Memoirs of a New Dad: Fatherhood fears

fatherhood-fears-fall2013The routine joys of parenthood, including fun-filled games with his baby son, remind writer Chris Hunt of how important it is to cherish every single moment.

My son and I have this game we play. I put him on my shoulders, wait until his tiny little hands grasp tiny little handfuls of my hair, and then I run down the hallway into my bedroom, where I abruptly stop at the foot of my bed.

On the wall a few inches away is a mirror. It takes him a few seconds to see our reflection, but when he does, a slow, silent smile creeps onto his face. He looks from me, to himself, then back to me. He pulls my hair and coos.

Just before my father died, someone visiting him on his death bed brought him a toy bear that sang the old Beatles tune, When I’m Sixty-Four. He was in his mid-fifties.

Each time a visitor played it, he’d look away.

It must have been torture of the worst sort to have a singing bear incessantly mock his mortality by heralding an age he would never reach.

The day I heard my son’s heartbeat for the first time was also the day I had a tumour removed. The procedure, a day surgery, was smooth and quick, and an hour later, we were at the hospital for the ultrasound.

I sat in a chair as a nurse rubbed the paddle along my girlfriend’s belly. There was a painful, terrifying silence, and then finally, his heartbeat, powerful and rapid, filled the room. Tears exploded down my girlfriend’s cheeks and the nurse wore a wide smile.

And me? I just sat there numb, consciously aware of the dull throb from the incision in my side, thinking: what happens now?

Fatherhood can shatter your perception of your life, ripping apart everything that’s ever made you you.

Some of the most meaningful moments become petty or shallow in retrospect, and the hushed moments, the moments you used to seldom think about, suddenly attack you during the waning moments of any given day, with new purpose.

Such is the case with the seemingly three unconnected memories above.

My father’s macabre bear testifies to a life not fully lived, of everything he never got to enjoy. Like his grandson.

The sound of my son’s first heartbeat is a sobering reminder of not only how things are, but how things could have been, had his heart been less strong or had my tumour been anything but a common and harmless benign mass.

And the mirror game, our quick and impromptu little game he probably won’t remember as he grows, always reminds me there will come a day when I won’t be there looking back at him.

And that scares me.

I want to be around to meet my son’s children, so I exercise now and I’m far more conscious of what I put into my body. I’m less reckless and even have a savings account. In short, the future matters to me.

Fatherhood reweaves the threads of your life. It intertwines the past and the present to paint

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you a possible picture of the life you have yet to live. And, more importantly it makes you cherish every moment you possibly can.

Photo: Angela Jacques