Tarrador Ahhgghh! The...grey?... banner of doom!
This time last year I posted a daydream about what kind of a Father’s Day I would have liked to have had. Of course it was all fantasy, but it wielded a sharp knife. I wonder if sometimes things aren’t better left un -said.
They say you don’t get the things you want until you are really ready for them. If you never get them, then does that mean you were never ready?
I think over the last year I’ve lost my stamina. It’s become too grueling. It’s depressing to see rounded female bellies when we go out. It’s hard to follow other’s posts and stories about wonderful pregnancies and happy, wrinkled little newborn babies. I want to be happy but I don’t feel warm-hearted anymore… I feel more and more like I’m being hit in the chest with a medieval spiked mace. Last year I fretted over my friend Linda’s baby, born premature, for four months. Then she retreated into near total seclusion with the child and I haven’t seen so much as a photo since. Just a few emails, “she’s fine, we’re fine… go on about your lives”. My wife’s friend from work got pregnant at the end of the year. At 42, she was surprised. She and her husband had given up trying to have more children after two miscarriages. She was quietly happy but wouldn’t get her hopes up. After the first trimester she began to be a little more confident. S. began to construct a baby box as a shower gift. In the fifth month her friend began to have familiar troubles. Shortly after she miscarried again. S. put away the box and hasn’t touched it since. We know a couple trying to conceive. They are not having success right now and that is hard to listen to; it reinforces my own feelings. But how much worse will I feel when they succeed where I have failed, and how awful a feeling is that to have about our friends?
Maybe it’s not something I deserve. But if the fates are going to remove the ability, could they not remove the desire as well? Does it have to ground out like sand in a wound that forms a callous?
Sunday, June 19th, Father’s Day
How can I love the idea of something that never existed? How can I grieve the loss of something I never had? Pictures never taken, baths never given, long nights never lost in worry, candles never blown out, presents never unwrapped and played with. Games of peek-a-boo never played, bicycle lessons never taught, hair never braided, dresses and gowns never bought. Plays never watched, matches and races never cheered, teeth never exchanged for quarters, grandparents never deluged with photos and videos and colored drawings. No camping trips or fishing expeditions or bowling or roller skating, no cartoons or video games or books with big letters and big pictures where everyone lives happily ever after. No beanies, bows, booties or Oshkosh B’Gosh or Fisher Price or Sesame Street. No dolls or plastic tea sets, no GI Joes or Matchbox cars. No Star Wars blankets or My Little Pony curtains. No doctors or dentists or karate instructors or ballet teachers. No homework, no summer school, no gymnastics, no scattered laundry or slamming doors or footballs and bicycles scattered on the lawn in the rain. No “because I said so” or awkward conversations about where babies come from and where we go when we die. No membership into the all-encompassing, all-understanding, all-commiserating club of parenthood. No dances, no graduations, no sleepovers, no grounded-till-your-eighteen. No snot to wipe, no tears or blood or poop or pee or puke or Kool Aid. No kiddie Halloween costumes or Christmas morning chaos. No Mother’s Day. No Father’s Day.
It’s not a dream about something I ever had, or something I ever almost had. It’s like a gap in my life with a bottomless hole and every shovel full of dirt just drops right through. So it never closes. It’s a wound that gets pulled open with every question from unknowing clods about children and fatherhood and it never heals and never scars. So it stays fresh and bleeding. And since the feelings are counter to everything a commitment-phobic, responsibility-darting, emotionally-hardened, freedom-loving man is supposed to be, no one considers the pain and loneliness and emptiness and sadness. Or the way it feels to see other men pour out onto the ground the contents of a cup I would die to take just one taste of. Their fear of their fatherhood astounds me, their disregard infuriates me, their carelessness breaks my heart.
I’ve tried to turn it off, tried to run, tried to live a different life. I’ve tried to fill the void with things and money and drink and work and women and experiences. But it is like a coat of paint over rusted iron. For a short while things look good, but then the corrosion begins to bubble and crack and flake the paint away. What lies underneath will always come to the surface. I cannot really complain, my life is fuller and happier and more complete than a lot of others. There is little I want that I lack for. But in the end it is just paint over iron.
I would give up my whole life to make things different. I would give up the air in my lungs and the blood in my veins and the heart in my chest and the soul in my body. I would surrender every ounce of myself and lay it on the altar of fatherhood if it would change anything. I would love without condition or consideration and all my being would be bent to being the best father, husband and man I possibly could. If wishing were what it took, if dreams were what made things real, if desire brought the things desired… then it is the one thing I would have.
But it isn’t, and I don’t. The dream ends and the halls are quiet, the rooms are empty, the air is still. No laughter, no squeals, no thumps, no crying. No splashing in the pool, no ice cream, no teddy bear surgeries, no Band Aids, no BFF bracelets. Not even memories or ghosts or almosts. Just nothing, just never.