I was looking at this picture of my daughter, who is now 14, and I was reminded of a moment that defined a large part of what fatherhood means to me. We were at some function or another at our Church in Mt. Vernon back when we lived in the Bronx. My daughter was little and the stairs were steep and unforgiving so I carried her down. As I started down the last flight of steps to the basement fellowship hall I lost my footing. As I fell all I could think of was my daughter. She was unharmed thanks to some unnatural maneuvering on my part. I landed at the bottom of the stairs in a heap, but holding my daughter overhead. Those nearby were frozen, stunned by my display, understandably. I politely asked that someone take my daughter from my hands for a moment so I could collect myself. Dress slacks torn, bumps, bruises and aches to come. Was something on the stairs? Shoe malfunction? Ankle give out? Misstep? I did not care. My daughter was OK. I keep that moment close by in my memory as a graphic example of my purpose. Like my father before me and those before him. While I may not have to endure actual physical harm or danger (The day I chased teenagers who shot a pellet gun through our window and recovered their weapon before handing it over to NYC’s finest or put out a fire someone started in the basement of our building are stories for another day.) sacrifices will be required of me as a father. It may be staying at a job I have no passion for to provide, like my father before me.
It may be unapologetically saying no to the call of the outside world every day so I can be home every night and provide the same present of my presence that my father provided me. It may be putting aside my love of powerful and shiny cars to own 2 minivans as we do now as of earlier this week. There will be many fall down the stair moments, virtual and real. And when I see the smile on my children’s faces over the years that beam exactly as brightly as on my daughter’s face in the picture above I know that it is all worth it.
Even when they may be upset with me because they do not understand what I am doing for them. More than worth it. Right before I met my wife my dream was to own a BMW, a 7 series to be specific but I would take a 3, and I was working towards that purchase. But when I met my wife I knew my new family, that included 2 wonderful children, was so much more important. Of ultimate importance over any ultimate driving machine. It is not about me. If meant to be I will get mine when the time is right, but it is the sacrifices made for others that matters most. Pursuing happiness from things? Lunacy. Nurturing my children to the best of my abilities? That is legacy.
Lastly as time passes the more I understand the falls my father took for me. And I love him even more. -ELW