I love my father very much.
When I was 18, I sliced my right index finger open while cleaning the meat slicer at my dad's restaurant, the Madison Diner, the best restaurant this side of the Pacific.
My first thought was, "Will I ever be able to play guitar the same again?"
My dad half-led/half-dragged me to the van, put my seat-belt on because my hands were busy holding a rag on my finger, and drove me to Jewish hospital. He kept telling me to put pressure on it the whole ride, but didn't hesitate to remind me, "You'll never do that again."
While in the hospital, I was still distressed over the possible loss of my ability to play guitar. But my dad reminded me, "We've all done it. I've done it, your Gido's done it, your uncles have done it...it'll heal."
This June, I celebrated the first-year anniversary since the incident. It's been a crazy year since then.
I enrolled in a seminary (not just any seminar, Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary) around that time, and left for that seminary in the fall. I left behind many people that I loved.
While there, I began to discern whether priesthood or marriage was God's call for me in life. However, I also suffered from what I believed to be major homesickness.
I had left behind every one that I loved. I left my friends, my family, my way of life. I didn't even play guitar very often any more. Something in me was changing. I was growing more and more afraid. Of failing. Of dying. Of growing old and having nothing to show for it.
And then it happened.
I came home for Christmas break, and I began to believe that I would not be going back to seminary. What ensued was a series of talks between my father and I about my life decisions and my choice to live. I told him that I didn't think I physically had the strength to go back and endure another semester. I told him I didn't think I could make it that long.
He told me I didn't have to. I just had to make it the next day.
When mountain climbers become so exhausted and tired that they feel like they can't make it to the top, they find a rock or a crevase and they tell themselves, "I can make it to that rock." Then, when they reach that rock, they tell themselves, "I can make it to that next rock." And rock by rock, they make it to the top.
After telling me this, my dad pointed to the signs on the highway where we were driving. "See, you can just say, 'I'll make it to that next exit sign.' And then when you reach it, you can point to the next sign and say, 'I'll make it to that next sign.' Then when you reach where you were trying to go, you'll know that you made it."
See, that's what manhood's about. It's not about climbing mountains. It's about reaching the next rock.
Since leaving the seminary in January, I have had many trials. I had to experience life working full-time in the very same restaurant that nearly took my finger. I had to endure the loss of some of the people closest to me. I've had to watch as my friends left for college, while I stayed behind. But God blessed me with a friend who has become even more than that to me now. A friend I had once hurt. But this friend forgave me, and with that forgiveness came great love.
This friend I believe to be a lifelong companion, some one to have and hold and forgive and care for in the same way that she has loved, forgiven, and cared for me.
And this spring, I wrote that girl a song. On my guitar. With all ten fingers.
I have healed from my wounds. And I'll never do that again.
I do not know if this is God's path for me now. I do not know if this is the end I will meet. I do not know if I can reach the mountain top.
But I do know that I can make it to that rock.
I do know that I can play guitar with my right index finger. (I'm typing with it now.)
I do know that I can be a man like my father is.
And I want to be.
I believe God is calling me to this life.
I love my father very much.
I love my girlfriend very much.
And I love my life very, very much.