"In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art."
Today I got to be a Dad. Yes, technically ever since that snowy gray day in Goshen, Indiana over 22 years ago when we found out that Katie was on her way into the world, I have been legitimately a member of the fraternity, but today was far more than biology. Today, we moved Zach into his dorm to launch his university career and, with this move came a haunting of the ghost of me in years past.
I remember sitting in the Purl St. house in Goshen with a few friends right after Katie was home from the hospital. John and Mark were standing with me looking down into the rocking cradle that my Dad had made for me (now sitting in our basement among other memories). Laying in a pillowy mass of blankets and fluffy things was a beautiful baby girl.
“What are you thinking when you look at her?” either John or Mark asked.
“You know,” I responded, “the truth is that I hope to see her get to college age having a foundation of confidence and with the certainty that she is loved. If that happens, I will be the proudest, most grateful man I could imagine.”
I don’t know which one of them asked me the question and, in truth, it doesn’t matter. Because what does matter is that today I got to see the other end of aspiration and got a rare opportunity to look back across 22 years to a me then. I had more hair on my head. I couldn’t stand without braces and canes from my many surgeries. I was embarking on a life that bore no resemblance to what I had expected just a few short years earlier. Whatever was left of a fantasy of ‘ideal life’ was either dead or comatose. I would learn to walk with my children – literally and figuratively.
And what an awesome journey! In Katie I got to see the power and the sorrow of a person gifted with a quick mind, deep perception, refined intuition and walked into life with her as we both learned how to be ‘different’ in communities and cultural contexts which regress masses to a mean. In Zach I got to learn the strength of compassion – compassion for everything: animals, nature, people. Through their eyes and in their words I was given a constant path to see my insights, words and actions reflected in admonishing brilliance. Zach taught me to look beyond my conscious perception to ‘see’ what wants to be seen. Katie taught me to embrace influence without striving to manipulate.
Wealth and the metrics we use to assess it are illusive vapors. Depending on context – defined by time, geography or external factors – they may be as fickle as a light summer breeze. Moving into his dorm room (complete with his signature rumpled bed sheets; his abundance of t-shirts, his immediate embrace to jump confidently into his nervous, illusive unknown next) Zach gave me a gift of perspective. Across two decades, I got to visit me. And beyond just a nostalgic reflection, I got to tell younger me that I got it right. Having two amazing kids successfully embark into life with a foundation of confidence and the certainty of love did, indeed, live up to its billing. I am a proud Dad and a grateful man. And when I arrive in Papua New Guinea in two days and embrace Katie, the arms around her are those not just of a Dad and man, but of a person, who in deep reverence and appreciation, acknowledges that as teachers and masters, my kids have refined my path. Thank you.