Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fatherhood

I’m not sure whether I’ll post this or not. It is very personal and although I am no stranger to publicly airing certain catharses, this one has put me in an odd state of mind. In all likelihood some version of this will find its way to publication, but at this point I have no idea as to what that will look like. It deals with family, with a long period of time and with relationships. It is an attempt to describe feeling and emotion using mere words and though I would be the first to tell anyone about the power of words, this is an instance where words seem so very insufficient.

I have three sons. My eldest, Anthony, is 26. He has a one year old son, a wonderful fiancé and a career in Southern California. He is a good man, a good father and a responsible member of society. I am very proud of him. My youngest, Matthew, is 20 and serving in the U.S. Army, currently stationed in Afghanistan. My middle son, Timmy, 22, is perhaps the one most like me. He has tremendous but largely unrealized potential. I am equally proud of all three of them not for what they are or are not, but for who they are. My father once told me that if his children have embraced good moral values, high ethics and care for others the likes of which he and my mother modeled for my siblings and me, he has done his job well. By that standard, I have done my job well – my boys are all very good men.

There are other standards – measures of parenthood – that indicate I could have performed better. I don’t think there was ever a parent who never second-guessed his or her execution in this sacred role. But one thing I can say for sure and without qualification is no father ever loved his children more than I love mine. When it comes to love there is no continuum, no gray area – it is forever at the maximum all the time. My boys are all individuals and my relationship with each is uniquely personal, but my love for each of them knows no bounds and is equal in its indescribable strength. I would go to the ends of the Earth for each of them - no holds barred, no limits. And this is true despite the fact that I came into Anthony’s life when he was just past his second birthday. I married his mother and although that marriage did not last long, my role of father to that boy never ended.

Except on rare occasion when it is necessary for clarification, I never refer to Anthony as my stepson. Because he does not carry my surname, occasionally I feel compelled to explain, but even then I most often use terminology like “not my biological son,” however, I avoid even that technically correct language if at all possible. I avoid it because I do not now nor have I ever felt that he was not a part of me. It just doesn't feel natural to call him anything other than my son. I fell in love with him right from the start – there was never any question. Timmy is, and since his little brother was born, always has been my middle son; and of course, Matt has always been my youngest. I have three boys – end of story.

Anthony has known since he was very young that I did not conceive him. Although he has not asked many questions regarding his biological heritage, I know those questions had to exist. And I absolutely understand. Anthony’s biological father exited the picture (for reasons only he knows) soon after I came into it. For more than 20 years, his whereabouts were unknown. Through the miracle of Facebook, Anthony and his biological father have found each other. Anthony informed me right away and I assured him of what he already knew – that I am okay with it.

And I am. And I’m not. It’s not that I feel somehow threatened, that my status as Anthony’s father would somehow be reduced – that is not possible – but at the same time it bothers me when this veritable stranger comes into my world calling my son his son; my grandson his grandson. It makes absolutely no difference in my relationship with my son or my grandson, but being a father means sacrifice - willing sacrifice - and as far as I can see, this guy has made none. It’s about day care, mini-vans, midnight drives to the doctor, stitches, Little League games, camping, girlfriends, snowboarding, birthday parties and myriad other things that come with fatherhood that cannot be redone and that cannot be quantified by any measure. There are a billion moments filled with tears and laughter and everything in between that can only be lived once.

But my son has the right to have his questions (whatever they may be, all of them) answered. I have no intention of interfering with whatever relationship he might build with his biological “father.” I am here in the same capacity as I have been for the past 24 plus years – that of a father who loves and supports his son no matter what. That’s what real fathers do for their children. And I am Anthony, Timothy and Matthew’s real father - past, present and forever more.

6 comments:

Lynne B said...

You make another wise choice in coping skills and some great points for those of us, who lifetimes ago, picked up where others simply dropped out. Thank you, again

Kim Williams said...

makes sense to me. great job!

elle said...

Made me cry a bit. Which is, all in all, a good thing.

There's a difference between father and "father". This post explains it. Love- a lifetime of undying, unequivocal, unwavering love- is the difference. Stay strong. You're an amazing father. Your boys know it. :)

Ernest Warner said...

Thanks so much for sharing this positive (and sometimes internally problematic situation).

Like the other comments suggest, this is a very commendable post, attitude and thought.

I have a similar situation in that I am not looking forward to my step-daughter re-connecting with her biological father. I feel overly protective of her and know that she will someday, hopefully, be re-united with her father so she can answer questions she has had and will have.

I agree, I will always support her relationship with her biological father. But I will have to deal positively with the protection that will ensue.

Anthony said...

My dad, Mike, had called me earlier regarding this post if his blog and I felt the desire ti check it out. I think some input on my end would be a little helpful to those reading and possible experiencing something similar. As I told my father(a term I do not need to explain per my dad's blog), I was contacted by him and I never really asked questions because to me, it didn't matter. I had my dad and he was always there for anything I needed, and in most cases wanted. My biggest curiosity lies within my 1 year old son who looks very little like any of my family or his mother's family. I have only one other place to look.
So I do understand what my dad is saying and one thing I told the man who helped conceive me that I have a father and i don't need nor do I want anything from him. I only wanted truth for anything we talked about and even if the truth was as simple as, "I wasn't ready", would have been as good as any.
I love my father very much and there is nothing that can impose in any way, shape, or form with what we share together. Anyone else on any end if this type of situation should understand or feel this to ensure or reassure their unbreakable bond between one another. Love you dad.

Belizegial said...

Mike, I am with you on this. You are his father in every sense of the word. However, I do understand your son's need to connect with his biological dad.

I grew up without a father myself for possibly the same reasons your son did. The unknown father who bailed early on. However, there has never been a doubt in my mind that if I had been given the chance to connect with this person, I would have, even just once. The need to know is strong within irregardless of the circumstances.

For that reason, I encourage you to see this through so that your son can form a relationship with his biological father on his own terms.

Good post and thanks for sharing this with us.