Ted Williams was not a good father—at least not for most of his life. He was a great baseball player, but for a long time, he was a really selfish and ruthless person. He came from a horrible, abusive childhood himself and struggled to find the ability to love and care about anyone, including himself. It was like his own childhood prepared him to be a kind of lone wolf, a machine designed to do one thing really well (and caring about other people was not that thing).
If you haven’t read Wright Thompson’s insanely beautiful profile of Williams’ daughter, Claudia Williams, you should. It starts off dark and depressing, but by the end it has enough hope in it to inspire even the most hard-boiled and reluctant fathers. Because, over time, due to the incredible efforts of his children, Ted Williams started to change.
“What’s incredible as an observer was to watch him fall in love with his kids,” a friend says in the profile Thompson says in the piece about Williams.” The vulnerability of having love for your children. You could see it just gnaw. It was everything against his grain to succumb to this outside influence of children. Love had control over him. He felt vulnerable. A vulnerability he had never had in his life.” And that was starting to show itself in little hints, whether it was entries in Williams’ fishing journal, where for the first time he began to write about the kids he had long ignored or in the signed poster his daughter had found under piles of memorabilia after her father’s death, that just said, ‘To my beautiful daughter. I love you. Dad.’”
You have that vulnerability now. Those same powerful forces are gnawing at you too, hopefully, and making progress on that tough exoskeleton you developed to protect yourself. You can let this change you, let this make you better. You can even begin—no matter how far you are down the road, as Williams was—start to make up for mistakes you might have made earlier in fatherhood.
It’s never too late.