I have felt many types of love in my life, but there's nothing like a father's love for his child.
My son has long ago headed off into his own life. He left my hippie shack in the forest and has a proper nine-to-five job, a house in the suburbs, and a wife - I'm so disappointed in him. No, I'm just kidding. (But children do rebel against their parents, eh?) I'm proud of him because he values love. He knows the love that comes from a happy, long-term relationship (I've heard of them). And he knows, as I do, that exquisite love a father has for his children.
My son's face, when he chats with his preschool daughter as they pack a lunch into her princess bag, is my face when I would talk with him as we squeezed super-bananas into his Superman lunch box for his day at Cawongla super-school. I'll always be in my son's debt because he gave me the opportunity to experience a love only fathers know. The father's love I first saw in my own father's eyes, I recognise in my son's. I reckon a son finally understands his father when he too feels that love for his child.
It's a love that surprises men. It did me. For the first time in my life I truly loved something more than myself. That unconditional love expanded my universe. It generated so much force that planets were formed where wild things were, moons were created that cows jumped over and woods grew where honey-loving bears talked and depressed donkeys moaned.
For the first time in my life I was prepared to give someone (even someone with poo in their pants) everything I had, just because I wanted to, and with no thought of receiving in return.
But such a powerful force is sickening when it is denied; when that newly-created universe implodes and the magic disappears. When cruelly cut, the brilliant light of fatherly love turns to a darkness so deep it's a void you can fall into. And keep falling.
The friend who sits opposite me is in that dark place.
"I don't know what to do," he says.
His eyes are black with frustration, red with grief. His daughter is being denied to him. So the father suffers. Having tasted the joy of parenthood, having been taught the great lesson in love, he now has to swallow a dreadful sourness and suffer withdrawal from his teacher.
Around us the night closes in. Something falls on the shack's roof. A dead branch knocked free by the night's gentle wind. A mosquito buzzes in my ear. I don't know what to tell my friend. I get a mosquito coil and light it. I know his daughter loves him. I've seen them exploring their created world together in a starship.
My son's mother and I broke up while my son was still young. It wasn't pleasant for any of us but we strove to maintain a cordial relationship because we knew that a child should have access to both his parents. That was a mature undertaking for such an immature me. But I guess parents are supposed to be grown-ups.
"I just want to see my daughter," he says, his voice breaking.
Of course you do. That's what being a dad is all about. I realise I want to see my son too.
Smoke from the coil spirals upwards but drifts away from the door. It's hard to make curtain doors airtight and there's a draught pushing through. The microbat, which likes to visit this room, takes advantage of the momentary opening and flits through.
Now there are three blokes hanging (one of them literally) in the shack. At least two of us are thinking about our kids.
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