I still see you. I see your grin, your hands, the sassy twinkle in your blue eyes; all these twenty seven years and four children (and one neverending bloody mortgage) later, you’re still there. I see you.
But more than seeing that funny, kind, strong young man I married? I see the man you have become.
Of course I watched you hold your tiny babies, mash their bananas, pretend to be Mrs Goggins, promise to turn the wind down, and tell stories of a three-legged owl. I have watched you endlessly fret over them (who knew you’d be the worrier?).
But more than that. Across the years, I see the father you have become.
I see you.
I see you take a breath as you deal with our teenagers. I see you showing them how self-control works, how a calm voice is better when stress threatens to overwhelm. I see you offer solutions, and calmly listen to late night angst. I also see you lose your shit with them… but then I see you showing them that it’s okay to say sorry, to make amends, to make things right.
I see you play with them. I’ve watched you spray them with water, throw them in the air, leap from behind doors at them. The years roll by, and yet the stupidity rolls on too. I see you poke awake a sleeping teenager, just to blow raspberries on them, and to tell them a rhyme you just made up.
I hear their belly laughs – and I love that you’ve never stopped creating that sound in our house.
I see our manchildren clamber into your lap – never mind that they’re taller than you, are almost-men themselves. I see our adolescent daughter fold her long coltish legs up to make sure she still fits in your seat with you. I see her nestle in, breathe and relax. I know they’ll still be doing that in another twenty years. When they’re weary, or sad, or in need, you are their comfort. I see you tighten your arms around them, and I’m so very thankful you have taught them how strong and physical and gentle and kind love is.
I see you cleaning the house, handing out laundry you have washed, dried and folded, demanding they deal with their dirty dishes. And I see them understanding how chores work. Dads don’t wait to be asked to clean the sheets.
I see you gently awaken an oversleeping teenager, with kinder words than I can find. I see you soothe a sleepwalking boy back to bed, and hear you humming gently to a child delirious with fever. I see them learning that gentle kindness wins the world.
I see you listen to them. I see you learning from them, almost as often as you explain things to them. I see your joy in sharing their ideas, understanding their thinking. And I see them understanding that grown ups don’t magically know it all. I see them understanding at their core that their opinions matter, that their knowledge is worth listening to. I see them understanding that they are important. And that they are heard.
And I see you glance at me as one of our children says something that stuns us with its depth of understanding, or its rich humour, or beautiful kindness, or its wisdom beyond their handful of years.
I see that glance.
I see the pride, and the joy. The strong, fierce FATHER is there, in just a brief shared look, your love raw and open for me to catch.
I see you.