My First Birthday as a Dad

Today, I’m older.

There is a lot more grey in my beard, and the white is advancing. I’m noticing it now in my bangs, though it mostly blends in with my blond hair. My shoulder seems to catch when I’m lifting something above my head.

I’m older.

I think I’m the hottest I’ve ever been. I can say that now, right? I’m not sure what anyone else thinks about how good looking I am, and, frankly, I’m not sure I care, which makes me feel even sexier. My husband tells me how handsome I look every day. What praise is better than that after six years together? Also, I really like my grey hair. I like how old I am. I think it looks really good on me.

I’m older.

I’ve never been much of a destination person, always journey. I care even less now about racking up achievements and so much more about what it feels like to be alive, to live day after day headed in a direction full of discovery. I heard John Paul Lederach say at the On Being Gathering something like, “I’m just not interested in taking on a project unless it takes at least ten years.” I feel more that way now than ever before, looking forward to the parts of my life that take time, lots of sumptuous, beautiful, drawn out time. My biggest goals are to feel the fullness of a life lived caring for my children, to know the kind of love made simply and only in marriage that’s lasted decades, and to work, to simply work, every day, so that at the end of my life I look back and see that I made as much matter as I could.

I’m older.

I love being a dad. Of all the things I’ve ever been, I’m not sure I’ve loved any of them more than this one – Papa. And I say, “I’m not sure,” because my mind is so completely clouded with that identity right now, so overwhelmed by the love of these days, I can barely see anything else sometimes.

She is so very little, living now her first days, and the power of her childhood has allowed me to see time so much more compressed than ever before. Suddenly, in all my interactions with her I feel the breadth of all the years behind me, and the years behind all of those family members that have come before me and will after. I have this new sense of the days my mother spent with me – when I hold my baby in my arms singing softly before bed, I imagine mother reading to me from the Teddy books, pointing at the words, washing me with stories. I imagine her mother smiling over her, running her fingers over her soft blond hair.

My baby laughs when I give her kisses under her ear, and when I do I think of my father and his mustache on my belly, blowing raspberries until I nearly rolled out of the bed with laughter.

Picking up pecans in the front yard with Granddad. Playing Jailhouse Rummy at the kitchen table with Grandmom. Looking through a telescope with Grammi. Shouts from Paw Paw of, “Come here, Sport,” when he wanted to see the crawdad we’d caught from the muddy ditch by the house. These stories race through my mind as if they were yesterday. I feel all of it in my heart now, carrying these people and their love into the nursery at night when my baby is crying and afraid in the middle of the night.

I’m older now.

I’m older, but I feel timeless, stretched out from Indiana to Lousiana to West Texas and out to the places where I’ve lived my own life, places my family had never heard the names of until I landed in them – Dum Dum Cantonment, Stepanavan, Port Meadow, Taboga.

I do feel the age of my bones more today than I did in my twenties. But on this birthday, I feel more so the expanse of all these connections I have, connections made from love and intention and goodwill and hope that have carried me to this moment, into a home with these two other souls I completely adore.

I am so proud of the work I do today – making a home, making a life. Love. That’s what I’m celebrating on my birthday – the gratitude I feel for the people who braved their boats across the ocean, settled in the midwest and in the bayou and in the desert, who loved someone long enough to make a family with babies who grew up and fell in love and made families with more babies until suddenly, decades and decades later, here I am with my love and our baby.

Grateful… I’m so grateful for the gift of the days I get to live. Here’s to as many more as this body can take.

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