Monday, August 2, 2010

The Father and the Son

When Michael and I became involved, it was a long time before I would allow Michael into Kevin's life. Kevin, at the tender age of two years old, had only recently lost his father to a drug overdose, after having been caught, the innocent, in the wreckage of his father's and my failed marriage. I wanted stability for Kevin, and I had no intention of subjecting him to any new person in my life who wasn't going to be a permanent fixture.

Finally, after a while, when I knew that things were serious between me and Michael, and I knew his heart was good, I began allowing him to spend time with me and Kevin together. I can still picture clear as day a turning point: the three of us had gone to the Balboa Fun Zone for the afternoon - a carnival-type attraction on the water's edge with arcade games, pizza parlors, a carousel, and a ferris wheel. Kevin must have been three by then. We were walking along the boardwalk, me a few steps behind the two of them, and suddenly I watched Kevin slip his little hand into Michael's big hand. I think my heart just about broke in that moment, for all that had been lost, and yet for all the optimism of possibility.

There came a time eventually when Michael said to me, "I wonder sometimes, will I have the chance to watch him grow up? Will I get to teach him to have a catch?" That's when I told Michael, "Do you want to know what I think? I think I am going to marry you."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

When Michael and I did get married, Michael wrote and made vows not only to me, but to Kevin as well. He presented Kevin, as part of the ceremony, with a family medallion: three interlocking circles representing the union between the three of us. For years, Kevin referred to our wedding as "when we got married," meaning the three of us, and not just me and Michael. I love that, because that's what it was, the three of us committing to each other, forming a family.

Neither of us ever pressured Kevin to call Michael "Daddy" or "Dad." For a while, he called him just "Michael," but over time, he began calling him "Daddy," and of course, then, "Dad."

Michael has always been there. Donated genetics or not, he is Kevin's father. He's wiped away tears and made owchies better and read stories. He helped potty train Kevin, he pulled his first tooth out, he taught him to ride a bike and how to throw a ball. He coached Kevin's t-ball team, bought him his first guitar. He's taken him skiing and enrolled him drum lessons. He's
encouraged him and lectured him, about honesty and integrity and doing the right thing and always doing your best. He's had the dreaded man-to-man talks with Kevin about changes on the horizon and girls.

And suddenly, that little hand he slipped into Michael's hand all those years ago isn't so little anymore. I realized this past weekend that Kevin is suddenly taller than Michael. When did this happen?

And being at that age, that oh so fun age, I notice Kevin and Michael butting heads quite frequently these days. And it feeds a tiny kernel of fear in my heart. Some day, in the throes of teenage angst, is Kevin going to scream at Michael, "YOU'RE NOT MY DAD!!"??

And what if he did? Because Michael is his dad. And really, butting heads is all part of the deal between fathers and sons. Michael's raised Kevin since he was a tyke, and I know there's nothing he wouldn't do for Kevin - no more or less than any of the other kids to whom Michael has biological ties.


Jennifer Zener said...

LOVE this! You guys have done such a wonderful job raising Kev together. Being a great Dad has far more to do with the nurture side of the debate and Michael has proven that!

Anna Alexandrova said...

how precious...