I was putting you to bed tonight, and we were lying in bed. You were playing and my hand was on your back. It didn’t look like my hand though. My hands have always been the hands of a young man, a kid. These hands were slightly worn, wrinkled. They were the hands of my father, now mine.
I remember as a kid, a few years older than you are now, and my dad was about my age–even younger. I would look at his hands, wrinkled around the knuckles and callused. They were Dad Hands. They were strong and capable and comforting. Those hands could fix your bike, stop a “bad guy,” or throw a baseball so high into the sky you couldn’t see it anymore. They were exceptional.
Now those hands are mine, and I am the one that must fix bikes and throw balls and stop bad guys. The problem is, I am not ready to be the dad, because I still want to be the kid. I want to have the dad to help me and guide me. My hands aren’t quite capable enough to do all these things on my own yet. I am still learning, kiddo.
To you, I am the adult. I am The Dad. I am infallible (for the time being; before high school). I know what I am missing and what I am not capable of passing on though, kiddo. I don’t know how to fish. I’ve done it a few times, but I can’t teach it to you, I’m sorry. I don’t know how to fix cars. I don’t know how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch on Christmas day. There are a lot of things I just haven’t learned yet, and so many more things that I thought I would have plenty of time to learn. There’s always time. There’s always time. There’s always time.
There are many things I have learned from my dad that I will be able to show you, though. While I’ll never be as good as him, I do know that I can change a light fixture, I can install wood floors, I can play catch pretty well, and I hang Christmas lights with enough ‘gal’ dangits.’ The most important things I’ve learned from my dad, however, and that’s how to be a good man, a strong man, and a loving man.
My dad was an ambition guy. He was, after all, a fire chief by the age of 30. He accomplished more professionally in his career by 30 than most do their entire lives. He was driven and hard-working. It was never an issue, because we knew what he was doing was important work. He was home for dinner, to play catch on the weekends, and sometimes take us to fires with the sirens running–that was always awesome. I have always been so proud that he’s my dad. From a little kid when he’d come to school to teach the entire school about Stop, Drop, and Roll. I was always pulled up on the stage, and I never felt more special in my whole life. He’d come to school wearing his uniform and eat lunch with me, and it was the greatest feeling, having him there. I wouldn’t change any of it.
I am very fortunate to be who I am because of him. I have a great role model of How to Be a Dad. How to Be a Provider. How to Be a Man. Now I have to piece those lessons together and somehow play charades well enough to make it believable, when I’m just fumbling along hoping you don’t realize that I am still a kid myself. When my hands, wrinkled around the knuckles, resemble my dads, they’ll never have the wisdom his do.