Posted by: Dan | July 11, 2017

Ruby Is Six Years Old Today

RubyAndDaddy

Last week, Ruby brought home a bottle full of worms she had collected in the playground. She talks to them and says that they can hear her, she says she understands them, too, because she can speak their language. I ask her what they say and I remember, when I was a very little boy, how the stray dogs came and lay down at my feet, and so when she tells me what they say, I believe her.

Ruby is six years old today. She tells me she loves me, in part, because, like her, I love “all the animals.” But when I dumped the worms out in the yard after she went to bed, and tried to tell them to get while the getting was good, I don’t think they understood me.

Sometimes Ruby sees things that other people don’t see. Deer playing on the edge of a farmer’s field, “It’s a mother and a baby,” she says, “I’m seeing them with my special eyes.” Sometimes she takes me by the cheeks and stares into my eyes with those special eyes of hers… and then sticks her tongue up my nose and laughs uproariously at my reaction. She still writes a lot of letters backwards and sometimes mixes up her 6s and 9s but she paints beautiful pictures on paper and canvas and my face and she cried when she accidentally broke a branch on a tree (because she loves the trees and doesn’t want to hurt them).  She is attentive to her friends and wants them to be as happy as she is. She’s kind and she’s good and she’s innocent and will play with you endlessly (“I only watch movies when I’m bored because nobody will play with me”).  But, no matter how I try, I can’t capture her in words.  She’s a mystery and a wonder and a miracle. She’s holier than god.

God, after all, is only as holy as the most profane among us. God is as holy as a father is when he is putting out his cigarette on the inner thigh of his fourteen year old daughter. I knew that daughter and I saw the scars that were left behind, and now I am a father and I have a daughter whose middle name is “Beloved” (Toni Morrison: “In the dark my name is Beloved”) and I don’t want much of anything to do with gods and the men of violence they inspire.

How can a child make sense of such violence? Children are so full of love for their parents, even the most abusive parents, that they blame themselves for it.  They make sense of their abuse by telling themselves, “I’m not good enough, I must be bad or broken; I’ve done something to deserve this.”  They can live in terror every day but still, love comes so naturally to them, that they love the ones terrorizing them and, instead of blaming their abusers or thinking their abusers are bad or broken, they choose to believe the worst kinds of things about themselves.  Magnolia illustrates this very well: it is not only the sins of the fathers that are visited upon their children, the children also carry the sense of guilt of the fathers — hence, abusers walk through life feeling justified while abuse survivors walk through life feeling like they are to blame for everything.  A lot of people end up with a lifetime of self-loathing mitigated by substance use because they will not, til the day they die, believe that their parents simply chose, for no good reason at all, to repeatedly do horrendous things to them–they find it easier to believe horrible things about themselves, even as adults (and then they go on to act in ways that reinforce that belief) because they loved their abusers too deeply when they were children and never learned to love themselves (because they were doing all the loving and not receiving any back).

I had to process some of these things myself and, although I began to know myself as beloved quite some time ago, it wasn’t until having children of my own that I realized what a miracle and gift I was when I was brand new.  It wasn’t until I held my own babies in my arms that I realized, no, I never once did a thing to deserve the way I was treated.  Not even a little bit.  Not at all.  Not a single goddamn thing.  And I sometimes wonder if Christians hold onto a doctrine of original sin and the belief that all of us are born worthy of damnation in order to justify the things they do to their kids.  Woe to you, parents, who steal what can never be returned, and who, instead of becoming like little children, take little children and make them into your own image.

Ruby is her own. I sometimes refer to her as my daughter or my child but she isn’t mine. If anything, it’s the other way around. She is learning to fly and I am her nest, a big ol’ tree with knots and missing branches, but her tree nonetheless, where she can always come and feel safe and happy and at home. And though she loves my scars and knows where to tickle me, although she adores me and laughs at all the ways she can bend me without breaking me, I won’t make her into my own image. She is her own image.

And, Ruby, today is your birthday and I am trying to write you a love letter that captures something of the love and wonder and gratitude I feel because you are in my life, but I trip over the words and I stumble and I erase what I wrote because, even though you are still teeny tiny, all that is in you is bigger and fuller and better than any combination of words I can write.  I love you, darling.  Happy birthday.

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Responses

  1. oh man, you are a gifted writer my friend and a beloved father. You are blessed to have Ruby and she to have you. Your love for her gushes forth in your writing. Thank you.

  2. Much obliged, its been a welcome joy and learning experience watching you raise your family all theses years. Many blessings for Ruby and her wonderful dad :)

  3. Wow! That was beautifully written and filled with love and wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing. Blessings to you and Ruby.

  4. Happy birthday Ruby!

  5. You are blessed to have Ruby and she to have you. Many blessings for Ruby and her wonderful dad 🙂


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