Tuesday, May 4, 2010
You Can Be Proud, Little One
You see, if we all have a major theme or issue to deal with in our lives—you know, something preordained by the universe—then I know mine focuses on fathers and sons. I did not know my father... that's not to say that I do not know who my father was or that there's some great mystery there, it's just that Charles Gregory McNeil, Sr. ceased to be a part of my life after my parents divorced in 1969. Everything else in my life has been viewed in the context of his absence. My stepfather loomed larger. Mentors like my Uncle Jim and Lou DeLuca and their teachings became all the more important and appreciated. When my own sons came along I felt I was repairing the damage from the earlier generation. Then the divorce and their having a stepfather... history repeated itself and everyone took their appropriate roles. A slow-starting career and any associated setbacks somehow seemed genetic. And what will my sons think of their father? Will they curse the connection? Have any sort of admiration or think me pathetic? Feel that I wronged them? There are just too many comparisons with the same-sex parent, I guess.
My daughter, though... it seems I can just be a parent without old ghosts floating around. As the late Lou DeLuca would have said (okay, some ghosts are benevolent), I can approach our relationship with an open hand and just let things be; nothing needs to be wrestled into place.
Don't get me wrong: I love my sons dearly and am thankful for them. Cal has the beautiful soul I could only imagine having; he is a kind boy, and I was not nearly as kind as a boy (and not as a man, for that matter). Right now it appears that Mac may harness his piss and vinegar, a trick I have yet to master. In varying measures and proportions they are both soulful and spirited and I could not be prouder. Every moment they are with me feels like a stolen gift, each hour just a bit more assurance that we won't forget each others' expressions, connections, quirks... which should not be the case but, hell... divorce. In the resigned words of Tony Soprano, "What are ya gonna do?"
At this point, all Katie and I really know about our daughter is that she has relatively long toes. Katie was concerned here because her toes are kind of short (well, the last three are wicked short). So, it looks like the girl will have at least something in common with Daddy. And that's another thing... I can call myself "Daddy" in context with her, but I tend to think of myself as "the Old Man" in the context of Cal and Mac. Jesus Christ... rumination always yields more baggage! "More issues than Time magazine, more baggage than Denpasar Aiport."
Anyway, a man looks at his sons and it can be like looking into the mirror—especially if certain family patterns repeat themselves. With a daughter things are just a touch alien and we don't know what to expect.
I can, however, tell you what I hope for my daughter. It would be a blessing if she had her mother's way with people, talent for kindness, generally sunny disposition and amazing work ethic. She'd be lucky if she got my mother's common sense, gift of doing things nicely and reverance for the family's traditions and elders. From Katie's mother she'll hopefully get great senses of curiosity and humor and conscientiousness. Perhaps Auntie Meggie's talents for friendship, conversation and the hard act of bringing equal parts wisdom and great humour into this life. Aunt Martha's hugely warm spirit and gracious soul. Kathy's appreciation and deft practice of a great many arts, from healing to folk. Debbie's sense of community, empathy and sentimental nature. Auntie Sal's entrepreneurial sense wouldn't hurt, that's for sure.
Going back, I know I was blessed with two amazing grandmothers, though I only met my mother's mother. A talented seamstress, she ran her own business out of the cellar, spoke Italian beautifully, loved to dance and play cards and was tough without being harsh. My paternal grandmother died about six years before I was born, but from all accounts she was a vivacious and glowing soul... the kind of woman who would buy her Godson a puppy. There's no doubt she was the warm heart of that family, and her untimely death had huge repercussions on that family. Huge.
Katie's mother, Louise, describes her mother as formidable and Katie has a long line of wonderful memories that center on her grandmother's warm and protective nature.
This is all just a long-winded way of saying to my unborn daughter that she has a lot of remarkable women in her bloodline. She can be proud of all the wonderful role models she has in her little community.
Hell... even her ghosts are good ones.