Thursday, June 26, 2008

My son is watching me pee

Father Figure

My son is watching me pee. He stands to my right, all nineteen months of him, delicious thumb firmly in his mouth. He appears fascinated. I'm not fond of anyone watching me pee. I'm pee shy actually. But he is my son. He is curious about everything I do. He watches me brush my teeth with the fogged gaze some people have during the Star Wars trilogy. I want him to watch me, because that is how sons learn to be men, by watching their fathers.

I don't know if I ever watched my father pee. My memories of him are barely a sketch on a napkin. He is a shape from a black and white movie sitting under a light on one end of the sofa reading the paper. He is a headless voice arguing with my mother until one of them curses, they realize I am there and they move the argument to another space. He is a bloody shinbone on the back porch after an accident. That's all I have.

He died when I was three years old.

Sometimes I wonder what I have forgotten, what aspects of my father were crowded out by my life needing more space in my memory. People tell me what an amazing person he was. High diving and catching fish in his bare hands, a great hunter and marksman. They are remarkable stories that I choose to believe. He was loved by his friends and regarded as a man's man by those I've sought out to tell me who he was. His absence made me what I am, good and bad. If he had lived, I would be someone else I'm sure.

Not having a father I could watch pee left me hobbled though it took me years to realize it. I never missed him consciously, but there is a father shaped hole in me that I sought to fill periodically, unconsciously. In my life I have sought father figures. Most of them have been very human, men with good hearts. None were an ideal I would have knowingly sought. They emitted some dog whistle sound that the lost animal in me ran to. I would seek to please such men, to amuse them, to impress them so I might be deemed worthy by them. I think they were as ignorant of my subconscious need as I was.

As a family we go for walks. Sometimes I let them go without me even though I am afraid that something will happen to them on the walk. A therapist said that is a result of my father going away and never coming back. I am also afraid I will die and the circuit will continue for my son. I want so very much to be his father. The world has a hard concrete floor so be careful of falling. Some days I believe in a caring God with a plan and some days I think that plan must be like those stories of building dams--certain people will die during this project because that's the math of it.

My son is watching me pee and it makes me think about everything I do. He is watching, so whatever I'm doing I must do it well. Not perfectly, he shouldn't be burdened with that, but I owe him my best effort in everything. He needs to see me succeed and he needs to see me fail. How I handle both must serve him as a standard. He needs to see me conduct myself like a man. If I'm fighting with my wife, I must remember: That's his mother. I will respect her and treat her properly. I am a roadmap for him and how he will treat women. I have had to be my own father and sometimes I have been pretty bad at it. I want to be a better father to my son than I was to me.

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