Today is about checklists.
I am sitting in the padded rocking recliner at home as I write this: check.
I drove the car, my wife beside me. I don’t know why this one counts, but this list is based more on feel, I guess. My dad always drove, now I always drive. So, check.
Spent an inordinate amount of time on the toilet: check.
Overate. Check. There’s a Donatos on the way to the hospital, the first one I’ve seen in Georgia, just opened. I’ve been planning on this check for days.
Walked by the thermostat and doubled back to confirm its setting: check.
Tonight I’ll take the trash out to the curb. Future check.
Planning on mowing the lawn. I could do this tomorrow, but it feels more appropriate to do it today. Unnecessary check.
Laughed at a pun: check. I think I’m doing okay, so far, as a dad.
I’m getting a sort of out-of-body deja-vu all the time, lately. The way I talk to my kid, the way I make noises, wiggle fingers, try to entertain him, try to soothe him. I don’t remember being a baby, of course, but there are definite sensations or impressions I’m getting from myself secondhand that feel very familiar.
My dad has virtually no ego. He doesn’t need compliments or overt attention paid to him. He likes to be active, involved, useful, the opposite of a burden, and as a result of this he can very easily fly under the radar. Fortunately for me, this was the exact type of dad I needed, growing up, as I sought independence early and often, or at least the sensation of independence, which my parents both allowed me to have, whenever possible. One of my online friends lost her father a couple years ago, a person who sounds like he was the polar opposite of my dad. All ego, all burden, often drunk, often abusive when she was still living with him and small enough to be abused. They never 100% patched up their relationship, as far as I know, the emotional wounds sometimes breaking open again and yawning as if brand new. Sometimes they were on speaking terms, sometimes they weren’t, and yet she misses him, still, and I dare say with a certain fire, a passion I’ll never know, because I never had to. My dad has always and will always allow me to choose the level of attachment I feel for him. He will never piss and moan if things don’t go his way. Occasionally I feel like a bad son, because things often come up, as things do, that prevent me from treating him with the respect and consideration he deserves, even on Father’s Day or his birthday, because I know if I forget to call or write or send a card, he won’t be upset or any less proud of me.
It’s hard for me to look at the details of my life and be able to pick one out and say this, this here is something I get from my father. But the palimpsest remains. His handiwork is there, and active, if somewhat effaced and just beneath the surface. If I accidentally bump into someone, you can bet I’ll say that most midwestern of phrases, Ohp!, as I attempt to pardon myself. That’s one, that’s a thing I can point to. But the rest of it is more in the vein of soft impressions of comfort and security, begun just when I was Alex’s size, if I ever was. The way he held me to make sure I felt held, the way he responded to my anguish to make sure I felt heard.
I try to do these things for Alex. I try to make regular, recognizable noises, so that he feels a sense of familiarity, and thus family, in our interactions. When I hold him I try to make sure he feels secure enough not to fall, but free enough to move. I don’t have a lot of vocal initiative, I have trouble just freestyling speech, talking on the fly, but I want him to hear my voice and be comforted, and so I read to him. I love reading to him. I want him to know stories, to know how they work early on, down to his bones. I want to give him a sensation of the way things are supposed to go, because I want him to feel purpose, and drive, and a sense of satisfaction in a well-earned conclusion. I want him to want to find out where the story goes next.
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