Dear Chris: A Letter On Your First Father’s Day

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Dear Chris

I didn’t have much of a daddy. I had a biological one until the age of fourteen at which point I chose to discontinue visitation. He did a few nice things for me in between a great many ugly things. He was married four times that I know of and had children with all of them and was a pastor of a Congregational church in NH. He impacted a lot of kids with a charisma behind which lurked toxic acts
trembling in the shadow. I had a step father for 15 years who legally adopted me. He knew so much about world history that he drew extensive time lines on paper and tacked them to his basement office ceiling and he tutored me in math and talked on his ham radio in the diesel truck, call sign k1box. There were some good moments but overall it was a tense dynamic; he and my mother fighting perennially. He was eccentric and brilliant and socially awkward, staying inside most of the time wearing down vests and mismatched clothes, never exercising. He never drank alcohol but drank a lot of Pepsi and didn’t know how to cook or do laundry or any other domestic duties so my mother who worked and was in school had to also do all of the cooking and my sister and I picked up where she could not, cleaning, ironing, folding- our friends would come over on weekends and balk at our chore list. Ours was always a slightly awkward relationship while it lasted, supportive at times but hinging on divisiveness; he and I pitted against my mother. He couldn’t handle emotion well. I never saw him cry. He looked blankly at me when I cried. When I was 30 years old we had a falling out over the care of my younger brother, his son. Josh had been gravely ill and needed testing and follow up care after he recovered and warren wasn’t helping enough I thought.  After he and my mother bitterly divorced while I was in college, he moved to North Carolina. We never spoke again. My mother married again when I was in college. But now I was an adult and the chance for a father passed. I didn’t see impressive modeling of fatherhood nor did I experience the benefits of of it in a way that was consistent and lasting. There were fatherly moments but I don’t have one now and from time to time I mourn this fact.

I never told you this Chris, but I felt a calling to help you achieve fatherhood. I had a vision of you loving it and being good at it so for the first 5 years we were together when you clammed up and shut down at the mention of kids, I held onto a thread of hope you’d change your mind. I got scared we we’re running out of time two Aprils ago in VT for my 40th birthday, the day I cried in bed for half the day at what I imagined to be the closing window of my fertility. that was the day we were staying in our friends little vacation cottage one room school house and the land line rang and it was the sister in law up the street who needed emergency help birthing what she thought might be triplets from one of her ewes. She’d been up all night and had 11 new lambs from the past week. I dried my tears and grabbed my camera and you got there first and were in the pen with towels ready. Ewe moaned. She walked and swayed and mucousy blood leaked from her and I stayed quiet and took pictures as you and Lynn pulled a black and white lamb from her, steam pouring off it’s glistening body on the hay on that cold April day. You wiped her down and gave it a colostrum syringe and cut the cord and I watched you get teary and humbled at the power of new life. We named her Erin since it was my birthday too. Then ewe had another, an all white lamb.

Now you rock our 11 day old baby Otis and sing straight out of Compton lullaby style. You make up songs and I’ve never heard you sing before, not like this. Today you held him while I napped alone for two hours because I’m having a hard time keeping him asleep even in a cosleeper so I’ve been sleeping with one eye open and getting really worn out. You make me laugh even when I’m crying. You feed me so I can feed him. He and I are learning the ropes of breast feeding and I’m turning into a haggard wreck but I’m still in love with the most concentrated knee-buckling love I’ve ever felt. You are the most patient, kind person in my life and I always want your company. You’re my very best friend. You calm me. We have just weathered- all in two months time- applying for a mortgage, buying a home, moving and having a baby nine days early so there wasn’t the rest I expected. We’ve bickered. We’ve been tested and stretched and taxed and worn and we’ve laughed our way out of dark spots, surviving on the foundation of the miracle of our connection.

You’ll model for our son good strong functional support of his mother and this I believe, is a rare precious commodity. You’ll show him how to apologize and laugh to mend a rift in short time. You’ll show him how to be warm and funny and disarming which is why and how you have so many great friendships. You’ll show him how to be well mannered and gracious on the phone and how to negotiate and advocate and how to shop for good real food and how to catch fish and how to cook. You’ll be silly because that’s how we are in this family with all the different voices and accents and characters we do and you’ll show him how to work hard and stay focused but also how to relax and stop, a quality his mama doesn’t have so much. You’ll say it’s all gonna be ok. You’ll have his back. You’ll be the best dad a boy could have.

While I labored at home on all fours you ran around and prepared for the hospital in our chaotic just-moved-into-house and at the hospital you kept telling me I could do it and was doing great and held your own as a strong calm presence and someone to lean on in standing squats while I pushed for hours and afterwards you told me my strength and focus and determination in natural childbirth inspired you. Thank you for that.

You’re always going to be there for your son, with humor and a level head, with nurturing and awareness. You’ll expose him to music and film and books and the ocean and we’ll grow our little family from shoots into a strong plant.

You’re taking care of us right now while we nurse, you’re fixing up the house and walking the dog and mowing the lawn and doing all that you can to make our new home good.

I’m proud to call you my baby’s dad.   I’m proud of you in general. Happy Father’s Day Chris.

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This entry was published on June 15, 2014 at 9:52 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

7 thoughts on “Dear Chris: A Letter On Your First Father’s Day

  1. How deeply moving in all your vulnerability and authenticity, Erin.

  2. WOW! I am emotionally overwhelmed and so very happy that you , Chris and Otis have found each other! So often we neglect to offer the praise and too often focus on the minutiae and am ecstatic that you see the wonders in these people.

  3. Barbara B on said:

    Happy Father’s Day…
    Barbara B.

  4. Karin Van den Bergh on said:

    Deeply touched by this sharing Erin. So sensitive, intimate authentic and pure from the heart. Beautiful. You’re gonna be a great family and you’ll be building such wonderful memories. Of that I’m sure. So much love to all three ❤

  5. Elaine Sisler on said:

    What a testament of true love and understanding. Abundant blessings to all
    new dads!

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