Monday, June 20, 2005

A Sort of Father's Day Story

This is a story about dads. It is also a story of how I came to be.

I was born a bastard.

In the early 1960's my mother started a five year affair with a married man who was separated from his wife. As this was the sixties and they were both Catholic, they never married. They conceived a, not me, that would be too simple. The boy was my older brother. It turned out after several years of this relationship that the man in question began beating my mother, along with the two girls she brought into the relationship. Oh yeah, did I mention this guy was also a drunk. Really, there is more.

After about the fourth year of the relationship, my mother began looking for ways out. She met this guy's brother who was the polar opposite of his woman beating-binge drinking older brother. He lived in California and was in NYC for an extended visit. This guy was also married. A nice guy. He helped her move away from his abusive brother and relocated my mom and her now three kids to the west coast.

As fate would have it, the brother of the drunk had marital difficulties a year later and wound up separated from his wife. With nowhere to go and owing him refuge, my mother took him in. Shortly thereafter, my mother began a brief affair with this man. The drunk's younger brother. I am the product of their indiscretions. If you've been able to actually follow this little tale that makes me and my brother, not just brothers but also cousins. Such is life growing up at Dysfunction Junction.

This now being the late sixties, both people involved being Catholic and the general absurdity of it all, my biological father could not admit my being his son. He went back to his wife and left my mother. Nice guy.

He came around a lot for awhile. He was after all my 'uncle', why would not an uncle want to take his nephew to the zoo, to the mall, out to eat. Just me and him. But not a word in all those occassions about him being my dad. He died when I was seven. When I was older I was told that my father lived back east. End of story.

By the time I was three, my mother became involved with a man who stayed. This man brought three of his own children into the relationship. I'll do the math for you, that makes seven kids with four different fathers all trying to live in one three bedroom apartment. This new guy became my 'dad'. He raised me until he died when I was 19. I had the honor of finding his body and trying to give him CPR to sustain him until the paramedics arrived. Good times. Anyway, he never married my mom and he probably drank too much. Not like the first guy though. With all his imperfections, my dad taught me a few things. Things like a man should help provide for his family, he taught me about owning my mistakes and learning from them and about responsibility. That last one was always a stretch to me. He believed in me, he told me so. He always encouraged me to finish high school, unlike any of my other siblings. I loved him. He also told me on my 13th birthday that I was ready to have my first sexual encounter and it should be with an older woman so she could teach me stuff. I told you, dysfunction. Throw in being old world, east coast Italian and enough said.

And now here I am a father in my own right. I have no idea what I'm doing. Not much to go on.

And yet, here I am. Father of two of the most amazing boys God has ever assembled. Boys who act like me, talk like me, look like me. Boys that make me laugh and cry and mad at myself for not knowing what I am doing sometimes. They deserve all that I can give them and more. We had an absolutely perfect Father's Day yesterday. The sun, the barbeque, the games. I never experienced anything like that in my childhood or my life.

Here I am. I'm not leaving like my biological father. I'm not dispensing wisdom from the bottom of a Tall Boy Budweiser like my step-dad. They will never have to wonder about their real dad. They will not have to deal with issues of abandonment. They will always be able to point to one man and say "that is my father". No complicated geneolgies here. I will give up whatever I have to for them, but I will never give up on them.

Oh, Lord God. My only true Father. Give me wisdom to love and raise these two boys to be the men you want them to be. Make me into the man they need me to be, that you want me to be. Change me, transform me for your glory and their blessing.

Happy Father's Day. Peace and health to all. Scott, this day will come for you soon, I know it.