A few months before my son Asher was born I picked up a book called ‘the road’ by Cormac McCarthy. Strangely enough, 2 years later, it is a book that I think about often when I am with my son. Initially when I picked it up I was hoping to dive into a post apocalyptic story about desperate survival amidst a shattered world. But what I ended up with would get me thinking about what it means to be a dad.
The setting is brutal. Bleak and dangerous, the world of ‘the road’ is certainly no place for anybody let alone a boy. There is no food and there are gangs of cannibals motivated by desperation are ravaging the landscape looking for anyone to eat. Yet within this horrendous world, a mere man and his son are embarking on a journey to a place that is rumoured to be a safe-haven. They are taking ‘the road’ which is an old highway, to get there carrying their stuff in a shopping cart. They are travelling the road of hope.
“This is my son, he said. I wash a dead man’s brains out of his hair. That is my job.”
The mutual love and dependency upon one another within the bleakness of a post apocalyptic context is what gives the story life. Even in the midst of chaos and a cannibalism that has become seemingly normative for what is left of society, the man marches on with his son to the beat of a different drum. He refuses to be a cannibal even to the brink of starvation. He stunningly teaches his son of a different morality and ethic of a world past while fully and completely protecting his son from the violence of the new post apocalyptic reality.
The man will do anything for his son. He teaches him not only how to physically survive, but the man teaches his son how to live. This is the what got me thinking.
When I first read the book it got me thinking, what kind of father will I be? Today it has me thinking about what kind of father I am.
Am I the kind of father that would succumb to the structures of a post apocalyptic world and enter into a the dark places of cannibalism? Or am I so bold to tell my son of a different way of life that requires significant sacrifice? The struggle is brutal. In ‘the road’ the man loves his son to the point that they may starve. Yet, the desperation to survive we know that the man will do anything for his boy.
One look from my son and in his eyes I see a dependency so innocent and vital to his mere physical survival I feel intimidated by the responsibility. That is when I again realize that I love him and will do anything for him. But there is more to being a father than just keeping the kid alive. What will I show him and teach him about life? How will I walk with him on the journey? How can I be used to show him of this wonderful divine being alive and active in our world?
I have learned in the mere 20+ months of being a dad that the best thing I can do is be a father who is fully present with his son. I hope that with that presence I can be a medium for which God’s love will reign down on his tiny little toddler self. I hope that no matter what the context, post apocalyptic, West End Winnipeg, or the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, that we walk the road of hope together.
I would gladly wash dead mans brains out of my sons hair!