I don't know about you, but I save most every letter I've ever received, no matter how rashly writ, and this means that in the case of love letters from men, the pile has reached what some people might think an indecent height. I have often wanted to publish them because they make all those famous love letters, insipid. I'll quote from one that I received the other day:
With the recent arrival of summer there have been sunburns to collect, water sprinklers to run through, and birthday cakes to eat (Hannah turned 4 on Friday... my little girl is growing up way, way too fast. I tuck her into bed at night and do a little puppet show with Captain Nemo, her teddy bear, and before I turn her light out she hugs me and says "You're the best Daddy I ever had" and I get an apple caught in my throat. And my son is no better! I was out of town on business for three days last week and when I got back I went for a walk with him holding his hand, and I said "Hudson, I missed you" and he says "Oh, Daddy" and presses my hand against his cheek. A guy's heart can't take it...).
I asked the besotted one if I could publish that paragraph here, and promised that I would not tell the children's names, but he recklessly said he didn't care if the world knew his love. Furthermore, he wrote:
Regarding the paragraph - by all means you may publish it in your blog, and I would be absolutely delighted and honoured, and I will show it to the family to boot. You don't need to change the names. It made me laugh to think of it... there are a lot of things I do that I don't even realize consciously anymore... in the morning before the kids get up I take a huge handful of Cheerios and make them each a little picture on the table where they sit for breakfast... Hannah kicking a soccer ball or dancing or riding Chico the horse... and a helicopter or a rocketship flying past the moon, or a big slice of chocolate cake (candle optional) for Hudson. Sometimes a few dried cranberries for colour. Art you can eat. I get more work done before 8 a.m. than the whole rest of the day sometimes...
There is, in my estimation, no finer nor more joyful and surprised love that I have ever read expressed than that of a father about his children, and my love letter collection is just that. I have never asked why but consider myself luckier than any lottery winner to be the recipient of letters like these, the stream-of-consciousness admissions of fathers who tell me about this love and joy.
There are recurring themes. It would be wrong for me to list them here, as this could make the writers self-conscious, but the cord that runs through every one of these letters is two-ply. One strand is that of surprise –"how did I get so lucky?" Not having had to go through the pain of motherhood, they often feel like accessories to the fact of a child's life, not an intrinsic part of it. The other strand in the two-ply cord is the joy of touch. I can't count how many letters I have from daddies who express this wonder that a child even wants to hold his hand, and the incomparable throat-clogged feeling from that touch. This is almost always accompanied by a "how soon this will end" mention of time having to pass, and the child growing out of it.
I have never written this to any of these daddies, but I will say this now, to you. I can still feel a hand around mine, 37 years after his last heartbeat.