The child is two years old
His Daddy comes home from work. The child breaks into a smile, uncontrollable, unyielding, and throws his arms up for his Daddy to lift him. His Daddy looks to his mother. The child can feel anger, hatred, suspicion, even though he has no idea what those words mean. All he wants is for his Daddy to pick him up and take him somewhere special.
They go to a playground, the Daddy and the child. The Daddy lets the child go, and opens his books to study. As the child –- and everyone else –- knows, Daddy is trying to get his “Doctorate”, and we all know to get out of his way when he’s busy.
The child runs to the playground. The Jungle Gym stares down at him, daring him to climb it. He looks at his Daddy. Daddy doesn’t care, He’s too busy with His books. So the child climbs. Up. And up. And up. Until he gets to the top. Then, feeling his power, he calls out to his Daddy, “Look at me, look at me.”
Daddy looks up, and sees his First Son as he begins his swan dive to the ground below. Daddy runs. Oh, Daddy runs. But he can’t get there in time. Because his little boy has decided that today, the best way to get his Daddy’s attention is to show Him how easy it is for him to give up his life.
The child hits the ground, hard. He sits up, and his eyes are full of sand. He’s afraid. So afraid, that he’s Dead. He can’t see anything. So Daddy picks him up, brushes off his eyes, and takes him home.
The child is seven years old.
Daddy wants him to ride a bike. The other children in the neighborhood come out to watch. Girls the child has played with
, that he’s fondled
, that he’s felt while they were playing “doctor.”
All of them come out to see the child bleed.
Daddy puts the child on the bike – a Schwinn banana seat bike, in red, white, and blue – and pushes him down the street. The child holds on for dear life, his white knuckles holding on tight to the handles. He squints his eyes nearly shut, but not enough to miss the car that he’s headed for, the station wagon that looms in his way. He hits the car, hard, sure that he will die today. But he doesn’t. He bounces off the back window to the sidewalk below, and his Daddy runs up, telling him how brave he was not to cry. When all he wants to do is cry in his Daddy’s arms. What he learns is that it’s OK to want to die, if that’s what Daddy wants, too.
The child is sixteen years old.
He has sweat the last four weeks of his life out on the practice field, because his Daddy wanted him to. He learned how to block people, how to take their knees out from under them, how to make their bones break on the field. Because his Daddy wanted him to.
He is getting ready for the first game of the season. His opponent is a former All-State defensive tackle, and the child can’t even imagine living past this game. But he knows his Daddy will be there, and sets himself a goal. He’s going to take this guy out, or die trying, because coming home a loser would be worse than anything the child could think of.
And he wins. And keeps on winning. For the next two years. Because he decides before each game that he will be better off dead than a loser. That lets him give himself, all of himself, in each and every single game.
The child is twenty-one years old.
Daddy comes to the graduation, just like he came to every single college game. Even though the child wasn’t a starter. Even though the child wanted Daddy to come for other things, like the time the child did his first Ironman Triathlon in Cape Cod. Even though the child nearly dies on those New England streets, giving every ounce of life he had to finish his dream. But the child knew what Daddy wanted, and he kept on giving it to him. Even though it meant a part of the child was dying.
The child is thirty years old.
He’s given up on Daddy, but now he tries to please God. He’s a lawyer now, and every time he walks into court to fight a battle, he gives himself up to his “God” before he walks into the fray. He accepts Death, and gives up all of the happiness in his life. He hopes he can please his God, just like he hoped he could please his Daddy. And even though he keeps on winning, over and over again, his God, like his Daddy, remains silent. Unpleased.
The child is forty years old.
Then the child has a son.
An achingly beautiful little boy. If I could put his picture on this Web site, it would break your heart, as surely as it broke mine.
Every day, the child comes home from work, and looks at his own son’s smile. The beautiful teeth in his mouth. The sounds he makes when “Daddy” comes home.
And the child asks himself, “What am I to do?” Now that he has a child of his own to come home to? Now that he can no longer say “Today is a good day to die?” Now that they have him, and he can no longer escape?
How is he going to live, now that he has to keep on living?