O Filiæ

Having a teen, and a tween, daughter is definitely a vocation within a vocation for a parent. A pink martyrdom. Nuff said.

But, as a dear and wise friend who has grown children said to me once, “Every age has its beauty.”

It’s hard to let go of their childhood. Really hard. At least for me.

I remember several years ago when my daughter gave me a hand painted piece of construction paper for Father’s Day that said on it,

Dad is a Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love.

I had to “use the restroom” to have a good sob.

Who am I?

My wife said to me later that night,

Do you have any idea how powerful your love for your girls is? Don’t ever underestimate it.

I try not to.

And a priest in Confession once echoed her words,

God’s entrusted those children to you to imprint His Face deep into their minds and hearts. Be a good artist and make Him recognizable.

Such words concentrate the soul wonderfully.

Original sin is not only the violation of a positive command, but attempts to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world, placing in doubt the truth about God who is Love and leaving man with only a sense of the master-slave relationship. ― St. John Paul II

Fatherhood: my life’s sweetest terror.

Here’s my oldest guitar-wielding daughter now:


7 comments on “O Filiæ

  1. Sherri Paris says:

    I LOVE the quote from the priest about the imprint!!! Oh, and you have a lovely daughter! 🙂 Blessings….

  2. Oneview says:

    Oh, my! Beautiful eyes. Cannot wait to see you later this summer 🙂

  3. Dismas Dancing says:

    Brother Neal, as you certainly know from most of my comments on your blog, I spent a full career in the Marine Corps. When I retired from the Corp, three of our four children were already married having kids of their own and marching to the sound of their own career drums. Interestingly, not one of our children entered the military, although our sons investigated the possibilities, but with their own well-established parameters for doing so in mind before making a commitment.

    Last weekend, our youngest and his bride invited us to attend their collegiate Alma Mater to celebrate a couple of significant events the University School of the Performing Arts was conducting. He was the last to leave the nest, doing so in 1996 after having worked as a golf course laborer in New Orleans while discerning whether, where, and which career, profession, job would most suit his life. He ultimately chose Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA deciding to work toward life as a stage actor. His elder brother was attending Durham University in England at the time, also majoring in the arts. In that field he has excelled, just finishing up a gig in London’s National Theater in the critically acclaimed “Yellow Face”. He has a long and impressive resume. But, since I am not advertising for them, I’ll spare you specifics beyond that mentioned above. We also had two daughters, the eldest of the four. Both are exceptional in so many, many ways. Both are wonderful Moms AND professionally successful outside the home, one as a teacher in a private school in southern Georgia, the other as a property manager in central Texas. Indeed, Our Lord has not only blessed both of us (my bride and me) with wonderfully talented children, He has been magnificently generous in His blessings of them as well.

    So what? In this age that denies ever more loudly that men (fathers) are no longer necessary for the rearing of children, I scream loudly in protestation using Our Lord’s message from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know NOT what they do!” If nothing else, the experiences my wife and I shared with our kids throughout our military life demonstrated in unassailable statistics and observable real life events the absolute criticality of an engaged father working in consonance with the loving mother as a holistic, functional team in order for the offspring to have at least some real potential to succeed in life. Absent an engaged father, a child (male or female) will find an alternative, often one that is the antithesis of what the child needs. But within that substitute relationship one finds approbation, approval, “Love” (such as it is), belonging, and purpose. Sadly, over the years, we knew and took care of a number of latch-key kids whose parents abandoned them to the vagaries of the social network around them. Fortunately, within our rather closed society that is the military family, these kids found acceptable substitute families willing to stand in for absent parents. My wife and I still keep in touch with a number of them through our own kids and their periodic communication with fellow “military brats” they got to know and befriend over the years.

    Several years ago, following a very special event in which I participated with my sons while we were stationed in Seoul, Korea, I wrote a memoir about it. Perhaps the most poignant line in your blog was:

    “Dad is a Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love.”

    In my own memoir, shadows of your daughter’s line to you jump out at the reader—often. For, in their invitation to me to participate in a stage production, I was asked to be that “sons’ hero”. It was an immensely awesome experience. In other aspects of that same memoir, I document the very real necessity and experience of being “a Daughter’s first love.” Specific experiences throughout our lives—daughters and father—are equally awesome. In the final thoughts of that memoir, I opine that, in the many trials my kids and I experienced together in our roles as a father and his children, they have become unwitting “heroes” to me. Before “tough love” became a cliché, it governed the rearing of my kids. The operative word, however, is “love” not “tough”. Anyone can be tough. That’s the easy part. Sometimes it was too easy for me as one of those “tough” Jarheads. The horribly difficult challenge is whether love governs the issue. I submit that if a father does not do as you did and find a place to privately “grieve”, whether happily or sadly, whether having received a “hand painted piece of construction paper” upon which is written a beautiful and simple love note, or having just meted out a “just” punishment in response to an errant action—If you cannot/do not find that private place and submit to the “LaCrema Christi” so to speak, you cannot, you are not, a father in the sense that your other quotes demonstrate that we should be. Even today, I indeed grieve for the times when I allowed “tough” to be my guide, instead of the “love” that is always richly deserved, regardless of circumstances. When my kids and I talk about those days and comment on the memoir, they chide me for “beating yourself up” over things “we probably deserved.” It soothes, but shall never heal, the wounds of remembrance.

    BTW, two of my heroes, the eldest child (elder daughter) and her brother, the elder son, celebrate this year their 20th wedding anniversaries. Six grandchildren from those unions, four boys and two girls—ALL incredibly talented and smart (documented, NOT just braggadocio from a proud grandfather). Youngest son this year married 12 years with youngest grandchild (ditto the above). Next year another 20th anniversary—for second daughter. They have two very smart, lovely, and talented girls. Nine grandchildren in toto, ALL talented, smart, and possessed of a firm faith background (pls see above comment re proud grandpa). Can one question why, in my world where genuine heroes are in far too short supply, that my own children are MY heroes?

    “My Father in Heaven, in Your mercy and generosity, You have allowed me, in unity with the love of my earthly life, the privilege of being father and earthly trustee of four of your beautiful creatures. In them are reflected Your infinite glory and majesty. I beg You in Your Fatherly love to rain down Your graces upon me and my own sons that I/we may be always “real” father(s) to our children in Your image and reality as Father of all creation. I beg also to be imbued with the necessary graces and strength to be a true son to You as is Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I make this prayer as always in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. ”

    Thanks so much for the great post. Upon finishing it, my own reaction was doubtless similar to yours in far more circumstances than we, as “tough” men might like to admit. Peace, my friend.


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