Jasper Kerkau Love of a Child (originally published on September 5, 2016)
“I…I…I LOVE YOU.”
My daughter, three, stutters, tries to spit it out. I spin and shame away; my sins tied to her tongue. My failures are wrapped up in her tiny face with purified smile. The cosmos spin and whirl as thousands of years descend into the sea; speck in the eye of angry gods, artifacts of which are dug out of thick jungles. None of it makes any fucking sense, nor does any of it really matter when compared to the only pure thing my heart has touched: the love of a child.
A ticklish, deep belly laugh fights back my maniacal demons of selfish dread and existential buffoonery. You are the only thing I will ever do that matters. She grabs her cartoon dog, and scuttles away; I hear the tiny feet on family floor. I think of the face that turns the lights of my world on with a sweet smile being shattered by a frigid world with myriad ticks and idiosyncrasies created by my failed unions and bad genes yoked to fifteen hundred years of ancestral transgression. We all pay for the same sins, the failures, and shocks of adolescent daydreams, shattered by the screams and hollering of incompatibility and selfishness, in-your-face grit that sends children to school whispering in brown paper bags, drinking milk, making excuses for daddy’s nuanced approach to living: hiding under house, buried in robe and slippers, set out for last time in familial duty.
My daughter will shine like the sun and shed the innocent stutter of her third year. She will bear my cross, find god and lose him on a hunch as the realities of life crash into her with Mesopotamian creation myths and nuanced, Huxleyan logic. She will follow her own trail back looking for meaning, discovering my humanity in my secrets—tragic mistruths, boxes containing irrelevant photos and distorted scribbles. Like me, she will find my uncle’s curious notebook tracing lineage back to Battle of Hastings and find her history is the folly of meaningless people: centuries of laborers and peasants, dying one after the other in a succession of triviality. I am no different.
The only real truth is the one that is manifested in the inherent drive to seek truth, bear a seed and proliferate the cycle, spending eternity wringing hands, worrying over a child with heart breaking for all the pain in the world and that which will be hoisted upon them.
I pick her up as she jumps up and down, squealing as I walk through the door. My heart leaps. My faith in humanity is restored. She will walk the earth and be better than me and that, in itself, justifies all the sadness, all the gut-devouring loneliness, the fickle meanness, the struggle to find something in nothing and restoration that takes place when she cycles through the void and finds the real meaning herself in the eyes of her own child.