Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bill and Will

A guest post from Matt today...

Yesterday was my dad’s 9th anniversary of being sober. I went with him to his AA meeting last night to see him collect his 9 year chip. I was so proud to watch him, proud that I could bring my son to witness it with his infant eyes.

Thinking about my dad last night makes me think about Will. Sometimes when I hold him in my arms, I can’t help but imagine what he’s going to be like as a child, a teenager, an adult. As he kicks his five month old legs against my lap and flashes his toothless grin, I see a kid playing ball like his dad and granddad before him. I see him having fun and laughing with friends in the pool. But I also see him feeling left out for the first time, see him struggle through the confusion of childhood and adolescence, learning how the world works. I see him making decisions about who he is, what his identity will be, that will affect him for the rest of his life. And I think about the character I hope he develops and the traits I hope take root in his soul. Part of me wants him to be intelligent and witty and popular and sophisticated. But more often I imagine him being kind and gentle, humble in spirit but brave in conviction. And the more I think about it, the more I think about my dad.

My dad said last night that he first attended an AA meeting in 1980 but didn’t get sober until 2000. For the first 20 years of my life, he was “the Great One”. My earliest memories are of my dad waking me up on Saturday mornings to watch the A-team and wrestle in front of the TV. He coached almost all of my sports teams as I grew up, going well beyond sports’ instruction when he took the whole team out for cokes or bought us all new uniforms or took us to Tech games. He was very generous and made it all a lot of fun, and everyone loved him, most of all me. My dad was larger than life.

But he was also an alcoholic struggling with addiction and unable to beat it on his own. When I was 12 or 13, he started to go missing once a month or so for the weekend, apparently out partying. I worried and prayed when I waited on the stairs for his car lights to pierce the darkness of our street on Friday evenings. When he was around, he wasn’t necessarily present and I often found myself having a one-sided conversation with a stone wall. I searched for ways to please him, not because he was ever mad at me, but because I desperately wanted to make things right with our family. When I graduated high school, I fled to the refuge of Atlanta and away from this dad. I loved him, but it was painful to be close to him.

But the dad that I have gotten to know these past 9 years is not the same person I grew up with. He said in his meeting last night that that old Bill Dart is dead, and I believe him. I believe that God did a miracle in his life. I believe because where the old Bill Dart was proud, the new one is humble. Where the old one spoke, the new one listens. Where the old one was rarely wrong, the new one apologizes. Where the old one was a benefactor, the new one is a friend and mentor to those that are hurting. Where the old one was “Great”, the new one is brave. Brave enough to reevaluate everything in his life, to accept God’s love, to face down addiction, then cancer, now continued illness and pain and fear. Not out of bravado, but out of a trust that God is real and God loves him.

My son does not need me to encourage him to pursue intelligence and wit and popularity and sophistication. The whole world encourages that pursuit, and it is empty. I do not want Will to be the next “Great One”. But I would be proud if he was like his namesake. Proud if he was like my Dad.

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Anonymous said...[Reply to comment]

Great post, Matt. Had me a little teary! I find myself looking at Doc and wondering the same things. . . . too bad our little guys can't grow up across the street from each other. Maybe if y'all move back to ATL, they can be buds anyway! Hope all well with the Darts.
Ashley Ab

Anonymous said...[Reply to comment]

Matt, I just read your precious post, and have to go re-apply my make-up! What a great Dad, and husband, and son you are! I love you!

Studio Refuge Photography Blog said...[Reply to comment]

Making a 9 month pregnant lady want to cry and wish Ryan had his baby boy right now. So sweet!

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