Magic and Loss

I’ve never hidden from my story. Eleven years ago, the course of my life laid out before and after me with a series of mileposts and road signs:

Lawyer and Husband lay behind me. The signs  ahead of me read Father, Grandfather, maybe Judge, maybe Author.

And then the signs revealed themselves to be misleading.

Five percent. That was the exact numerical value of my virility as I then understood it. Ten percent normal production; of that fraction, only fifty percent had normal motility.

Suddenly the signs that said Father Ahead now read Five Percent of a Man.

After my dad died, new signs appeared, ones entirely of my own making. Murderer. Patricide.

The my marriage collapsed under the weight of my self-loathing and a not-too-small amount of differing expectations.

Divorcée. Failure. Drunk. Fuckup. Crazy.

When I began recovering, the sheer tonnage of these road signs trapped me. Pinned under all these labels I had assigned myself, immobilized by the wreckage that lay above me, I fell deeper and deeper into despair.

For years, the tension in my chest threatened to suck me into itself, what little sanity I could muster desperately struggling against the event horizon.

Until one day, the weight was a little less. I didn’t even notice it at first, but I was a little better.

That’s the miracle of recovery — as long as I do my part, eventually sanity returns.

Every day got a little better. I stopped blaming myself for my father’s passing. I came to see my divorce not as a failure but as a necessary part of both our stories. (Indeed, my ex-wife remains one of my dearest friends, and though we are not spouses, I maintain we have a far more successful relationship than many supposedly happy marriages.)

One of the hardest pieces to accept, however, was my inability to father a child. I adore kids, and learned the meaning of good fatherhood at the feet of my father. He took parenting to be his single most important job, and he sacrificed so that we could have a better life.

He was my role model. I wanted a family, not for me, but for them.

Then one day, not too very long ago, I made peace with that. I would never be a father, that was okay.

Man plans, God laughs.

Five percent seems like a small number, but it only takes one. I was finally going to be a dad, to have the kid that had for so long eluded me.

We talked about the possibility that a child might happen, but not for very long. Neither entirely planned, nor unforeseen.

Suddenly, the long discarded Father sign became relevant again. Joy washed over me. We were still very early on, we wouldn’t be making any big public pronouncements until after the third trimester, we wouldn’t make any big decisions on things for a while.

The elation quickly gave way to panic as several of the old road sign asserted themselves. I don’t exactly have a stellar track record of caring for myself — how could I possibly care for a child?

And we didn’t live in the same area — would I be moving? Would she? The uncertainty of where I would be in a year made living in the now difficult.

In my calmer moments, I came to see that I am ready for this. That I had a very good person to model myself after, and that I would be a good father.

No matter what happened, I would not be an every-other-weekend dad. I would be a coach the team dad, a tuck them in dad, a read them to sleep dad.

Wherever my child happened to live, I would be there.

“When is a good time to talk?”

When I received the text, I knew what happened.

Infection… emergency room… D&C….

I am sad, not devastated. I wish I could be there for her, but the defining characteristic of long distance relationships is distance.

I don’t fully understand how to feel what I am feeling. Is this… grief? Loss? The physical distance made the experience somewhat unusual.

I don’t know how many other chances I will have at parenthood, but I would have been a good dad.

There’s a bit of magic in everything
And then some loss to even things out

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Based on an actual conversation

“You know what your problem is?”

“Mostly, I’m just flattered you used the singular.”

“Your problem is that you don’t cast yourself as the hero in your life. You’re not even the villain. You play the jester.”

“And that’s a problem?”

“Of course, it’s a problem! You don’t go after things!”

“Well, people who go after things are douchebags.”

The pause that followed was a beat too long. She shouldn’t play poker.

“Pursuing things you want isn’t douchey.”

“Then why do so many douchebags do it?”

Pause. Poker.

“And what happens if you never pursue what you want?”

“You never get disappointed. You never hear the horror and outrage that people send your way when you dare to want something.”

Pause.

“I hate your mother.”

“I get that.”