Dear Lily June,
Tomorrow, your father, “Ryan Moore,” turns thirty-three years old. In the midst of the holiday crazy, I don’t want this fact to get lost: What I am genuinely, truly, most thankful for this year is his existence on the planet.
Even if he hadn’t become the great love of my life–which he, of course, has–the mere occasion of his birth would be worth celebrating. I loved him the moment I met him and have loved him through years of a courtship and an engagement and a marriage that has already had its share of rocky seas to navigate. That your father has remained who he always is–loyal, caring, loving–through circumstances as difficult as a tornado and as miraculous as your birth is nothing short of astounding to me, but it’s also telling as to who he is.
One of our writer friends, “Andrew Jones,” once wrote of your dad that, “Wherever he is, he is ‘Ryan Moore.'” It is true–your dad is as sure as the sun on the horizon and, as sailors by stars, since I’ve known him, I have charted my life by his heartbeat.
In my heart, he is always Moore. He has done more for my life than I have time or space to write about, even if I devoted the rest of my life to penning gratitude towards him. But I will share a few tidbits about your dad here, so that you can understand the man, and the marriage, which has, in great part, made my life what it is.
I come by this quotation not from its source, writer G.K. Chesterton, but by fellow blogger bjaybrooks, and yet, I think its words so accurately describe your parent’s marriage:
“We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
This year, with its impending
holidoom holidays, has been especially bittersweet for your parents, as we’ve had to grapple with memories from our painful pasts and childhoods that brought less than perfect merriment.
I remember growing up in a home of passive neglect; your father, active violence. We sat on the porch the other day recounting specific memories of times long gone and knowing we shared the same goal in the depths of our being: showing you a love like we’d never known. A love of patience and forgiveness; a love slow to anger and impossible to earn because it is freely given at the wonder of your life.
If your father and I shared the same boat of an abusive childhood, we used it to sail to you, Lily June. And no matter your struggles in life, we vowed together that you would never know waters like we have known, waters that threatened to overthrow all that was innocent, and loving, and patient and forgiving in us.
In all the time we’ve been writing and publishing, your father and I have only appeared in the same journal–at the same time–once. I’d written a poem about your name (your real name); your father had written about a much darker time when his father, Dell, had tried to apologize for the abuse he’d put your dad through.
In the poem, “the speaker” (a somewhat imagined version of your dad) reflects on what a painful past has done to his identity, even while the present offers a futile bouquet of apologies to consider. I have never been able to read this poem without weeping a small ocean of pain for your father’s traumatic childhood, and most especially because of two lines in the poem that, hopefully, your dad won’t be angry with me for my sharing here. He writes at one point,
“I love like I’ve waited to waste it,”
and in another,
“I love incorrectly.”
Lily, what your father endured the poem only gestures towards (head-stitches, for instance), but there is no scar more lasting and deep than the impression his childhood left on your father’s heart. He believed for the majority of his life, though I can only send a hope up to the heavens like a flare cutting a ribbon of light through the darkness that he doesn’t still believe, he loved incorrectly. That boy believed that the violence his father inflicted on him was his own fault. The man he grew into, which had its own ports of violent adolescence along the way, believed he did not deserve true, lasting, unpainful love.
To see him hold you, as gently as he might cup a moonbeam in his hand, is to know he was so very wrong. His capacity for love goes deeper than the darkest depths of an ocean that has drowned so many before him in circular rip-tides of rage. Whether he believes it of himself or not, your father met those savage waves head-on and did what so many who find themselves drowning don’t have the courage or wisdom or patience to do: He didn’t struggle. He swam parallel to the shore.
Instead of swimming against his father’s lessons–that manhood means brutality and love is a hard-won trophy–he swam towards ways of expressing himself without ever laying a hand on a woman or child in anger. He swam towards the beauty of language, towards its power to take pain and make it into heart-breaking art, into pieces like the poem I reference above which was just nominated for a Pushcart Prize by an editor who called it “fucking brilliant” despite your father’s lamenting that it had been rejected dozens and dozens of times before it found a home where it did.
He swam towards love–in me, who was still treading the waters of my own painful past, believing myself unworthy of love and attention, when he handed me the life raft of his life.
He swam, my darling dear, towards you before he ever knew you would exist. We dreamed of you, joking about pecks of boys we’d name variations on Will (Bill, Billy, Willie, Will-yum), who ended up being just one child: our tender, serious, sharply intelligent and fiercely independent, even at six months old, daughter. He swam until he found a boat to crawl into, to pull me up in, that we would ride to a shoreline where you waited, patiently, for us to get past our pasts and get on with our futures.
My daughter, your father, I know, loves you with a burning light that could bring any ship, any heart–mine, yours–home to port. Your father will be thirty-three, though some part of him is still a frightened three, and some part of him a sophisticated man in his thirties. Your father will, like he always does at this time of year, take stock of his life, and most likely, he will lament the money he has not made, the life he can’t afford to give us, the fame his writing hasn’t earned, the advancement his career hasn’t made, etc. etc. ad nasueam amen.
But he will forget, my dear, that to you and I, he is like a man who swam the length of all the planet’s oceans, from its darkest depths to its shallowest shores, and as such, he is the world’s strongest man. He will forget that his life defied stereotype and statistic, and he didn’t allow violence to beget violence ad infinitum; he broke the cycle, and as such, is the world’s kindest and wisest man.
He will forget that his poem, that all of his work, moves me like gravity pulls the planets, and in that, in my heart, he is the world’s most incredible writer. He will forget that no amount of money can buy what so many lack in their lives, the capacity to love wholeheartedly, all-encompassingly, correctly. He will forget he is your and my hero, Lily, and so it is our job, each year that his birthday falls on a Thanksgiving to tell him, “We are thankful for you.”
And we are, Lily June. Without your father, you would have no life. Without your father, I wouldn’t want mine. And for this love and the entirety of all thirty-three years which brought him here, now, to this moment, to our open arms, we owe him a beautiful loyalty.
- “BOUALAML.the boat south mediterranean-Maghrebis.2” by محمد بوعلام عصامي. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BOUALAML.the_boat_south_mediterranean-Maghrebis.2.jpg#/media/File:BOUALAML.the_boat_south_mediterranean-Maghrebis.2.jpg