Monday, November 05, 2007

Manic Monday

During this weekend I signed over 600 autographs, set back 18 clocks, worked tirelessly to dissuade Linley from begging me to become the Team Mom of her cheer team, and then Jill and I kept baby Rylee overnight while her mom and dad attended a HS reunion. Jill calls her Rylee-roo and I've decided that means Rylee Rooster because she wakes up at 5 AM. As I took my turn sitting in the rocker, feeding and burping Roo, I was reminded of days past with Meagan. I sent my first final draft to my publisher six years ago this month. Here is the introduction to Why a Daughter Needs a Dad:

"I was born into a loving family. My family is the kind that embraces you, nurtures you and loves you immeasurably. For me the most anticipated event of the year is our reunion at Thanksgiving, a tradition with a thirty-year history. I look forward to the sound of the greetings, the warmth of hugs and firm handshakes, the comfort of kisses and familiar smells, and the retelling of stories of a Thanksgiving past, all of which rush toward me as I first set foot in at the front door. This love I receive has shaped the love I give, and it is evident at its best in my relationship with my daughter.

I have known from a very early age that I wanted to be a father, and particularly the father of a daughter. I’m not sure that I really know why, but I have been certain that I would be blessed with a girl child. My heart has always melted when I held little baby girls or grew envious when I watched them as toddlers crawling into their father’s laps to cuddle. I’ve been touched while listening to women speak fondly of their fathers and moved by the grief of women who have lost their fathers. The love shared between a daughter and a father seemed to me to certainly be special, and was something I wanted very much to experience for myself.

When my wife told me she was pregnant I was overjoyed and quick to believe that the baby would indeed be a girl. Throughout the pregnancy I spoke of the baby as “her” or “she,” never as “it.” When I saw the first sonogram I could tell that our baby was a girl. Even though the doctor said it was too early to tell, I was convinced and thereafter believed my hopes and dreams about fatherhood were coming true.

I was in the delivery room when she arrived. The first person she looked at was me. I was smitten instantly.

After the delivery an exhausted mother slept while Meagan Katherine and I bounded. She slept on my shoulder; her face nestled under my chin. We spent her first night in the world together, asleep in a big recliner. Today, nearly twelve years later, Meagan still lays her head on my shoulder and turns her face into my neck. I still pull her close and make sure no harm comes to her.

Over the years Meagan and I have done much together. We have daddy-daughter dates, she travels with me, and we play together, learn new things together and do sweet things for one another now and then. Sometimes we sit on my bed and look through the contents of the “Meagan Box,” a cardboard box overstuffed with pictures, her artwork, keepsakes and notes we have written to each other. In that box resides the reassuring evidence of our close relationship. Her mother and I divorced years ago and Meagan lives with me half time. During the weeks that she is with her mother, I go to that box often. For a long time I have wanted to capture those memories and put them together in some form to give to Meagan, to reassure her that when we are not together, that I think of her and I love her.

With the same certainty that I had about having a daughter, I have also been certain that the relationship Meagan and I have would be a changing one. I knew, and people told me, that one day she would be a little less affectionate, more interested in friends, less entertained by me, and that she might perhaps even find me embarrassing. It has surely come to pass. Now when I take her to school, she kisses me good-bye, and never on the lips, before we leave the house. I may not listen to my music from the moment the car enters school territory. I am to keep both hands on the wheel, my gaze fixed straight ahead. I should wave just at other parents, and only if they wave first. If I must say, “I love you”, it is to be nearly whispered, and never if the car door is open. Sometimes I go to the Meagan Box to reassure myself.

When I first began this book I intended to create a different kind of “how to” book, a book daughters could give to their fathers to tell them what they wanted from them. I sat and thought of the things my daughter and I have done together. I remembered what my father had done with my sister, and my uncles with my cousins. I asked Meagan for some ideas. Then I wrote it all down. The first time I read what I had written I saw a list of what a daughter might ask her father to do for her (just as I had planned). The second time I read it I saw a list of all that I hope to do for my daughter. The third time I read it I saw myself telling Meagan that she would change but never outgrow me. When I read it the fourth time, I knew I was holding the Meagan Box.

I did not know Janet Moran when I began this book. I literally randomly picked her out of the newspaper where she appeared in an article about a local art college. I sent her my manuscript and asked her to work with me. We met one afternoon to talk business. During this meeting she told me her personal story. She was raised by her single father beginning in her early childhood. She shared with me that she could see herself and her father in much of the manuscript. I knew then that we had to complete this book together. I did not have to tell Janet what I wanted the photographs to convey. She knew herself, perhaps even better than me.

With this book Janet and I hope to inspire new fathers and experienced fathers to embrace the important role they have in their daughters’ lives, and give them the love, nurture and support they seek, and to enjoy that which is reciprocated in kind. With this book I tell my child how very irreplaceably important she is to me. With this book I comfort and reassure myself that I will always have the pleasure and honor of being in her life. I love you Meagan Katherine."

May this be a hugfest day for you!

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