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The Man At The Door | Jason James Barry

There’s a picture of him I hadn’t seen until this past year, a tall figure dressed in black and framed by the doorway he hadn’t yet walked through. In movies, it could just as well have been the cinematic entrance for this intriguing and handsome man who, for that moment, seemed to hold the attention of the whole room.

It was from sometime early in the 1970s, I want to say in maybe the same year I had been born, a photo of my father in uniform as a Connecticut State Trooper, ducking in late to some meeting at the volunteer firehouse that he had, by then, long since volunteered for.

He was that way to me too, mysterious, a strong man who carried his thoughts more often than he spoke them. He was a man I hadn’t begun to figure out until well into my own adulthood, and regrettably, years after he passed.

Here I stand, now decades older than him from then in that picture, and I still wonder how I will live up to him, even that version of him then, in his calm and his poise, with the miles of life, by then, he had already navigated and traveled.

I stand in the doorway to each of my daughters’ rooms, at times, hoping that I’ve helped in shaping them right, as I wonder if I myself have grown in ways my father hoped I would to evolve beyond simply being another version of him.

And I don’t know the answer to either, though I have begun understanding that all through those moments of his, even cinematic ones, my father hadn’t figured it all out, not his life or mine, but he was trying, one day in into years, in doing the best that he could.

Now as I stand then walk from the doorways to the rooms of each of my girls, my hope is that they reflect one day to see, invariably, that I hadn’t had life figured out fully, not mine nor theirs, but that I had been trying, best as I could. I hope someday that they see I kept trying for the length of my days, for myself and for them, so that they weren’t simply better versions of me, but the best versions of themselves.

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist and journalist, and resides with his family outside San Diego. Follow his work on,, and at


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