If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it three million times, forget cleanliness; self-awareness is next to godliness. On my thirty-third birthday, September 10, 2003, I implemented that philosophy into my sad life. After three decades of being average, okay, and just getting by, I held this five-pound bald cherub in my left hand and got “it”. You know “it”? Oh, not that obvious platitude of parenthood changes you. Of course it does, you’re up half the night feeding and wiping a tiny human. No “it” is where you realize your failures and selfishness, that “what about me” bullcrap that you think is important but isn’t, becomes unnecessary and purpose matches philosophy.

I see them in the mall. I click on their Facebook pages. The sad eyes of men with no purpose are telling. They have wives, kids, cars, boats, mistresses, fantasy baseball teams, and gas grills the size of Volkswagens but they have no idea who or what they are. I doubt they want to know.

My daughter, now almost 9, was only 11 days old that September morning when I stopped being a rudderless person. She was tiny. I held her in one hand and made her bottle with another. I carried her to the couch and we watched the three a.m. Sportscenter together while tears streamed down my face. She opened her miniscule mouth and I turned the plastic container upside down so she could drink. The baseball scores scrolled by and I started planning. Get out of this marriage. Quit whining. Write. Be the kind of father she’ll dare other men to aspire to later.

It took years. Hell, we’re on nine. But I finally accepted myself. Birthdays mean little to me, now. If anything, they serve as a reminder of how I didn’t really deserve one until my thirty-three. On that couch if in front of ESPN, was the last birthday that mattered. After the thirty-third, celebrating was just cake.

 ****blogger’s note****

I went rogue, true and personal for Trifecta optional prompt, choosing Smashing Pumpkins’ video of their song Thirty-Three. I had to write for this one. This song means a lot to me.


29 thoughts on “Thirty-Three

  1. “Know thyself, and know thyself well”

    I’m not sure I can pinpoint one specific paradigm shift that crafted a desire to understand who I was and why, but I can recall the moment that I realized no matter how well I THOUGHT I knew myself, I had to make a huge overhaul. Out went all the things I thought I knew (which left me slightly neurotic, and definitely emotional beyond reason) then I started checking every bit of input at the mental door, to see if I REALLY believed what I had been telling myself for years I did.

    This was an inspiring post m’Friend, and every time you dip your pen into the well of your heart it comes out drippingly fantastic. I’m glad I write online… I might never have met you otherwise.

    • i feel the same. Joni Mitchell once said real songwriting was sticking aknife in your gut and evisceratinging yourself all over the page. I love Joni.

      I had so many more moments but this was ground zero. thank you for reading and being a friend.

  2. TheKirCorner

    No one writes about fatherhood like you (I know that mu husband is this kind of dad..that even though he doesn’t have brilliant words like you he was meant to be a father and does that job well) this was so beautiful that I hope someday when she reads your words and sees HOW and WHY her birth changed the course of your life , she will know how LOVED she is.

    That year was a big one for me too…11 days before your day, I got married, finally.

    This blew me away, thanks for the look inside your heart.

  3. For me , this song and video led right into ‘Adore’, a CD that many people didn’t like, but had more meaning than layers of crunchy guitars. You did it great justice by putting as much of yourself into it as BC did.

  4. This will be your legacy… “Be the kind of father she’ll dare other men to aspire to later.” Forget getting past Dad’s scrutiny, woe to the men your daughter’s date, they have a lot to live up to.

  5. Those early days of new parenthood did the same for me – I was 29. I ebbed and flowed over the course of the next four years, having baby #2 along the way. Funny thing, my 33rd birthday was when I promised myself I would put all that I had learned about myself and this life into practice. 33 is magical. And I am so glad you shared a bit of your magical-ness with us!

  6. Tiina

    I’m with you on the birthday thing. I just want every day to be appreciated, loved, understood. I don’t need surprises, fancy gifts or months of planning for any one day. My daughter was born on my birthday, and named for the twin I lost. I don’t need any more presents. I already got the best one there is.

  7. Oh my. You wrote volumes is just these few words. Some of the other comments kind of seemed a bit vapid until I remembered that only those who have lived it can see it. And when you’ve lived it, the words flash neon. The sad eyes of men can’t hide behind their wives. Nor can the sad eyes of women hide behind contrived perfection. It’s a club no one wants to belong to, but the only way to find your way out is to admit you’re a card-carrying member. I don’t know if I could pick a moment. I know there were a few. All along my path. Certain moments for different epiphanies. I’m pretty sure I’m still having them, though smaller now. It’s a slow hike out of that ravine, slow and humbling…..

    • right

      nah, not vapid. there are time you write at your two places and people won’t “get” the guts you just showed to the world of the internets and I feel like shaking them.

      i used to hate that cliche “walk a mile in my shoes” bs….now I know, that saying exists for a reason.

      we’re grown ups deus…we just are, dude

  8. I know this was intended for the Smashing Pumpkins prompt, but I read it as the Lewis Carroll one as well. I figured you spoke the truth three times in that first paragraph: “it.” A truth that you understood, it seems, at age 33.

    In any case, is was beautiful and oh, so personal. Thanks for sharing.

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