February 21, 2011

Father Knows Best When He’s Got It Good
Dad Knows Best

Jim Anderson surrounded by his adoring family. Umm, not quite me.

I walked down the hall as I’d done thousands of times before. As always I’m on a mission. Most of them are trivial: take the trash to the kitchen, transpose a novel from my backpack to my nightstand, or talk to my wife about something or other. This time as I walked out our bedroom door I turned my head, just for a second, to glance at my older daughter’s bedroom. And in that moment I felt the culmination of my life to that point. These fleeting events can never be predicted. If we’re lucky we’re open to them when they hit us. How many have I missed?

Her room was clean (clean!) but empty. She’d spent the night at a friend’s house —a sleepover that was sure to transform my happy, laughing daughter into a sleepless zombie later that day. But for now it was quiet and I was safe. In that second, as I turned my head from her bedroom back to the hall, I realized I had a family and I was the Dad. I heard a pileated woodpecker’s ratta-tat-tat on a tree just outside her window.

It was a funny realization. I knew all of this already but somehow it hit me anyway. Strange as it sounds, I felt fulfilled. Me, fulfilled? I’d spent most of my life looking forward with expectations and aspirations and suddenly here I was.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a sitcom. I grew up wanting to be a Father Knows Best sort of dad but I’ve ended up more of a Modern Family type of patriarch. That is, I was far from the benevolent CEO of my family. Instead, I’d turned into a quirky guy who’s happy to be surrounded by his quirky outside-the-box kids. And like a sitcom, zany moments quickly follow calm, contemplative ones like these. Just now my youngest started screaming. She’s gotten a sliver in her finger. She wants it out NOW but is afraid it will hurt when I attempt to remove it. She’s shaking so hard with anticipation her fear is sure to become a reality. What’s a father to do? With one fell swoop I take the tweezers and pull the entire sliver out. Yeah, just like that. Just like the 1950s iconic father Jim Anderson would do.

Yes, I thought in that second, I’ve got the family I deserved. I turned my head and returned to my latest mission. But this time I didn’t forget what really led me down that hall.

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