(This was posted on my blog in 2014, but when I had to rebuild my site, all of the posts were flushed. I’m reposting because I still believe what I wrote.)
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing my 13-year-old shine as Peter Pan in her school musical. And when I say shine, I mean she was brilliant. As natural as a fairy in flight. Some of you saw it and told me, “She’s a natural.”
It may be true, but that statement does injustice to the whole truth. It doesn’t factor in the tears of pain she fought through during every flight rehearsal. Or the fact that she’s been in drama classes half her life. She spends her summers in drama workshops taught by world-class teachers where she rubs shoulders with Broadway talent. She has worked hard and is well on her way to becoming a genius at her art.
As a father, I’ll take hard work and persistence over natural talent any day.
As I watched her, I thought repeatedly of a scene from a book I wrote last year. As I wrote it, I didn’t realize I was drawing on my own experiences as a father, but my subconscious must have been at work because my experience mirrored my character’s.
((BIG SPOILERS AHEAD))
A man who faked his own death, risks discovery to watch his daughter sing to a sold-out house. Here’s an excerpt from GOODBYE AGAIN:
The indulgence might end up derailing everything he’d set up.
Yet, was it worth it? To see his girl shining so bright they could have turned off the spotlights and no one would have noticed. . . .
He got to see Cleo happy. What more could a parent want?
Offspring happy, after paying the price to succeed. If that’s not a pinnacle moment of parenthood, I don’t know what is.
Back to Peter Pan. He wouldn’t be Peter Pan if he didn’t fly, right? And without someone on the other end of the cable, Peter doesn’t fly on stage. The director wanted someone a 13-year-old could trust with her life as she swung 18 feet in the air, so he asked her father. (Me)
My schedule worked out well; I only had to take one day off work to make it to the important rehearsals and all three performances. As it turns out, on closing night my fire department was hosting its annual awards banquet. I had been nominated and selected to receive the Medal of Courage for acts of lifesaving in my community. [A year ago I walked into the local library and saw a man in cardiac arrest. I performed CPR until the local paramedics arrived then assisted them with resuscitation efforts. The patient, a 65-ish man, was TALKING TO US by the time they wheeled him out on the gurney! In 15 years in EMS I haven’t seen a save so drastic.]
In my 15 years in EMS I’ve also never been recognized by any of the three fire departments I’ve worked for. As is often the case with these awards and medals, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I basically did what any paramedic would be do. It’s kind of a sacred trust.
I tend to think the same thing about being a dad (which is definitely a sacred trust). I could have left my daughter in someone else’s hands for one night so I could be recognized by leaders and peers for being in the right place at the right time. Right? Well I didn’t even consider it. When your daughter puts her life in your hands, you hold on tight.
A comment to my daughter by one of the other actresses during the final rehearsal drove this home. “Your dad is awesome. All my dad ever does is sit on the couch and watch TV.” I hope at least one of the nights she performed, that girl’s dad got off the couch.
Tomorrow I might be the “Worst Dad Ever” if I take her phone away or turn off Doctor Who in favor of homework. Hopefully, deep down my daughter knows her dad’s the guy who always tries to be in the right place at the right time.