As I write, there are nine minutes left in Father’s Day, which is just right, given that every father I know feels like he has so much left to do, and just a scrap of time in which to do it. I’ve had two and a half lovely days at home, and tomorrow as well before I’m back on the road. They are all asleep, my little ones, which leaves me these dark quiet hours to reflect on the ways I fall short, on this selfishness that permeates every part of me.
We like to think that it is we who benefit them, but the truth is that they benefit us, if we will let them, if we will simply lay down ourselves and die, which is alien talk to people who are not aliens in this world. But every father with ears to hear knows he must lay down and die, today and the next and the next, and pray for grace in the interstitial places, and give thanks that there is more watching over them than our weakling prayers.
They need us, to be sure, but we need them more, for where would we be without them? Somewhere happier, perhaps, and certainly more peaceful, but also more empty and shallow, and in now wise more holy. It’s only when we abandon thought of living for our own happiness that we can truly begin to father, to make that a word bearing heft.
Tomorrow I will mow and mend, and in the hot summer evening we will all go to see Caleb play a baseball game. Once I’ve tucked them in I will pack — I will pack my clothes and any tenderness away, and go once again across space to where money is but my heart is not. I will eke out another week, wondering if I will get this task of fathering right in the months to come, and if at least there is redemption in the striving.
There has to be redemption, in the striving.