Puppy's dads had a long talk on the phone this weekend. They had been playing phone tag for a month, stirring up my latent fear that we're going to lose touch with R now that we live so far away. Turns out it was nothing but busy-ness, leaving me feeling relieved and foolish. He's trying to schedule a trip up to see us this summer. My fingers are crossed that it all works out.
T (my husband) and R (Puppy's first dad) are two peas in a pod. I've written before about the differences between K and I, the way we are family but not yet friends. T and R, on the other hand, would have slumber parties and braid one another's hair if they weren't such manly men. They played the same sport in high school and both coach it now; R is preparing to enter T's career field; they can talk endlessly about the sports teams of the rival schools they root for. They even look alike. I'll be honest--I'm both grateful and jealous that their relationship comes so easily.
K and R ended their romantic attachment soon after learning K was pregnant, but went through the next several months together. I've always been impressed with how gracefully they dealt with a situation which has tanked many other relationships. R attended childbirth classes and held K's hand through delivery; he was the one who got her help during some of her darkest days immediately after the relinquishment. To the extent that he could be as the one not pregnant, he was involved. In the beginning we got to know them as a pair. Now our relationships with them are separate, at their request. They go out for dinner every now and then, but aren't as close as they used to be. Although, as K points out, they'll always share Puppy.
I took R's presence for granted at first. I was certainly glad for it, but the realization of just how much it meant came later. Puppy is the spitting image of R from his coloring to his boxy jawline (some of K's features are finally starting to appear now). There is a picture of the two of them on our family room wall that always causes people to do a double take. For Puppy to see with his own eyes that this is who he came from, for him as a boy to have his first father validate their connection--I am so grateful those things will be possible.
T and I once heard a panel of teenagers in open adoptions be asked what things they wished were different in their adoptions. Almost all of them answered that they wished they had contact with their birth dads. T and I just looked at each other, suddenly aware of the privilege we had. We can say honestly to Puppy that his first dad is a good and decent man who cares about him. Moreover, Puppy will know that himself. He will have the evidence of R's presence in his life. It didn't have to be that way.
From what he shares with us, R processes the adoption much differently than K. He says that he doesn't think about Puppy every day, but when he sees his pictures he thinks about him a lot. I think he carries a real burden of responsibility for Puppy, wants to feel that things were gained despite the loss. It is important to him to hear how much Puppy is loved and cared for; he often asks if Puppy still smiles a lot. He likes to hear about his size and his physical abilities. He worries that Puppy will resent him one day.
Toward the end of their phone conversation, T said to R, "How cool would it be if years from now Puppy wins a baseball game and says, 'Let's call R and tell him!'?"
"Yeah," replied R. "That--that would be great."
It would be great.