“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” – Debra Ginsberg
I find myself tearing up these days, sometimes at even the slightest provocation. A photo of my little gal can do the trick sometimes. Looking at a photo my wife took, of our jointly created little person, absorbing that face, that brilliant smile, the realization that humanity in its purest, simplest, most gloriously innocent distillation is before me now, prattling on in an unknown language, touching simple objects with great interest and taking in the world quite literally for the first time. Or I can get watery imagining all the fun we’ll have together as we both get older and the seasons of life continue to unfold. I already know that I’ll be a mess on the day she gets married. It’ll be embarrassing.
And when I hear that some poor parent out there has suffered the loss of a child, it crushes me. Now that I’m a father, the thought of losing my little girl is something that I do not want to even imagine could be possible. It is a terrifying notion that I quickly shake out of my mind. When the Newtown massacre occurred, I wept every day for three days straight. I struggled to find emotional distance from the nightmarish tragedy. I felt that those parents must be going through a hell on earth that few can imagine. And I prayed that I would be spared such things, that such unspeakable awfulness would never visit me or mine, that no act of evil or sickness or accident will ever steal away my daughter. And I pray that it never will. I pray it a lot.
Because things have changed; they are different now. I’m a father. A dad. I’ve changed demographic addresses. But far more than that, my heart, for lack of a better description, has grown mushy. Softer, more tender, more apt to injury and pain and fear. And joy. And love. And an unbelievably new awareness and wonder and consciousness about this world and this existence
I smoked cigarettes for twenty years. And drank a helluva lot too. And, honestly, I don’t know how much I cared if I went out early. I enjoyed my life for the most part. But I liked living it on my terms and I liked to smoke. And drink. And party. It was fun and I like to have fun.
I don’t smoke anymore; it’s been two years. I still drink but at a few gears lower. I love to party but the word means something else now. A party can be a small gathering of friends we know well and a glass or two of whiskey or wine, some good conversation and then we say goodnight. Then Julie and I will go watch a movie for a little while in bed if we have the energy. I go to bed earlier these days. I’m trying to eat better. Trying to take care of myself. You see, I need to be alive. And stay alive for as long as I can. I have a little person to tend to, a person to love and protect and guide and nurture. I need to be her dad. She needs a father and I want to be around to be hers.
I’ve always been someone who prays. I pray about things big and small, serious or silly, tremendous or trivial. But now, I pray often for my little gal, Ramona. Moonshine. Moon. My heart lives outside of me now. My family of three—Julie, Ramona and myself—are the point of it all for me. I worry sometimes thinking of how vulnerable I am. That if something bad was to happen to my family then I could be destroyed. But that’s what love can do, I guess. It makes you love people so much that it can do harm and cause injury. Love so much that it’s frightening. Love can make you as easily as destroy you. But it’s worth the risk, I think. No, I know it is. Anything worth having or doing or becoming is not without its risks.
And so, my heart beats for my little girl. It always beat for my Julie but it’s different with a child. She’s stolen my heart and filled me with wonder and fear and love and tears. And she lights up my life like the sun. And I thank God every day for my beautiful little Moon.