I will, shortly enough, resume the crazy tale of our sudden move to Brooklyn. But first …
This of course is my first Father’s Day with Julian. Thanks to the move, money’s a little tight, so whatever whiskey and medium-rare meat Jen might have had in mind will have to wait, and that’s fine with me.
Even remembering that it’s Father’s Day at all is a big adjustment for me. As I’ve noted here before, my own father died when I was five. My mother never remarried. I had uncles and a grandfather who served as great male role models, and my mother of course stepped up and became as much father-and-mother as she possibly could. But my uncles especially always made it clear to me that they weren’t my father and could never fill that role. So I grew up without a father, and I grew up never paying much attention to Father’s Day.
I wonder sometimes what that’s going to mean, in regard to my relationship with Julian. Will it be harder for me to be a good dad because I’m kind of making it all up on the fly? Or does it mean I can go my own way, and be the kind of father I want to be, and that Jen wants me to be, without having to contend with the baggage of my own father’s successes and mistakes.
What I do know is, I always felt, from the time I was very young, that the universe was profoundly unjust and even sometimes cruel. To the extent that anything in life is ever fair, it’s certainly not fair for two children to lose a parent to cancer at a very young age. It’s not fair for a wife to lose her husband at a time when they’ve just started building a family.
With Julian, I feel like I have a second chance at a father-son relationship, and I honestly never expected that anything like that might ever happen. I resisted the idea of kids for so long in part because I couldn’t even consider the idea that it might happen.
The only answer I have for any of my questions is the same answer any of us has. To even say it is to say something so obvious that it sounds like a cliche, but it’s the only thing I can cling to. Day by day, step by step, just be there for him. Remain involved, don’t leave at the end of the day to go to some other house, don’t lose interest when he’s 14 and start doting on someone else’s kids, don’t lash out when he cries or screams or poops a diaper.
To say we all have complicated relationships with our parents is to say that the sun is hot and that water’s wet. I’m not a special flower. In a way I’m lucky. I never saw my parents argue, at least not that I recall. I never heard one of them leave in the night and come back days or weeks later, if at all. I was never abused.
Carving out my own path as a father is no different from the ways in which any parent has to figure out his or her own role in a child’s life.