This weekend we got together with my parents to celebrate a couple of birthdays--my dad's 75th, and Mr. Fraulein's Birthday That Shall Not Be Named. We walked around the Mystic Aquarium in the tropical humidity, enjoying the seals and the penguins and the cownose rays and the beluga whale, and I got to thinking about fatherhood and the past.
First, my dad's past. Contained within the man my father is today--leaning on a cane, suddenly--are all the men he's been. The soldier going off to Korea, rakishly handsome, at 18. The hipster grinning out of the old photograph, slouching in his trim suit and skinny tie, a drink in his hand and my mother on his arm (skinny and elegant in a tight-waisted, flared 50s dress) in his 20s. The balding guy with the 5-o'clock shadow, the huge grin, and the toddler in his arms in his 30s. The guy who has spent his whole life in a complicated relationship with his extended family and God, whom he never forgave for taking away my twin brother, his only son, at birth.
I think a lot about the Daddy I worshipped as a little kid (an only child, Daddy's little girl) when I watch Mr. Fraulein with our Peanut.
The Peanut certainly loves me, and she often looks cautiously to me for my approval. She wants me to read to her and sing to her, and last week we had such fun hitting the outlets together (we scored big time at the Carter's and Stride Rite outlets--our first true mother-daughter shopping trip!) But as much as I believe and hope we will always have a special mommy/daughter bond, the place the Peanut holds in her heart for her daddy is sacred.
The Peanut loves her daddy with ferocious abandon. Yesterday we sat eating lunch, post-aquarium, and she asked him a question, but he was distracted and didn't answer right away. She thought for a second that he was ignoring her. She burst into furious tears. But once she got his attention all was right with the world again.
He's her best friend.
When Mr. Fraulein's Significant Birthday approached, I put out cautious feelers about what I should buy him. Getting presents for this husband of mine is difficult under any circumstances, as he never wants anything, but this was a special case. At first I thought maybe I'd throw a party or something. But when my inquiries were met with dark mutterings about walkers and Metamucil, I decided to drop the party idea.
Hopefully the best present Mr. Fraulein will get for this birthday (aside from Alberto Gonzales suddenly resigning!) is the knowledge that his youth is wrapped up in the Peanut's childhood. As long as he's still the dad who acts goofy and makes her giggle, he'll be even more than young at heart.