Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad Material

When I first saw Kevin, with his long straight hair, his ripped jeans and his tan poncho, I did not think there goes “dad material.”  Nor did I when I first heard him speak in class, brilliant and confident with a memory so keen, he never had to take notes and a tongue so sharp it cut holes in even the strongest of arguments. 

I just wanted to get me some of that. 

I can remember sitting with another student, telling her, I was pretty sure he liked me.  That I would make him mine.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  (Of course, she thought he liked her.  She thought everyone liked her.)

But what she didn’t know was that we had already started a relationship on the sly, talking on the phone each night, until I could no longer hold my eyes open.  Sometimes I even fell asleep, with the phone still in my hand.  And though he told me that he couldn’t picture himself ever getting married.

I knew better. 

It was Kevin who wanted me to move closer to him, not with him, but closer to where he lived and we both went to school.  So I did.  A few years later, he warmed to the idea of us moving in together.  We rented the second floor of a sky-blue Victorian with windows like portholes and a glorious back porch perched in the trees.  We called it the boathouse in the sky.  Four years in, I pressed my grandmother’s ring into his palm and told him he could give it to me any time he felt ready.

Subtle, I know.   But by that time, he had changed his thinking.  We could picture it, spending our lives together.  Oh, there were details to work through—where we would live (his state or mine), when we would have kids (before or at 40)—stuff like that.  But we agreed about the fundamental things, and there was still no one I would rather talk to for hours and hours.  He was my closest, dearest friend. 

I had small reservations.  When he refused to share my love of reading children’s books or singing camp songs at the top of our lungs, I was mildly concerned that he didn’t feel the way I did about children.  I was afraid he lived too much in his mind.   That, perhaps, childish things were too childish for him. 

We got married on a hilltop, surrounded by circles of people we loved.  An impending storm threatened the ceremony.   No rain, but lightening and thunder.  Someone joked that the Gods had stood up and taken notice.  I cried through my vows.  In pictures, I look like I am in pain.  We sealed the ceremony with a kiss under umbrellas and then rushed down the hill to the refuge of a billowy white tent. 

Flash forward three years later when, to my great joy, I am with child.  Kevin was interested and attentive throughout my pregnancy, but stopped short of reading to my belly, or pressing his lips to my swollen body whispering sweet somethings to the infant within.  Things I wanted did not resonate for him.  I wondered what kind of a father he would be. 

Now I know.  Kevin is the kind of father who allows his daughter to dress him like a baby and feed him with a bottle, plays endless hours of Wesley to her Princess Buttercup, and can patiently retell her the entire Star Wars Trilogy on a 16 hour trip out to Illinois.  He is the kind of father who has read every single children’s book on her shelf to her, too many times to count.  He is the kind of father who gently talks about with her about how she is feeling, and soothes her hurts and celebrates her accomplishments. 

I love watching Kevin with Sophia.  I am moved by their pure enjoyment of each other.  How she rushes into his arms, exclaiming, “DADDY!” when he comes home, her face lit up with love.  How they wrestle like puppies on the kitchen floor right in front of the refrigerator while I’m trying to make dinner, giggling like maniacs.  How she strokes his beard and sucks her thumb when she’s tired or sad and they both wear they same dreamy, far-away look. 

There was so much to love in Kevin, before Sophia.  But since she has come along, I have seen a side of him I didn’t know was there.  There is certainly a degree of stress that accompanies bringing a child into a marriage.  I’ve watched it strain and erode relationships.  We are not immune to the demands of parenting and it’s impact on our couplehood.  But the struggles do not outweigh the immeasurable delights.  Seeing Kevin as a father has only served to deepen my love for him. 

Happy Father’s Day, Kevin. 

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