Thursday, June 16, 2011
Two Fathers, One Son
This is it.
Sometime late this afternoon, maybe before Bennett gets home from school, maybe after, Jennifer and Carter will be home from their vacation, and my time watching Bennett solo will be at an end. I'll then have tomorrow to pack my own bags, get some stuff ready, because on Saturday I leave for Arkansas to see my Mom.
Originally, that trip was going to take place during this vacation trip, but then after I volunteered to stay and watch Bennett alone, something Jen originally never thought I would do (and, admittedly, I never thought I would either), we shifted around the dates and if you've been following the blog for the past week you know that I have learned a great deal from this experience.
I don't regret it in the least.
It was such a good thing for me to have done, and I don't mean that in the sense of patting myself on the back as in 'I done good!', I mean it more when it comes to how much I really did learn about myself, about my perceptions...about so many things.
On Tuesday night, Bennett actually spent the night at his grandparents house, since he usually does once a week anyway. The funny thing is that I had planned to try to get a bunch of stuff done that night since I would have the house to myself, but when I actually HAD the time, and WAS alone, it felt....VERY strange.
I felt that something was missing, I could not put my finger on it at all. I missed Bennett, sure, but I missed Carter and Jennifer too...but this was different, and I didn't know why.
Of course, SingleDad then wrote a post pondering how he might feel the day his daughter Pearlsky becomes 22 and is no longer able to go to the school she attends and he has to make a decision about whether to have her reside with him full-time or perhaps have her go to a residential facility, and he has often blogged about the question of what DEFINES us (or not) as parents when it comes to raising children with disabilities.
While it didn't necessarily answer anything specific to me (and why would it, we ALL have different lives) it resonated with me at just the right frequency. It also, like a good home cooked meal, really stuck to my ribs, and I thought about it long after I read it.
Last night, I knew was my last night with Bennett by myself, so I spent the evening playing with him, wrestling, tickling, doing the things he CAN do, not really worrying much about the things he can't, as is my tendency.
We rolled a ball back and forth, made fart noises into the sofa, junk like that. I essentially just intended to keep him up with me and I would go to bed when he went to bed, and that's exactly how it went down.
As I drove him to school his morning, I reflected back on the week.
There really had been no problems whatsoever. There were no meltdowns. No fits. No self-injurious episodes. He did not have any experiences of beating his head into the wall like he used to when Jen left. The first two days, I would bet cash money he was depressed. he took naps EARLY on Saturday and Sunday and seemed a little sad, and he occasionally said 'Mommy' a few times, but he never lost it.
He required, as he always does, constant watching and lots of work. He needs help with everything from eating to dressing and obviously he still wears a diaper and such. You can't let him roam around unsupervised as he can and does get into stuff that can lead to him getting hurt. And it was difficult because of this to get other stuff, like cleaning or anything that required focus away from him, done.
But nothing happened that I had originally feared might happen. And I quickly lost all stress and anxiety over the responsibility level I had with him, too. In fact, the entire week, with the exception of him bumping his head and the lamp thing, all I can remember is feeling very happy when I was around him.
In the lobby at school, his BT came out to pick him up, I said 'Give Daddy a kiss.' Without hesitation, he turned and gave me one.
I said 'Bye-bye!' as he was walking away and he turned around waving and said 'Buh-buh!' back, without hesitation.
The BT and the woman who works the desk both looked at each other, mouths agape. Why? Because you usually have to prompt him more. You usually have to direct him by saying something more 'directive-like' to Bennett to get him to respond, and it might take 1, 2 or maybe 3 times to get him to do something and I was so casual about it and he didn't even blink he just reacted.
I'm guessing the week was good for him too, as far as his relationship with me was concerned, and how in the world can I not be extremely happy about that? And as I was driving home I realized why SingleDad's post had resonated so much with me, and why I felt the way I did on Tuesday night, when I was in the house, alone.
See, there was a time in my life when I loved...LOVED...having the house to myself. I would do anything to have it. Me, on the weekend, home...alone, just the X-box 360, my underwear and a T-Shirt, some day-old pizza, some Diet Coke (now two whole weeks without, thank you very much) and I was a happy camper.
But I don't crave it as much as I used to, and I think now I know why.
I am a Father.
And until this week, I don't think I have EVER accepted that, because the title has carried with it so much difficult baggage.
I have always, ALWAYS detested Father's Day because of my two Father's.
First, there was the biological one, the one that spawned me who, after the divorce (when I was round five), totally stopped taking any interest in my life whatsoever by the time I was ten. From 1977 onward, I never spoke to or saw the man again. I found out he died via the Internet, and my sister and I were not even mentioned in his obituary.
Then there was Father number two. Number two is an appropriate place to rank him, since that is pretty much akin to how he treated me, like a piece of shit. This was the Step-Father who was abusive, both mentally and physically, and who had perfected it to such an art form that he had me scared shitless to a point where I kept it hidden from my Mother for most of my life. It is he who gave me the gift of PTSD and various other anxiety and depressive disorders I struggle with as an adult. It was he who finally succumbed to the pressures of his own mental illnesses and decided his last meal would be a bullet some time in the late nineties. I don't remember the exact year. I had severed all ties long before that.
Naturally, I resisted the very notion of Fatherhood. So much so that Jennifer had to essentially trick me into it. Not sure she would be comfortable with that particular reveal, but even if she actually READS this blog, which she hardly ever does, or if someone tells her I wrote this, by now it's fairly common knowledge even in her familial circles, so it shouldn't really matter. Besides, I actually believe this is not the first time I have mentioned it.
We were on shaky ground at that point in our young marraige...she wanted kids, I was resisting. She stopped taking the pill and didn't tell me. The result? Carter Maximus Lilly. Another result was me discovering the true depth of my PTSD, cause that is when my true panic attacks actually started in the weeks/months leading up to the birth.
But...it HAD to be that way, looking back.
Actually, there was a time I was angry about it. How could I possibly be today? How could I possibly not see what she did as one of the greatest acts of faith one person can show to another? I don't see it as 'SHE FUCKIN' LIED TO ME!!!'. I see it as 'She saw a strength in me that I could never see in myself, a strength that two selfish men stripped away.'
And my perception today is...I am a Father to these two boys. I'm happy to be that. I often wonder what our third child would have been like had we not lost him/her. I asked Jen a few weeks ago if she ever thought about it. I had no idea she thought about it as much as I did. Which is a lot. Would having a third make things harder? Yeah...hell yeah. But I do still think about what might have been.
Maybe that's partially why 'Father' isn't just a word to me anymore, it is something far, far greater. And I think I understand it now, on a level I never did before, all because of this week. SingleDad's post wasn't just about what happens when Pearlsky becomes 22 and what should his decision be...SingleDad's post was all about being a FATHER.
But it doesn't have to end, for him, when she turns 22 even if she does not reside with him, or for me if for one evening Bennett or Carter is not with me, or down the road when Carter leaves the house to pursue his life or Bennett goes to an assisted living center or whatever happens for him.
The key is trying to find the right balance. The balance of being a Father and being all the other things I need to be too. On Tuesday night, I simply wasn't sure who to be...so I kind of stalled...I just had to figure some things out. I didn't stop being Bennett's Father or Carter's Father since they aren't here...I'm still defined by that role, as much as I am defined as Jennifer's Husband, or My Mother's Son, or Richard's Friend, and on, and on, and on...
I guess what I am trying to say here, and very badly I might add (I feel like I am fumbling around with a bra strap for the very first time), is that I already knew that we are the sum of all of our parts, but for a very, very long time I have found it hard to be comfortable with the Mantle of Dadhood, and I was not sure if I would ever truly be able to accept the word Father as part of my own definition of self.
I think, now, that I am.