“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”

                                                                   – Antoine Francois Prevost

I had a father. I’m married to a father. I’m the mother of a father. So I know this to be true. Each father’s heart blooms in its own time and in its own way.

My father had to keep his heart small and tight to do his work, keep his head above water, support all of us, and keep my mother well enough to last. His heart was built for stamina and determination. He had a lot of heart, people would say when he died, but his heart was for working. It was only near the end of his life after years of having his heart softened by the troubles and care of my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease, the days of combing her hair and dressing her and leading her by the hand, that my father’s heart had time for its intended purpose. Then he could relax and let us know he loved us.

My husband is the father of four children who have other fathers. He never says much about this but sometimes I wonder if he wonders what a child of ‘his own’ would have looked like. He says he never thinks of this. I would if I were him but I’m not. He only says what he believes. So it must be true.

He has been hard on our kids, expecting things from them I thought too difficult. He never worried about whether our kids were happy or whether they loved him. He never saw that as his job. And so he just set about being their leader without ever, a single time, turning around to see if they were following. He just assumed they would follow his example and they did. He has never been surprised by this. It’s what he expected. My kids quote their father every time they are confronted with something difficult or when they are trying to inspire others to move ahead.  Words I never heard him say roll off their tongues and they laugh with each other in memory. He is reaping now what he sowed while I wasn’t looking.

My son is the father of one child and a parent to two more. Each time I see him, he seems taller. Heftier. More substantial. He still can be sly and funny, crack the smile that got him out of trouble as a kid. For a while that confused me into thinking he was a boy in man’s clothing, just playing at being a dad. But he’s a man who sometimes pretends to be a kid again. He has man-size responsibilities, man-size worries, and I am surprised by this as I’m comforted by it. The boy who was fathered grew up to be a father. He seems to be doing what he was taught, carving out what’s right, doing that, and believing his children will follow him. They do. Sometimes several steps back, but they do.

A mistake I have made is expecting the fathers in my life to be more like me. I’ve wanted them to be more mindful, more nurturing. I wanted them to worry about whether the children were happy. I wanted them to be less demanding and more understanding. I wanted pats on children’s backs for trying. And because I’ve wanted this and the fathers in my life didn’t deliver, I faulted them. In my exhortations to be kinder and gentler, I missed the better truth: fathers are what they are for a reason. What is in their hearts is a secret, unknowable to me. I am of a different species.

I do know this, though. Finally. “The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”

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The Daily Post: Blossom