By Vincent J. Fitzgerald
Parenthood was the furthest thing on my mind when you were thrust upon me, but I undertook the charge, and its grown-up responsibilities, because part of me desired to be a grown up. You were fragile, vulnerable, and needed me close. Fatherhood was the first time in my life someone needed me to survive, and although often confounded by its tasks, I adapted, and was saved from reckless games my peers played. I never looked back, fixed my eyes on you, and hoped your future bright.
Divorce darkened that future for a while, but I remained a steady presence during the death of our family. Infidelity and deception devastated you, and although you had grown some, you still needed my shoulder to provide your tears a place to land. The whole affair rocked you at peak suggestibility, and although my wounds were also deep, I ignored them to ensure I tended to yours.
You had been hospitalized for a million days during which I prayed for your return. The moment you felt the victory of verdure, we imploded, and I feared you would return to where people never smiled, and medicine was measured by voltage. It was more worry than could fit in me, but mine was a malleable mind, and it expanded to the point of burst synapse.
You survived, and as you continued to grow, anger overtook you, and you spat venom toward the deserter. Your slights shredded my ears, so I implored you to believe good lives in people who do bad things. But your anger was omnipotent, and I wondered if love was worth the agony, or should it be left to the dreamers. Guilt dictated I swallow your rage, and own responsibility for your hurt. I spent summers wondering who I crossed to cause so potent a curse to be visited upon us.
As time passed, we fused as we healed. We spent days walking the avenues, and nights in front of our favorite shows. The time you required of me left me sequestered from my friends, none of whom grasped the gravitas of responsibility for a human being susceptible to sadness and sickness. I was naïve to think lost time could be recouped, because no one ever told me time only moves in one direction.
When the day arrived, I was ill prepared for your readiness to be untethered. You explored the world, found friends, and gravitated toward faith that shifted your devotion away from me. I was proud because you represented our family well, and grew reputable in our community. You met a man who extracted the best from you, but who pulled you further away. Change was a jagged swallow, but you were only meant to be mine for so long before you had to reach your potential.
I suppose happiness should have been all I felt, but anger and melancholy intruded more often than I care to admit. The moment you discovered your worth to the world, you ghosted the person whose sacrifice fostered your growth. I was lost, unsure of my potential, and without purpose.
When I look back, Mom, I’m not sure if you could ever grasp how hard it was to raise you when I was the child. I took it as a privilege to nurture you through depression I dare not allow send you back to syringes and restraints. It was my honor to be your rock when my father left, listen as you eviscerated him, and suggested I subtract myself from his life even though he was my only father.
It has taken years to work through my disdain for authority because I was crowned the authority at too young an age, Perhaps I found control hard to relinquish. I was forced to grow up at an age when people make terrible grownups, and it took me years to accept all I missed. I know we don’t see each other as much as you wish, but I hope you are happy for my achievements the way I will always be of yours. My distance is not born of apathy, but is a reclamation of lost time, and an opportunity to feed myself the way I once fed you. Maybe years in my role as precocious father hindered my capacity to serve you as a grown-up son.
Vincent J. Fitzgerald is a writer and a psychotherapist, who loves to merge his passions in writing.