Monday, August 15, 2011

A hole in my heart

One old, fat author and father; one young, handsome son and college student.

Scott and I this afternoon, just before we all drove off to NCSU.

Two years ago, I wrote a similar post about Sarah. Now, that time is here for Scott.

Damn, this is hard, if anything harder the second time than the first.

Eighteen and a quarter years ago, Scott was born. Earlier today, we moved him into North Carolina State University, where he is beginning college.

From the moment I knew we were having a son, I was terrified about how to be a good father to him. I grew up largely without fathers, and most of the men I knew as a child were far from good role models. How could I love him well? Make him both tough enough to survive as a boy and a man and yet comfortable with his feelings? Make him know I loved him? Make him confident and strong? Just be the father he deserved?

I had no clue.

In the years since that time, I've fumbled in the dark, doing the best I could as a dad but always being sure I was making a bad job of it. I've worked too many hours, gone on too many trips, spent too much time alone in my home office, taken too much time for myself, and missed too much of his life. I've always, always, always felt like I was failing. I still do. I've tried to balance being a good provider and being there and all the rest, and I know I've screwed up.

The only thing I have never failed on is loving him. I don't know how much that matters, but I've gotten that one thing down. I have always, always, always loved Scott and Sarah with a fierceness I cannot imagine they understand. No one will ever be more important to me than they are.

I still hug him good night every night and kiss him on the cheek as I say good night. I'll do that until I die if he'll let me.

I am so very proud of him and such a believer in him that I hope I have conveyed those feelings to him. I just don't know if I've done it enough, because I've spent so much time pushing him, worried for his future in this increasingly difficult world, that I fear he's heard only the pushing and not the tremendous, chest-bursting pride and love.

Every single night of Scott's and Sarah's lives, I have either stood outside the doors of their rooms and to the darkness whispered, "Good night, Scott. Daddy loves you. Good night, Sarah. Daddy loves you." as if it were a blessing that could keep them safe, or said the same words to myself as I was falling asleep in some other building in some other place. It's a dumb tradition, but it's mine, and it's theirs, though they've never participated in it, and I don't ever intend to stop it.

And now, Scott has left this house and moved into a dorm and started the next phase of his life. All of that is good and proper and natural and what I have desired for him; heck, I'm paying for it. I want him to have his own life, and in any way I can, I will help him get it. I also know he'll be home at holidays, and we'll find our old ways quickly enough, we'll talk and laugh and hug and play Halo and make dick jokes, and for a short time we'll all be living together again.

Today, though, there is a hole in my heart and an ache in my chest, a heart that will always beat for Scott. I want him to know always that for as long as I'm alive, he can take refuge with me from a rough world and know that his father, that I, will do anything in my power to keep that roughness at bay, and that I love him more than I can ever express.

Daddy loves you, Scott.


Michelle said...

Every child should have the love that you express for your children. My own heart swells with the love I feel for my children. Thank you for reminding us all of the importance of it.

J. Griffin Barber said...

My dad told me, "if you feel like you aren't failing, you probably are."

Mark said...

Thanks, Michelle.

Griffin, you might be right.

Anonymous said...

Kids, most of the time you are figuring out ways on how to eliminate your own and then you come across something like this and then remember what this same scribe has written at the beginning of every school year for the past few years which clearly shows the love he has for his own children which makes you remember that you really don't want to eliminate your own at all, Damn you Van Name, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for the reminder. Can always count on you plus it reminds me of why I read this blog....Chris....

Mark said...

Thanks, Chris. Our kids own our hearts.


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