The realization of it hit a few months ago. Sucker punched in the everywhere. The realization of how lucky I was to be here. To be born. You see, the thought crept out of nowhere after I was thinking how can I be a better father to my 12 month old daughter. I’ve always been a late bloomer and fatherhood is no exception. Just south of 50 years old, I entered fatherhood. And what I am finding about fatherhood is that it makes you do lots of things. One of them is reflection.
This isn’t a sob story. Or one of great courage or conflict. At least not great courage by me. It’s wrestling with a draft of a thank you letter and me just vomiting thoughts. I didn’t take the trek to get here or take any risks. My parents did. They did all of it. If anything I am guilty of not appreciating my life. And not appreciating those who got me here. You see, this realization of being a lucky bastard now makes me responsible. Responsible to acknowledge and thank my parents. And therein lies the problem. Being vulnerable and saying thank you and showing emotion. I have never been comfortable at those things. Peeling back one layer will start stripping away at other layers that I had hoped were buried deep and good. Selfish? No. Scared and fearful? Yes.
I come from a blue collar working class family. Dad worked two jobs; a plumber by day, a trade learned in the U.S. Coast Guard, and pizza delivery guy for the local pizza parlor by night to scrape up a few extra dollars. Mom stayed home and took care of me and my brother until my father was diagnosed with cancer. Mom shifted to full time work and never looked backed once my father’s cancer kicked in. By the time I was 10 years old we were whittled down to a unit of three; mom, me, and my brother. By nature I am the third of five siblings. By default i am the oldest of two; me and my brother. The luckiest bastards i know out of our small circle of childhood friends. The oldest, my sister, Theresa (Terry for short) was born under complications. She was severely retarded and lived for nine months. Never left the hospital. I can only imagine the devastation my parents and Terry went through. My parents tried a second time. A boy. Still born. More devastation. How didn’t this destroy them? And what hope could they pull from the ashes to try again? Why would they want to try again? But they did. Me, lucky number 3. Then 11 months later, lucky number 4; my brother. They pushed their luck a few years later after my brother was born for a girl, number 5, but mom had a miscarriage. Then I recall hearing secret whispers about adopting a girl but nothing ever came of it. Recalled rumors. Then my father died a few years later at 37 years young. We were lucky bastards but didn’t know it at the time.
My brother and I had dodged something. It missed us. We slipped through somehow. We didn’t know it then. Or maybe we did but didn’t understand it and too fearful of it to speak of it. But the quest for wanting to be the best father I can be is inviting me to resolve long overdue thank yous. Come to think of it maybe the thank you letter is for my mom and my daughter.