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Fatherless Figuring

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The only thing that I can even remotely relate to the notion of having a child is someone handing me a scalpel and asking me to perform a complex medical procedure. It’s wildly intimidating, I’m completely unqualified, and a human life is at risk.

For those of you with children, this concept probably seems absurd. You’d argue it’s the most natural, most biologically-hardwired thing in the world. You barely remember a single day before parenthood provided you with purpose, granting you a gift that made you feel alive and empowered. You were waiting, wandering without focus, until you were blessed with this tiny bundle of instant selflessness.

I get it. Well, I get the general drift. But, I just can’t seem to choke down all the Kool-Aid.

I imagine a number of factors are to blame. I’m an only child. I grew up without a father. I think the survival of the planet hinges on population reduction. Blah, blah, blah.

But, recently, I had a mini revelation. I’ve lived (for longer than I care to admit) with the general belief that serious life decisions and responsibilities are handled by adults. Grownups are experienced, knowledgable, and capable of tackling whatever unplanned catastrophes happen to surface. They can get married, buy houses, have children, organize barbecues, and generally have a damn fine time.

Well, now I’m considerably deep into this “adulthood” everyone keeps talking about, and I don’t feel I have even the simplest skill set required to navigate that world. So, since I live in a constant state of contemplation, I’ve arrived at a couple of conclusions.

1) It’s difficult to foster someone else’s childhood when you still want to revisit your own.

-Many thanks to Mom for this one. Ages 0-18 were a self-actualized dream come to life…full of wonder, hope, love, excitement, and security. Sure, there was one major bump on that perfectly-paved road, but that’s why George Hansburg made the pogo stick.

2) You can’t have a kid when you still ARE a kid.

-Obviously, this isn’t true. Every major city in America proves this thesis false on a daily basis. But, I’m referring to a state of mind. Undoubtedly, there are some who would argue I’m a 90-year-old man, living in the body of a weird, writing hermit. However, habitual handcuffs and erratic sleeping patterns aside, I watch the world with the same discerning eyes I had at 15. Maybe everyone feels like that. There’s a saying that we never realize we age until we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Well, that may very well be the case. Regardless, these teenage peepers still see the news of impending fatherhood with the same, balanced mix of pity and terror. It’s not celebration. It’s sympathy.

But, I suppose there’s some future awakening or dormant life event waiting to flip those tables and make me one of the “normals.” Anything is possible.

For now, I’ll continue to stay in awe of these crazy youngsters and their fancy adult lives, living like an old man with a teenage heart.

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The anxiety-inducing realization that the only thing accompanying you to most social functions will be a hefty gust of wind whipping through an empty passenger’s seat is a daunting prospect. But, in a world of significant others tagging two steps behind to every conceivable soirée and backyard barbecue, the unescorted visitor is often met with sideways glances, overcompensating high-fives, and hearty hello hugs.

But, why is that something seen as sad? We’re okay. Granted, the first few seconds from the car to the front door of the house, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, graduation ceremony, funeral, etc. are instant pulse raisers. Fight or flight takes the wheel and tries to steer us back to safety. Sometimes it’s even enough to make us call the whole thing off and dive into another Netflix Portlandia marathon. But, after the initial awkwardness, the party pieces fall into place and everyone settles into a communal space. There was a reason we decided to attend. We like these people. These are friends with shared histories and they’ve seen us at our best and worst. Sure, they’re dropping off into family mode faster than flies stuck in a Raid cloud, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost on an island of misfit toys.

We’re just as funny and personable as ever. Besides, maybe the fact that we’re not spending the entire time bickering about some mundane squabble we couldn’t leave at the house, or chasing behind a two-year-old with a penchant for destroying anything at adult knee level, makes us the more desirable company. Let’s face it. Freedom packs some serious appeal, especially to those who have lost it.

So, let us embrace the solo label, wearing it like a crown of independence. We are the kings and queens of our sequestered castles.