To put your book down,
To stare at me,
My black eyes and white wire?
This is what I long for,
To avert your eyes from colored streams and stare. At me.
This is all I ask.
In your stare, in you, seeing me,
I see love, thick as a biscuit.
And another chance for me to stare back.
Cocking my head, I search for hints,
For communication. For communion.
CS Lewis said that the best prayers are wordless. I heard you say it.
He was right,
And I only ask that you look at me,
So I can look at you.
I’ve grown up with dogs, big dogs: sleek, fast, and muscular shepherds. Shar-peis, wrinkly and stalwart and drooling, and long-haired malamutes who don’t give one single care in the whole bloody world about what you think or say, but my wife had to have this pup, half English Sheepdog and half poodle. Like every puppy I’ve known, his belly burst with pink and purple and love. I don’t mean he wagged his tail and licked, but that he lives on love like I live on coffee and bread and air. It’s a palpable thing.
He teaches me, this dog, to be a better human. When I growl at him to move – he lives within six inches of a human being hoping for a touch to the head – he happily goes to sit three feet away, as if to say, “Right here? I won’t bother you from here, but at least I can see you.” And he’s never saddened by my voice, even if I yell at him to move, that I need more than six inches, but he’s always happy to comply. “So sorry,” his eyes say. “I’ll step down from the couch and go stare at you here. It’s all I really want, you know. Except maybe a scratch.”
I wonder if he is asking himself, What’s my job here? and, since he’s such a good teacher, I’ve started asking myself the same question. I’ve noticed that it’s one thing to say I’m the dad here or I’m the husband, and it’s an altogether different question to wonder what my job is in this situation. With my wife, is it my job to always pay the bills or get the car running? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s my job and my privilege? Maybe, too, it’s to bolster confidence. Maybe my job is to love her just like Toby loves me? To sit across from her on the couch in wonder of this glorious thing?
Just last night, she had it out with one of the twins. I was in the other room and could hear the entire mess ramping up and getting louder. After a couple minutes though, her tone dropped, and she explained why we do it this way. I went into the room a couple minutes later, and they were both watching TV on the bed and talking. Later, when Mom came to bed, I thought about my job in this situation, and I told her that she did great with the girl. She sensed a teaching moment and took advantage of it. It’s part of our job: to raise up responsible and caring and doing adults.
There are a lot of tines on this fork, and not all point straight ahead. In my dad-job, I raise the girls to be strong and confident and humble and faithful. Any decision I make should revolve around those traits.
My husband-job is different. Partly, I’m a voluntary partner. With the girls, we’re partners with a common vision. So, as a member of the firm, so to speak, I was glad to see Mal and my daughter work it out and merge a hair closer to the point where my daughter sees mom as experienced and wise. I like that my wife took the time to explain the whats and whys to our daughter, too, so she can start using that wisdom and making it her own. Sometimes – many times, I’ve learned – is that my husband-job is to get out of the way, to let mom do her job, and then, to thank her for it.
Do you have a dog who loves you? Really loves you? What is your job in the family? In society?
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