I knew that fatherhood had irreversibly changed him when Mr. Need for Speed drove at turtle’s pace hunched over the steering wheel, eyes scanning the horizon for any real or perceived danger to our newborn baby on his maiden voyage from hospital to home.
A motocross racer whose favorite motto was “it’s not the speed that hurts you, it’s those sudden stops that’ll get you in the end” was, at the birth of his son, reborn as Mr. Responsible.
He turned 30 just weeks after our firstborn arrived and while many think that auspicious milestone was the cause of his retirement from racing. I know the truth.
He was still young enough and strong enough to tear up a track, no problem.
However, having experienced that moment when he and the bike parted ways with each other — and terra firma — he had that remarkable parental moment, mid-air when thoughts turned not to “Am I going to die?” or, even “How bad is this going to hurt?” but, rather, “Who will take care of Matthew?”
Suddenly, those “sudden stops at the end” seemed a lot more frighteningly final.
Took up golf
So he took up golf. While statistically not all that safe (lighting, cardiac arrest, death by mortification of realizing you are wearing plaid slacks) it’s a true dad’s game.
Two years later he welcomed his daughter with the realization that this one was going to make her entrance with no end of drama.
I was blissfully unaware, what with being preoccupied with birthing a child, that our daughter was in serious danger during her arrival. He was not.
Even as sick dread overcame him, he locked eyes with the doctor and made a silent pact with her not to freak out — or freak me out. So he didn’t. He stood supportive and stoic while his heart seized in fear.
With the Grace of God our daughter sailed right out of the danger zone and into his waiting arms. A place, by the way, where she would happily spend most of her time to this very day.
He knows his way around a diaper and is never too busy to stop and explain something to an inquisitive child (or wife). Yet, he is a man’s man in every sense of the word.
He is strong, capable, a good provider and a fixer of all things great and small. The latter skill has gotten him into some hot water over the years.
Most memorably, when our daughter, then 3 and heartbroken over the death of her pet goat, sobbed plaintively “But Daddy can fix it. He can fix ANYTHING!” and in her little heart she truly believed it.
When our son was 3, a piece of flying glass pierced his chest. I can still recall how calmly I assessed the ugly wound, his ashen, gape-mouthed shock and very capably grabbed my keys, son and infant daughter and buckled us all into the car.
I remember walking into the emergency room thinking how well I was handling it as I dutifully gave all of our information to the nice triage nurse.
My composure lasted right up to the very moment those automated doors “whooshed” open and I heard my husband’s voice.
My entire body started shaking and I completely lost it. No longer did I need to be calm, cool and collected. The cavalry was here.
Our children, as toddlers, used to just about hyperventilate and keel over with excitement when he came home, or, heck, just came in from the barn.
If he wanted to actually get any work done I used to have to distract the wee ones while he spirited himself out the back door, a fugitive in his own home.
He was, by his own admittance, never much of a scholar. But now dutifully treks off to school conferences to fold himself into small chairs and listen to progress reports ranging from construction paper and painting prowess to final results on science projects.
In short, he has morphed from life of the party and speed racer to scout leader, soccer coach and one-man fix it and clean-up crew with a sideline in being strongly supportive and giving thumbs-up for gold stars.
This is the part where you would expect me to wax rhapsodic about how rare and fine he really is. And he is wonderful, and we are blessed to have him. But he’s not rare.
Hard-working, capable, loving men, who love, cherish and provide for their families surround us. With so much press paid to “deadbeat dads” it is not only nice — but also necessary — to remember that the good guys are out there.
Even if they are wearing golf shorts or driving a tad too slow.
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