Double Digits

Long ago–like, maybe yesterday–I began the greatest journey of my life, so far: being a full-on, all-in dad.

I make these qualifications because I was a dad at a young age, too. Far too young, and I am so grateful to have muddled through that very unconventional and turbulent ride without a damned clue and yet managing to stumble into Love and Kinship (in the spiritual sense) with my wonderful eldest, Lauren. 38 years ago I was a young man without any real concept of how to be a dad. Not too surprising for a 19 year old, maybe. I got lucky, so lucky, and that baby, with the help of so many, and a drive like no other, grew into a wonderful and caring human. Because of me? Not really. Maybe a little. In spite of me? Maybe a lot.

Sept. 2011: As happy as a human can be…

Ten years ago, I got another chance. A chance to be the kind of dad that I didn’t know how to be–couldn’t imagine how to be–38 years ago.

Did I mention I’m grateful? Because that doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve lived a very fortunate life, but the last ten years? The best. Not too long before Libby Lee was born, I was having chest pains. Minor but worrisome. I privately consulted some nurse friends (who I trusted and implored to not send me straight to the ER), and I’ll never forget what one of them told me: “It’s just your heart growing to make room for all the love it will soon need to hold.” (I wish I could remember who. I feel like it was Leah, Diane or Anne)

My god, those words.

In the 10 years since, I have never loved so much–didn’t know I was capable of it. Of course I was, though. Because fortunately, for countless newborns, special chemicals light up in our bodies to turn lots of self-centered idiots into good dads (and moms, of course, but women are generally less idiots than men).

The greatest of Mama’s with “the little shoogie.”

Which brings me to this thing, this person, this baby who’s now ten years old. Did the hospital really let us take her home?

I remember about 11 years ago, Jake Gibbs and I found ourselves standing on a Chevy Chase neighborhood sidewalk, talking about kids. And Jake, father of two, said of parenting: “If you have any interest, I really recommend it.” Such an off-handed and seemingly dispassionate way of talking about fatherhood. And it spoke to me. So much so that I’d just echo those words–especially to later-in-life prospective parents.

Because it will change so much for you. IN you. Your heart will grow bigger. It has to because there is so much love you’ll need to make room for.

Ten years. The best 10 years of my life. These are the good old days.

And they continue to be.

Libby Lee, Owensboro, July 2021

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