Saturday, February 20, 2016

February 19: Crossing the Dam, Facing Fears, Second Grade Poetry, Cool Dad

I like crossing the dam.  If I fell, I might not get up again.  The dam is three or four feet high, a thick green algae, combed by the drag and sudden plunge of the creek's current, clings to its submersed, concrete brim.  Below is a jumble of fast water and rocks.  But I face this threat every time I cross the dam, and it is always exhilarating.  The tightest part is at the very beginning.  That day as always I faced the current, planted my feet firmly, stepped sideways instead of striding, and I soon emerged dripping in a new world.

Annie Dillard writes about crossing a dam.  It's a little treacherous.  Slippery, surrounded by fast-moving water and sharp rocks.  To slip would mean serious bodily injury, not to mention the possibility of being swept away toward God-knows-what.  A waterfall?  Even faster rapids?  Yet, Dillard takes the risk.  Why?  The payoff--a new world, different and green.

I like this passage.  It's all about facing fears, surmounting obstacles.  And it's about the reward--emerging new or renewed.  Stronger than before.  This morning, I faced an obstacle.  I volunteered to teach poetry to my son's second grade class.  Now, I've done this before, for many elementary school grades, kindergarten up to fifth and sixth.  However, I found myself anxious today.  Sitting in my car, before I went into the school building, I had a few moments of panic as thoughts of failure ran through my mind at an alarming rate:  What if they hate me?  What if they don't understand the lesson?  What if my fly is open?  What if I fart in front of them?

Of course, I got of the car and went into the school.  I was greeted by my son's teacher, whom I've known for close to ten years--since my daughter had her in kindergarten.  She's a lovely woman, always supportive and enthusiastic.  And the class went really well.  The kids laughed at my jokes, wrote some good poems, and sang to me before I left.

And I emerged on the other side of the dam, into a new world where my seven-year-old son thought I was the coolest dad in the world.  It felt pretty darn good.  I've been living off that feeling all day long.

You see, when I found out that I was going to be the father of a boy, I was worried.  I am not your typical baseball-throwing, deer-hunting dad.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to give my son the typical father-son experience, and that worry has haunted me ever since he was born.

Today, I think that I proved to myself that I am not an embarrassment to my son.  He loves the fact that I write poetry and sing songs.  He kept running up and hugging me in front of his whole class.  When I left, he lifted his head and gave me a kiss.

Saint Marty is a cool dad.

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