Photo: Per H. Olsen

When I created the “Fatherhood” category on my website nearly five years ago, I knew that becoming a dad marked a rite of passage. It never occurred to me that our son James might only live three days, or how having and losing him in such short succession would change me. No man accurately anticipates the full impact of fatherhood. And as much as I knew the birth of our son would better me, I never expected that by his departure I would also gain in courage, compassion, and strength. Truly, it is a remarkable being, who both by his coming and going can have touched my life so profoundly.

I crossed both the equator and the International Date Line this week to meet another remarkable being — my new nephew. He is my wife’s sister’s child, and, like James, he seems to have inherited his lip line from that side of the family. But unlike our James, his eyes are open, and everything about him is inquisitive and alive. It feels both precious and surprisingly natural to spend time with him — hoisting him up to get a better look at the tropical fish at the aquarium, feeding him spoonfuls of mush, and pushing him through the rainy streets in his waterproof pram in search of great fish and chips.

And so, I embrace a new rite of passage, into unclehood. Continue reading…

Off to See the Wizard

Val and I leave tonight for Sydney, Australia to visit her sister, sister’s husband, and our new baby nephew. As a friend and fellow bereaved father pointed out, there is more to this adventure than just a holiday down under. Though I have held one very special little girl since the passing of our son, meeting James’s male cousin, who shares some of his genetics, does seem like another milestone in my journey from grief to hope.

I disciplined myself to take just one book of poems from the shelves that line the walls of our small cottage. I am taking Marvin Bell’s Nightworks. His strong voice and piquant musings are a comfort to me on long trips. If there were something like a break room for great philosophers, where they could congregate, sip coffee, and chat, Bell’s poems capture bits of what we might overhear. This book seemed like the perfect companion with which to cross the dark Pacific.

Between friends, family, and marsupials, I don’t know how much I will be blogging in the next two weeks. But watch out for photos on Flickr, and I’ll be back in the Northern Hemisphere again soon.