A little hiatus this week from the life and times of Beckett Green, who is more than likely as I write this busy at home babbling, crawling and getting into anything and everything his mother will let him. Maybe even a pile of avocado, his favorite new food.
Something I read last weekend has caused me to be a little reflective this week. So bear with me as I sort through some thoughts I have been having the last couple days.
A good speech usually stays with me for a day or two. A good sentence maybe a few hours, but add a new perspective to a matter sensitive to the heart and you have a long-term memory.
Last July, a week or two after my first Father’s Day as a dad, I was sent an email containing then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech from Father’s Day at a Chicago church.
It seems the man who sent me the link to the speech gets a few chuckles out of my musings as a new father. He is a father “three times over,” as he put it. He is a dad to three, pop-pop to eight grandchildren and gramps to 13 great-great grandchildren.
On Monday morning, I opened the email again and re-read the speech because of a story I came across Sunday. This article moved me to the point I had to immediately turn on ESPN and assure myself I was still a man.
This heartbreaking story recounted a tragic head-on crash 20 years ago on a rural road in western Pennsylvania. A brother and a sister were being driven home from a baseball practice by their father, who had just been released from prison two weeks prior after serving a stint for drug distribution and a variety of other offenses. Accident reports found a massive amount of drugs in the vehicle’s trunk and that the father had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. He survived the crash, but the children, 10 and 8, died on the way to the hospital.
The story detailed how the mother, waiting at home with take-out dinner on the table, first heard about the horrific accident and how their relationship changed after it. The article continues with how the father is now a minister, devoting his life to preventing similar tragedies from happening to other families. He preaches the importance of being a responsible father and addresses the many mistakes he made along the way.
We have all heard similar stories and maybe even experienced first-hand these types of situations. After reading the article on Sunday, for some reason, I started thinking about that Obama speech. On Monday morning, I went back and read it again.
Here are a few excerpts:
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.
“But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing – missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it …
“We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.
“I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father – knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers – whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb…
“I was answering questions at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin the other day and a young man raised his hand … he looked at me very seriously and he asked, ‘What does life mean to you?’
“When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me – how do I make my way in the world, and how do I become successful and how do I get the things that I want.
“But now, my life revolves around my two little girls. And what I think about is what kind of world I’m leaving them. …
“And what I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world. Even if it’s difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don’t get very far in our lifetime.”
Of all his speeches I have read or heard over the last couple years, this one hit home and touched me the most. Perhaps it’s because being a father is the most significant thing I have in common with our president.
I often joke with my wife that being a parent has made me an emotional wreck. I have to be callous when it comes to certain things involving business, but when it comes to my family it’s another matter altogether.
Becoming a father 10 months ago has changed me forever. I knew it would, but I did not realize how incredibly vulnerable I would feel as a parent. You care, you love, you nourish, you hope, you worry, you admire and you protect. You do all this with a clarity that yields a new perspective on all matters of life. With all this comes a new sense of compassion. For me, that was a surprising result of this wonderful adventure called parenthood.