“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” (Johann Schiller)
Returning to the singles scene following my divorce was an interesting experience, particularly when the subject of my four children arose. Each and every time a man asked me how many children I had, and especially when they found out all of them still lived at home, I witnessed a variety of reactions.
And then usually a change of subject!
I heard things like, “You’re 42 years old and you have a…THREE YEAR OLD? What were you thinking?” Certainly not that I’d be divorced and left alone to raise him and three other children just a couple of years after his birth.
Or, “That’s ok, I don’t have a problem with kids–as long as they’re provided for…BY SOMEONE ELSE.” No, ex-husbands in prison don’t make much money, and with large restitution orders hanging over their heads, probably never will. I am the source of support for my children.
There were many, many other comments and reactions. Too many to recount, actually. The few that didn’t fall apart at the mention of my four children, usually refrained from EVER mentioning them. In fact, they never brought them up. I guess they thought if they ignored the four elephants in the room, they might go away. NOT. (And I’d NEVER want them to!)
And then there were a very few, about four men, who asked me about my children, referred to my children by name, and offered kind comments occasionally.
Except #5. The first time I met him he asked me all about them. He didn’t blanch at the number of children, he simply said, “I have four kids too!” He took things a step further, and actually made an effort to get to know them: he took my children snowmobiling; he brought them gifts when he returned from an out-of-town trip; he had them over to his home for games and dessert; he took them to lunch once; and he always sat and chatted with them when he came to pick me up for our dates. He became their friend.
One afternoon shortly after our engagement, we pulled up in the driveway and my youngest and his neighbor friend came running to greet the car. When #5 rolled down his window to talk to the boys, the first thing out of either boy’s mouth was the neighbor boy’s question to #5 about his parental status. “Who are you? Are you his daddy?”
In that instant I wondered how #5 would handle that. It was the first time that conversation had confronted us. I sat back and watched to see what he’d say or do. But without missing a beat, #5 calmly replied, “I am!”
My youngest smiled, happy and content to know and to be able to show the neighbor boy he had a dad again. And the boys returned to playing. The question had been resolved. No big deal. But it was a momentous moment for me. One of the highlights of my engagement, in fact. One of the most tragic losses of my unexpected life was my children’s loss of their father. But thanks to #5, we all had everything we needed again.
And #5 became a father to a total of 8 children.
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” (Lydia M. Child, Philothea: A Romance, 1836)
I guess you could say #5 is EXTREMELY blessed now.
As are we.