Going about the day--making pies, washing dishes, fixing hair--on Sunday, I kept thinking about the fathers in my family.
I thought about a great-grandfather run out of town by two steely great-great aunts after my great-grandmother's death, never to be heard from again. And about my maternal grandfather, the one who by age four had lost his both his parents, one to death and the other to the efforts of the steely sisters. A special needs parent before the term existed, he doted on my uncle with tenderness and pride, giving him as much of the world as he could in what ended up being a too brief life. When taking my uncle's casket to the family plot, the family story goes, he couldn't bring himself to travel in the same train car as his body, so devastated was he by what he had lost and what he still had to do.
I thought of my paternal grandfather, a man so selfish and distant that his son--my dad--would decide he never wanted children, for fear of that he would be like him. And of my own father, who when faced with an unplanned baby (wee me), wrestled those fears to the ground and became a loving, devoted dad. He was in grad school when I was born and spent many, many hours with me snuggled up against his chest in a baby carrier while he studied. When I woke crying in the middle of the night as an infant, it was my dad who would come cradle me his arms, taking me back to my mother so I could nurse.
I thought about the blank space on Firefly's first birth certificate where Kevin's name should be. Remembering Beth interrupting the hospital social worker briskly moving through form to say no, wait, I want to add her father's name. I thought of how incredibly strong she was in that moment, the culmination of so many months with her counselor working through Kevin's very real wrongs against her until she came to a place in which she could ask to give his name the same standing as her own: I want his name there for my daughter's sake. I remember how swiftly the social worker snatched that bravery from her: Are you two married? Is he here to sign? There's nothing I can do. The law is very clear. Men need to be protected, because women could lie.
I thought about Puppy's first dad and the love Puppy has for him. About how he has had to stand up against all the people who think that his consenting to the adoption automatically puts him in the category of men who bolt from responsibility. What ignorance that is, how utterly blind to the commitment Ray has made to staying part of Puppy's life no matter how hard it can be for him at times. I wish they could see the two of the together and the easy way they have with each other, the pride Puppy has for "my Ray," as he often calls him.
I wrote something this year that ended up in a magazine (I'm still shocked), something I started thinking about a year ago today. It was about Ray, Puppy's first father, and the love I see in him for his son and how that love grounds Puppy in a deep, real way. If I never publish anything again (which, let's face it, is likely) I am proud that was the thing that I put into the world. Something that said that birth dads need a seat at the table in open adoption, because adoption is about them, too, and because their presence offers something unique and vital to their children. Fathers are important to us and influence us, both in the ways they are present and the ways they are not. And I bet the reasons they are absent are often more complicated than we expect.