My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
— William Wordsworth
Growing up, I was often awakened by the sound of a trumpet–a loose vocal interpretation delivered by my father–encouraging me to rise and shine. It was funny, a high-pitched “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!” and no doubt some famous cavalry bugle call obscure to my teen ears. I recall struggling out of sleep, fighting the adolescent grumpiness that just couldn’t get on board with any enthusiasm. The sound of his bounding footsteps followed as he dashed, loped, raced into the day. Here it was not quite 6 AM and my dad was not only awake but active and happy.
My dad is almost seventy and not much has changed. The other day, he burned 700 calories at the gym. Um, that would be my total after two weeks of exercise. He volunteers, he travels, he drafts his novel — I believe in its seventh or eighth version by now. He’s a force.
I could also talk about earthquakes and tornadoes and how my dad was a strong foundation while I was growing up, but it’s this other aspect of my father I’d like to fete. My dad personifies sheer optimism and drive. As a writer, I need high doses, particularly right now as I query. My dad is my role model.
How your father sees you and sees the world shapes you mightily. If your dad expects nothing but great things from you, simply because he truly enjoys to seeing what you accomplish, it’s more than encouraging; it’s just what you do. Shine. The beaming Child says, Okey-dokey. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo! Rise and shine.
When I finished a second draft of my novel, I shared it with my dad. I warned him it had some rough stuff in it, and not just language. He dove in. And daily, I would get updates. “This is great!” My mom would shoot me an email, confirming further: “Your dad is loving your novel!” This was not feigned enthusiasm but genuine enjoyment. While he’s delighted in any piece I’ve written since grade school, it was a great pleasure this time to talk shop because he’s been so devoted to his own craft for several years, revising again and again, seeking honest feedback, and rethinking everything from his query to his novel’s length, shape, and focus.
He offered pages of effusive praise, followed by pages of honest and helpful feedback. I’m in the process of implementing those changes and confident they are exactly what the manuscript needs.
My dad and I are comrades in this messy, often discouraging business of writing and publishing. How great is it to have an ally who finds so much good in what you do. Scoffers are many in this profession, or they’re uninterested parties, at best. How great is it to have a dad whose heart leaps up when he beholds his child.
My dad did not have this encouragement as a child. There was an expectation of success, but little conversation about it; in fact, there was little attention to anything he did. I don’t have these details from him; I have it from what my mother’s pieced together over the years. My dad was not lauded, feted, and admired as I was growing up. He was fed, he was clothed, he was housed. That’s not uncommon for many children of the forties and fifties — they were supposed to be seen and not heard — but it’s such a starkly different experience than my upbringing. I was never ignored. I did not have parents who in their struggle glanced at me briefly and then got back to the business of survival.
So was it when my life began: knowing a father excited to see his child and still excited today. A man optimistic, always, and eager to start the day. Sure that the rainbow wasn’t a silly dream but something a child ought to know.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.
Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.
© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.
Note that these are mixed-age prompts this week.
— You have just received an award or honor for great achievements. Write a thank you speech that acknowledges the people who “got you there.”
— If your father was a plant, what kind would he be? If your father was a building, what kind would he be? If your father was the weather, what kind would he be? If your father was a landscape, what part of the land would he be?
— What advice has your father given you? Write a dialogue that is typical for you and your father.
— Thank the father in your life–whomever he is–with a list of thank yous. List all the things this person (or people) has done for you.
— Finish a paragraph that begins with this statement: My heart leaps up when I behold…
— Write a paragraph that ends with this statement: My childhood fathered this part of me.
— Finish a paragraph with this statement: My dad is normal, right?
— Finish this statement: When I’m a mom or dad, I will… or, As a mom or dad, I am…
— Write your father a letter.