Wednesday, June 22, 2005

hearing from papa

I just got word from my father, via email, that he married again last March.

At my age, and despite what I thought was my oh-so-mature outlook in life, I find myself feeling odd about this bit of news. I, of course, do not hold it against him; in fact, I'm for every ounce of happiness that comes his way.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I knew my father only though monthly support checks, once-in-a-blue moon letters, and erratic visits, including a memorable one to Washington the year that Mt. St. Helen's erupted. Poison poured into my ear when I was young filled my head with thoughts of abandonment, envy at the other kids with dads, a sense of not belonging to my new step-family, a low-grade loathing for my father and an overwhelming desire to never repeat the mistakes he made when he left his son behind.

My father married an American, a very nice woman who served in the military with him. They had three children, my half-siblings, tall and gorgeous: 2 boys and a girl. The boys are men now and married or about to be married, my half-sister has two kids. When I met them all, my hatred for my father began to vanish, replaced by a sense of forgiveness and understanding. His life was his life to live after all. He was happy, and I had grown up happy - bedeviled by issues, yes, but ultimately happy.

Then a couple of years ago, in a startling display of karmic consequence, his wife of 20 years left him. My father was devastated. I was stunned and saddened. Already a husband and a father myself, I could imagine the helpless horror of waking up one morning and being told "goodbye, I haven't loved you for years."

I reached out to my father then, and with what little words I had, extended comfort. The tall and strong man, full of charisma and ebullience that people say were the source of my own, was revealed to be just as human as myself. It was at that moment that I completely forgave him for leaving me. I looked at him and saw myself in the mirror of a potential future.

It was also then that I finally and quietly suffocated my darkest secret fantasy: that he would get back with my mother. It was just not possible, after too many years of other people, other children, other lives. Hope is at its most cruel when you are young, and some hopes deserve to be snuffed out when the time is right.

My father got into his car and left Colorado Springs and drove and drove aimlessly until he found himself in Las Vegas, where he bought a house and started over. It was there that we visited him, when his first granddaughter, Sage, was a few months old. It was then that we met the woman he liked, a woman who instantly reminded me of my mother, in the way that only badly written dynastic Sidney Sheldon melodramas can evoke.

And today, almost three years later, he tells me that he's married her. And I am filled with disquiet.

Is it envy? Am I envious of the potential family my father will sire, of the new sons and daughter who will have him as a father in his golden years?

No. Perhaps years and years ago, when such things mattered to me. But I am grown man now and a father myself. The paternal love I've missed has been replaced with the old-school charm of my stepfather and the avuncular support of my uncles and older relatives.

Is it hate? Do I begrudge him another chance at happiness, of finding his bliss?

No. Once upon a time, when my little divorced AND annulled eyes wept bitter tears, it would have been the case. But not anymore. As I grew up and learned to think, I realized that life is more complex than the simplistic binary code of right or wrong choices would lead us to believe.

It's fear.

I'm afraid for him. I'm afraid this marriage will mirror the inexpressedly sad ending of his last one. Because life is uncertain and even those you think you know, you may not ultimately know. Because people change and the status quo is given to unexpected alterations, some of which are unwanted.

And because, after all these years, I love this man who gave me his blood, sense of humor, walking cadence, and surname as a son and as a fellow father.

And as a friend who only wishes him all the best.


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