Four years ago tonight, I was driving home a very relieved and happy man. My wife had just given birth to our daughter after a long labor and both of them were safe in the hands of the staff at New York Hospital. I was so tired from having been awake for nearly a day that I rounded the corner from 2nd to 42nd and went right through a red light. I didn’t know I’d broken the law until the traffic ticket arrived in the mail a month later.
At the time I felt like I used to when I worked outdoors as a landscaper and the fall was coming to a close. When I tidied up the last yard for the season; and brought the last load of leaves to the landfill and wintered my equipment; I felt like the work was done and a beer was due. What I didn’t know was that It was, in reality, just the beginning of the day, and that there was a long, long day ahead of me.
Seeing my daughter now - she’s presently playing with her new dollhouse on the floor - is more than I could have imagined on the ride home from the hospital. I wondered at the time when I’d begin to feel like a Dad. I’d hold her little self in my hands so carefully - she seemed so tiny to me - and know that she was ours, our daughter; but the feeling of fatherhood was coming slowly.
I think sometimes, that the busy-ness and the sleeplessness that came with having her and my son was a hidden blessing; and all the work acted as a series of distractions that concealed the pain of the changes that I was going through. And it’s been such a whirlwind of activity, that sometimes I’d swear there has been only one day, a very busy day, and I’m just now starting to feel like I can settle down for the night.
So now, while I watch her revel in her new year, and express that pride that kids show when they can claim another number for their age, I can feel some of the same suddenness and surprise in my own short, but rich track record as a Dad.
Later tonight, I’ll be back downstairs and collecting up all the boxes and paper that came with her birthday - it’s recycling tonight luckily - and back to the work of being a father. But for now I’m content. I’ll stay until she drops off to sleep and try to recapture a little of that comfort I took four years ago when I knew she was safely brought into the world. Only now I’ll feel a little more like a Dad, her Dad, and know how truly lucky I am.