even more profoundly, if we are grateful or who we are, and can image that, affirm that, act that out in any way possible, even when the rest of the world doesn’t see or know that, even when that doesn’t look like what we once hoped it would look like, then we are indeed blessed.

By the way, if you enjoyed the fable of Santino, you can find more of my fabulistic literature at http://www.antifables.com