The Biological Father

photo-1 copy 2The wily fates permitted the unlikely situation of me and my son’s biological father sharing a friend on Facebook, he liked one of her status updates, I scrolled through my feed, and there it was, his name, grabbing my attention and holding it the way unreal things do. In 15 years (my son is 15 today), I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him. Seeing his full name like that, textually, brought me back to the last time I heard his full name spoken aloud. Three times the bailiff called his name to see if the biological father was present to contest my adoption of the 3-year old boy. Loudly. With long pauses (such weird infinities in the telling pause) between each call.

I made the rash (perhaps intuitive) assessment that, hey, if I were him, I’d want to know how my son was doing. But this assessment, I later assessed, lacked imagination. I don’t have the experience of having a child, out there, alive in the world, that I’ve never met. And the reason my assessment lacked imagination is because I didn’t properly imagine how difficult and filled with emotion that would be. As I mentioned, I just figured he’d want to know so I dashed off a message that told him his son was a good kid, smart, funny, and becoming a fine young man. My motives, though naive, were good. But it was a mistake. Or not.

He was angry. He was angry?!? I was angry, but rising above it by being a nice guy. See that? It’s my tongue in my cheek.

I never cease to be amazed by (and grateful for) the way we think we know what happened in the past, only to later discover that the past is just a story we tell ourselves to make sense of the way things went down. We make sense. And because the past is a story, it can and should be revised. Please. Don’t just gloss that sentence like it’s an apparent cliche. What you think happened – it did not happen. It’s nowhere to be found. You can’t point to it. It doesn’t exist. The past is what we say it is.

And up until yesterday, the figures of me and the biological father in our respective stories were really quite simple (always a sign of a lack of compassion). I thought he was a loser and a deadbeat. And he thought I was a thief and a lot of bad swear words. But then an exchange that began with anger and harsh words gave way to a whole lot of “Oh. I didn’t know that.” and “Oh. I never thought about it that way.” and “Oh. I’m sorry.” until the deadbeat and the thief ultimately dissolved into the same damn thing. A guy who had it wrong. And, just like everyone else beneath the great big sun, a person trying to make sense of a puzzle that’s missing a whole lot of its pieces.

In the end he asked meekly if I could spare him a picture. I hedged. I hedged. I hedged some more. And finally thought, yes, I can do that much. I pressed send and decided that was the end of my relationship with the biological father. My god we all suffer so much that it’s astounding how the world is so abundant with joy.

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