Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

Father’s Day Thoughts

I have made one thing clear to my daughters as they have either reached adulthood, or about to, of any of the holidays of the year, Father’s Day is the most important to me. As I am sure for many, Father’s Day carries many different emotions and feelings. But I define my life, by those three letters, “D” “A” “D”. And as the subtitle of my blog states, “life as a Dad, and a survivor,” “Dad” is the first mention of my two definitions.

I have made many references to Harry Chapin’s song “Cats In The Cradle” over the years. And as the meme suggests, as the song reaches its later verses, reality sinks in. And though I would never have expected Chapin to have added an alternate final verse, as a grown son in his fifties now, I wonder what he would have wrote and sung about life in the end, without “Dad”. As happy as Father’s Day is for many of us, it is also a sad day for those of us who have lost our Fathers, some long ago, some recently.

The life between my Father and I was a complicated one, a tale of two halves, fortunately, the second half being more memorable and lasting. And as I have written recently, I am finally working through at least one of the issues from my childhood with him.

And that brings me to others who are celebrating without their “Dads” for one reason or another. There are any number of reasons a child may not have a Father figure in their life. But none will be more difficult than a child knowing that they have a Father, somewhere, and either the Father has made the choice not be in that child’s life, or, just as bad, a mother choosing to alienate her child from their father. When this happens, while the intended target is the Father, it is ALWAYS the unintended target, the child, who will pay the most for that act. EVERY TIME! This is not only an unnatural act to deny a relationship with a parent, but it is child abuse.

Being a Dad has been one the most meaningful thing in my life. Being a parent does not come with a manual, if you are lucky, you may have experiences that you have witnessed from others that may help guide you.

Just to get to the point of becoming a father was an uphill battle for me with my health issues. Having the title of “Dad” does not automatically make you a Dad. Sure there are lots of fun and laughs watching your child grow, but parenthood also comes with seeing your children experience pain and sometimes heart break. And that can be real tough.

And if that is not hard enough, throw divorce into the mix. While trying to make sure that the bonds between father and child are not stressed or fractured, additional pressures are faced. Unlike my father who made the choice to be distant in my childhood, I promised my daughters I would always be in their lives. And I have kept that promise. With the exception of two Father’s Days early on in the divorce, for reasons I will not go into presently, I have celebrated this day every year with my daughters.

But just as Chapin’s song goes, when our children grow, they have their own lives, and eventually their own children, their own Father’s Days. And that may mean, just the phone call from your daughter or son having to be good enough. The first time that happens will always be hard. But to have gotten to this point in all of your lives is a foundation that can never be taken away.

I have one more Father’s Day yet with a “child,” and then I will have two grown daughters, who will always be my daughters, but may have something going on in their lives which may not allow them to be with me on this day. But I will have Facetime to fall back on, and just to see their smile will be just as good, to bring back all the memories that they have given me over the years.

And with each year, yes, I miss my Dad. I am sure that he is watching, and happy with the young ladies my daughters are becoming. And I am sure he is happy with the Dad I am. I know I am very happy.

Happy Father’s Day to all. And for those whose Fathers are no longer with them, I hope you have fond memories to carry you through this day.

40 Year Forgiveness For My Father

To quote Lizzo, “it’s about damn time.”

In over the span of a week, I got to experience two of the greatest milestones of being a Dad, graduation. My oldest daughter graduated from both her art program at the tech school that she attended, and of course, her high school. I am pretty sure that I was making more of a big deal about the pending ceremonies than she was. But I could tell, she knew things were about to change.

From the first note of the processional to the pronouncement of the completion of their education, my eyes were trained solely on my daughter. She would make a great poker player, as she does not often show emotion. But I could see it on her face, today was one of the happiest days in her short life. At each ceremony, as her name was called out, I felt the overwhelming emotion pour over me at the moment.

She did it.

She now enters the next stage of her life, and will quickly come to realize what I meant when I repeatedly told her to “stay a kid for as long as you can.”

Though these evenings were all about her, I wrote just a week ago, that I struggled with an issue since my graduation nearly forty years ago, the fact that my father had not attended my graduation, after a childhood I felt filled with absentee disappointments by my father, one after another. It was an actual struggle to keep my focus on my daughter, and not the actions of my father.

There is no escaping the reality of these evenings for me as a father, and preventing my daughter from having the feelings of loss like I lived with most of my life. My struggling health, issues related to the divorce, and even a pandemic were all things that stood in my way of these moments. But the strongest thing I could not get over, was that one night in June of 1983. My determination not to let the same thing happen to my daughter drove me the most to get to this night.

I cannot help but feel, though my father has long since passed, he was watching over his granddaughter, with the pride that I am sure he would have had for me, and that he played a role somehow with us getting to this point.

It was then that I realized, I need to, and I wanted to, forgive my Dad.

There is a difference between forgiveness and forgetting. To forget something, is to have no memory of it, as if it never happened. And most often the case, the reason we do not forget something, is because we do not want to forgive. I will not say that it was foolish for me to have carried this with me nearly four decades, because the hurt was real. And while I do wish this could have been resolved before my father passed away, it was this moment, that I felt an enormous weight lifted from my heart, and I know that it was my Father accepting my forgiveness.

So, on to the next chapter for my daughter, my younger daughter coming up the next year. My health issues will continue. I have proven my status as a reliable Father of a divorce to the only people that matter, my daughters. And clearly we will be dealing with the pandemic much longer, and I have learned to survive through that as well.

Not just the next chapter for my daughter, but now, on to the next chapter for me as Dad.

My Wish For My Daughter

She has come a long way, literally and figuratively. A blessing from China, when the option of becoming a father was not possible any other way, my daughter is taking her next steps, into her direction of life, that is by her own will. And it is a strong will that she has.

The term “matching” was used during the adoption process. The Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs takes the information of the parents from their biography, and “matches” that to a child. A family is created through the process of international adoption.

Being a cancer survivor and unable to have biological children, China gave me the opportunity I did not have in the United States, becoming a father.

The oldest of my two daughters, she is a role model for her younger sister, who is just a year behind graduation. Together, they have made a great team who liked to help, laugh, and love. Each has their own personalities, their own interests, and their own ways to get to this day.

For my older daughter, there is a natural progression to her, a gift if you will. She is easily frustrated with practice as she is a quick study, even with something she has never been taught as was pointed out by her karate sensei handling and using a weapon, a staff, which she had never been shown before, for reasons of her age group not qualified for weapons. She was flawless.

Or dance class, just wanting to dance, not wanting to wait for it to be her turn. One demonstration was all it took for her to learn a routine.

Out of nowhere, almost ten years ago, she picked up a pencil, and started drawing faces. This was not elementary school drawings of circles inside of circles and a curved line for a smile. These were completely recognizable faces in the style of “manga.” Again, this is just something she picked up, and to say she developed is an understatement. I am not allowed to show any of these samples, which are quite good, but it is her artwork. And she is her own worst critic. So she says “no.”

Toward the end of her middle school years, she was given an opportunity to attend a technical school which would advance and challenge her imagination and eventually give her the direction she would choose in life. Again, I am prevented by her from sharing these drawings (she is critical of herself, I say she has established herself as a “diva”), but I have no doubt, as she completes the next level of her education, and establishes herself in the world of “advertising design,” she will establish herself as one of the best, unable to hide a gift that she was clearly born with.

Maddie, you were the first to call me “Daddy.” You taught me how to care for someone and be responsible for someone, not old enough or able to do so on her own. You made me care about my decisions that I made in life, as they would not only affect me, but you, and your sister as well. You taught me to pay attention to others needs, sometimes without the availability of words. You challenged me to make decisions that would seem to go against the rules, but we would make memories out of them to last forever.

You brought a tear to my eye as you reached my height. After being a not-so-gentlemanly teenager myself, I became hyper aware once I heard a boy’s name mentioned from you. And then, getting to meet one of them. Talk about feeling out of sorts in how I was supposed to act. I had no intention of embarrassing you, as you clearly liked the boy, but by the same token, I had no idea how I was supposed to act either, a new experience for me.

Your confidence really has no limit. It is too bad you still have not recognized that. But you have every reason to be confident in what you have done, and what you will do. I will always be proud of you. I will always stand behind you and your efforts. And I will always, definitely be there for you as you begin this thing called “life.”

Congratulations on your graduation! I am so proud of you.

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