My mother and father were both much more remarkable than any story of mine can make them. They seem to me just mythically wonderful.—Orson Welles
Even if I were perfect, there is no way I could ever live up to my impression of my own father. He wasn’t perfect himself, either, but even in his humanity and inevitable error, there was never a moment when I felt anything short of total, complete love from him. Were he still alive, Poppa would be 86 years old tomorrow and, regardless of what his physical condition might be. would still be trying to love everyone, including all the grandkids. That’s just who he was.
Unfortunately, he didn’t pass on much of that trait to me. Actually, I think my younger brother caught the gentle side of Poppa’s personality and he wears it extremely well. My brother makes a very good father to his little girl (even though she’s at an age where she may not appreciate that just yet). I picked up more of my grandfather Slover’s traits, the temper, the ability to keep people at a distance, being easily annoyed and slow to display any emotion. Does anyone want to trade?
I’ve been away from the boys now over ten years. I assure you, this wasn’t the plan. I was only going to Indianapolis for eight months, get my head on straight, then move back to Atlanta and start over. From Atlanta, I would have still been able to stay in the boys’ lives, attended concerts, show support, been something more like a dad. But that didn’t happen, did it? I was stuck up here and my boys were stuck with a dad they rarely get to see. Things have improved lately, we were able to spend some time together this summer, but still, the boys don’t have a dad, they have a father, in absentia.
Does anyone else think that’s nothing more than a copout? Statistics can be twisted to say just about anything we want and these studies seem, in my mind, to be little more than an attempt to cover the guilt of having left. And even if my boys are better in some way for having been without me, I’m certainly not better; I’ve lost.
I’m getting a bit of a second chance now. I’ve been with Kat’s little ones longer than their bio-dad. They’ve even, just recently, started calling me Dad and that feels all warm and fuzzy. But the guilt still plagues me. Can I give to these little ones the father my own children never had?
The picture on my desk reminds me that my boys are not children, but young men, one’s even a Marine, about to deploy to Okinawa in a few weeks. There’s not a day that goes by, though, that I wish I could have been the father for them that mine was for me. The guilt won’t pass. They deserved better.