Somewhere along the line, in these past few years, I became Dad.
Not my dad, much as I love him. Not the dad, since there are in theory two of those in my boys’ lives. What started out as a domestic partnership became a family, and I went from Dan – to Daddy Dan – to Daddy.
I often struggle with the sense that I don’t deserve any of this. As a stepdad, I must also deal with the fact that although blood’s legendary consistency is much less considerable in this age of mixed families, I nevertheless am, in some sense, an outsider.
Ask any of my darling three if I am a stranger, and I expect you will be met with a prompt dismissal; but a stranger I am. I came in from the shadows of the outside world, intruding on their established lives, and built a bridge of love with which to enter and claim that family as my own. I could say I never meant to disrupt things for them, but I knew when I had found my girl that I would overcome anything that stood in our way. And we did, together.
Aura will tell you that her family life had been flawed, for years. This is absolutely true, to the best of my knowledge. Daddy was not all he ought to have been, and Mommy wasn’t happy. But the boys knew nothing different. Who was I to intrude?
One of the very first times I met with my future wife outside of work, it had occurred to her that the best way to serve me a hefty portion of reality was to have her baby with her. I arrived at a friend’s house to meet her, and there he was: Emery, age one. He crawled on me, he made baby noises, he made baby smells. And I loved him, too. Aura’s first and best line of defense had backfired.
After we had moved in together, it took me some time to adjust. In addition to the challenges I was facing in terms of the soundness of my body and mind, I was now the adult male in a young family home. I was in a relationship with the lady of the house, and so faced a new truth: my destiny lay either in fatherhood, or failure in this new context.
The emergence of Daddy Dan took place sometime in the second year of my new family situation. In fact, it had ceased to be altogether new, and I was settling into a role. It took time to find my feet, to find my place in the family. I have always loved kids, however, and these ones seemed to like me as well; the development of our relationship was quite natural.
The boys gradually took up a larger portion of my heart. I am prone to thinking that my heart has room for all the good people in my life – but these kids were pushing me to make a special commitment. They needed more of me than I had ever given to a single other person. They demanded more of me even than their mother required. I began to see the real extent of what it was to love a child, my child. My children.
Kieran and Emery have taken to calling me Daddy. In Kieran’s case, it’s often Dad. Emery, ever operating on a level all his own, once called me a Dumb Dirty Buffalo. Thankfully, I am not identified with this filthy critter on a daily basis.
Today, water flows thicker than blood, or at least as thickly. Popular adage seems to deny me that privilege, but I would propose that like in Moses’ time, the water has become a blood of its own – and it is that much more potent for the magic that effected the transformation.
How is it that I can stand in the threshold – my eternal vigil in life – looking in on my sleeping boys, and melt inside? How is it that with their laughter and tears they carve their names into my very bones? If they hurt, I hurt; when they feel joy, I rejoice.
I was the outsider, but they have brought me in and made me their own. They have made me Dad.