Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Smart's Just Not Good Enough, I Guess

Like many intellectuals, he was incapable of saying a simple thing in a simple way.
- Marcel Proust


Dear Rachel,

I always thought it was funny that you believed I was so smart. I remember you filling out one of those Internet surveys in which you answered, “My dad” to the question, “Who is the smartest person you know?”

It’s natural for a daughter to believe one of two things about her father: Either he’s brilliant, or he’s a complete idiot. Luckily for me, you opted for the former rather than the latter.

As you grew up, I was engaged in what might be viewed as intellectual pursuits. (I suppose that’s a fancy way of saying that I’ve never really worked for a living.) I was a teacher, then an editor, then a software developer, and finally, toward the end of your life, an editor again. To an adoring daughter – and you were always that – I suppose these would seem like vocations that required intelligence and training and skills of an intellectually demanding nature. Then again, you might just as easily have been asking yourself, “Hmmm… How come Dad can’t hold a job?!”

At any rate, while I never thought of myself as stupid, I also never believed that I was quite as smart as you thought I was.

This is especially true now. If I’m so sharp, why didn’t I know you were in trouble? How did I not see that your personal life had gotten to a point at which you were in physical danger? Why didn’t I see what was happening?

This, I know, is part of the dark, brooding blanket of guilt that hangs over all of us who’ve lost a child to violence: We tend to feel responsible for things over which we really had no control. I realize that, but it still pains me that, as well as I knew you and as much as I loved you, there could have been looming in your social orbit a danger so violent, so predatory, and so malevolent. And all without me suspecting that you were at risk.

And now that it’s happened – now that I’ve lost you to that malevolence – I’m not sure I’m smart enough to know how to get through it.

Love,

Dad

4 Comments:

Blogger The Atavist said...

I worry about the things my son, who is approaching his 15th birthday, is going to face in life. We as parents want to be able to protect our offspring, but we can't be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, as much as that might be what we wish for, at least as far as our children are concerned.

Your daughter was proud of you and loved you. Ultimately that is a big, big plus and something to hold on to.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Rod said...

Very true... How I wish I could've done something. But you're right; she loved me and (whether or not I deserved it) she was proud of me, so I'll have to hold on to that as best I can. Thanks for commenting.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rod,

You did deserve it - you DO deserve it. You and Rachel had something many fathers and daughters don't have - a true and loving bond. I can see it on your faces every time I look at pictures of the two of you. I see the pride you both had in each other. So you hold on tight to that!

Linda

2:55 PM  
Anonymous rod said...

I'm holding! We're all holding, as best we can. Thanks for the reminder that, as bad as it's been, we had something that not all father-daughter pairs get to share.

12:08 PM  

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