Friday, August 12, 2005

Sibling Ambition

I am fortunate to have friends eager to assuage my divorced father guilt by telling me what a good father I am: responsible adult, role model, all the usual stuff. I’m grateful for that, and to them for seeing those qualities in me, even if I occasionally disagree about how much of each is present.

My recent vacation showed me the real thing (again). Someone who never misses one of his kids’ school or personal events. He’s up early to get them off for school, picks them up from day care when necessary, and more often than not makes supper after work. He’s remodeled the house and installed an above-ground pool and deck for them. There is no task too large to undertake on their behalf, and no detail so small it is overlooked.

He was gracious enough to point out to a friend the many alleged sacrifices I make to be a good father, while acknowledging none of his own. Our “sacrifices” have much in common: I never feel as though I have sacrificed anything for the Sole Heir, I look forward to spending time and doing things with, and for, her. Watch him for a few days and it’s easy to see the same is true.

The difference is that when I found myself in a marital situation I didn’t understand and failed to grasp well, I left. I didn’t disappear (my responsibilities as a father were never too far from my mind and I could always be rounded up with a phone call), but I wasn’t home and certainly wasn’t as close as I should have been for a few years. Say what you want about making the effort, no absentee father can be as good as one who is home and makes the effort.

And that’s what he does. I’m not implying any superhuman endurance for his staying married; he and his wife get along as well, or better, as any couple I know. Still, they’ve been married almost fifteen years, human nature tells us there has been some friction. I’m sure he dealt with it as he deals with everything else: patiently, willing to see both sides, and to place the greater benefit ahead of his own.

This is an impressive guy, there’s no one I respect more. I’m may be four years older, but I want to be just like my brother when I grow up.

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