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Yeah, I'd felt it for my wife, of course, but it isn't the
same, and anyone who says it is is just plain lying. The love that swells up out of
your innermost guts in the moments after you find out you're going to become a
parent for the first time, and then the love that smothers your heart in the
first seconds when you finally lay your big fat grown-up sausage fingers on
their newborn skin—that's a one-of-a-kind love, man. You cannot replicate it. And you will never
find it with anyone other than a child whom you helped create.
She drives me nuts sometimes, Violet does, but that's
typical, right? I drive her nuts, too, and I know it.
Still, I have watched her ever so closely over the last half
decade as she went from being my tiny lump of living to a whirling, twirling,
loving little human who makes me feel as if I am some kind of King of the
Universe just by watching her sip chocolate milk from a purple plastic cup that
has seen much better days.
And now, in perhaps her finest role yet, she is a big sister yet again. She's already taken our Henry, 3, under her wing, and watching that all go down has been grand. They play their imaginary games,
lining up stuffed animals at the top of the back stairs and then hurling them
down to the bottom, sending each one on its journey and laughing and squealing,
delighted at the way their story, their game is turning out.
One younger brother is one thing; two is something else entirely.
Violet calls her brother by his name. Henry calls his big
sister, "Sister." It's a simple thing, and I don't know how it even came to be
that way, but it blows my mind with beauty and power.
"Sister, do you want to color wif me?"
"Sister, you're my best fwend!"
"Sister punched me in the face!"
It's all so good. Her little brother idolizes her; he wants
her approval. And when she keeps it from him, he just wants it that much more.
Now, as we welcome our third kid—our second
boy—I am fascinated by the fact that my little girl will someday soon be at
the head of a tiny army of two young guys. I know she will shine as a general.
Hell, she already does.
But still, one younger brother is one thing; two is
something else entirely.
Love for a child is heavier than stars and way deeper than
any seas could ever dream of being. Watching the one who first opened your eyes
to this whole other kingdom here on Earth ... soaking your eyeballs in visions of
your firstborn doing her thing—commanding her little brother on the ways of
the game and smiling at him over hot steaming bowls of mac and cheese—it's all
too much for me sometimes.
I get to thinking about how important family really is in
this lifetime, about how these three kids—one of them still a stranger to us
yet—will someday, if luck shines right, be standing there at the bar together
after my funeral, crying a little and laughing a lot as they remember how goofy
and dumb their dad was.
As they chatter and reminisce about days long past, I hope
Violet will remember back when she was really, really young; how daddy would
meet her in the darkness of the back hall of the old farmhouse before dawn
almost every morning, and how he would sit down silently on the tip-top step as
he waited for his baby girl to flop her tiny arms across his shoulders, hook
her tiny fingers around his chest, and then, once he knew she was on, would
rise up slowly and cautiously so he could haul her downstairs to the breakfast
table without a word from either of them.