All it takes is one testicle, and, on average, we each have one.
Generate one sperm and wham! yes, you can be a father. But can you be a dad?
For all intents and purposes I am both mother and father to Pearlsky and I’m good with that. It is unfortunate, and ultimately she loses (both “she”s … Pearlsky and her mom). But I digress.
Being Pearlsky’s dad is a full time job. Even when I’m not working on it, I’m … well … working on it. I hear her in my sleep, I think of where she is (or should be) whenever I look at the time. I come home every day to meet the school bus and make sure all is ok. She is the first thing I deal with in the morning, the last thing at night, if not through the night. I am the one to hold her through seizures. I am the only one who can really make her laugh.
It’s not easy being a single parent. Hell, it’s not easy being a married parent with kids like ours. Just ask Ken. It absolutely defines me.
I definitely have other aspects of my life. Since my divorce, two women have lived here. One was here about seven or eight months, and after lots of my money for her psychotherapy, she finally moved out. The other, well, we are not sure what happened, she just disappeared one day. Really. And I loved her. Her picture is now on the back of diet coke cans sold in Thessaly and Macedonia. I have many women friends, ex-nannies seem to stick around, etc.
I am very excited that this new geek project I am working on for the big semiconductor company will have me traveling. I have always wanted to go to Eastern Europe for many reason … my heritage, the people (ok, I’ll admit it, I have a sweet spot for Eastern European women, several of my closest friends fit the bill), history, and more. It looks like I may be going to Prague in October. And it’s just a short hop over to Budapest to look up some of Erika‘s friends (one can dream, no?) … Travel is great and I am excited to get back into it.
Yes, this post has a point. I’ll get there.
I am a son. I am a brother. I am a man. I am a blogger. I am a pedagogue. I am a friend. I am a geek. I try to be a decent person. But it appears that I am a dad, first and foremost.
That works for me, it is what evolved.
I keep getting asked what is going to happen when Pearlsky turns 22. That is the age when school unceremoniously kicks her out. Really. The day before her twenty-second birthday; hence her last day of school is October 20, 2014.
How do I know what we will do next? I refuse to plan, those things always get screwed up. But more than that, I cannot fathom. Of course she can live here forever, but that becomes more and more impractical, so that leaves the option that she goes somewhere else (ignoring for this post the ever present, and potential, “hey, let’s both exit stage left”).
Pearlsky goes and lives somewhere else. Pearlsky goes and lives somewhere else.
That brings up the thought, the image, that has kept me awake the last few nights …
What is my purpose at that point in time?
I don’t want to sit in this house sans Pearlsky. Single Dad becomes moot, remove my “dad-hood” and my reason to be ceases, no?
I absolutely don’t want to be alone in this house at that point. And, yes, I would love to have more children (how fucked up is that?), either my next partners or “ours” works for me. But that is not today’s situation.
At that time, what is the point of me? To what end do I exist?
My dad is gone. Someday I will be as well. As of now, my progeny are the end of the line.
I am a dad and damn proud of it. I have been told I “rock.”
Maybe we need a Dad’s Day. Someone call Hallmark.
Now check out the words from a couple of guys I grew up with …
As a not-because-I-wanted-it-that-way single person with no children, I deal with this all the time. Why am I here? What good am I doing? Who would really care if I died?
But it occurs to me that a lot of people WOULD care. Not just my parents and sister but all my friends, my students, the people I have touched on the internet.
I used to think that meaning came from doing some huge, great thing for the world, like starting a non-profit. I wanted to be able to point to something and say THAT, THAT is what I have contributed to society.
But I think that my meaning is in lots of small things. People come to me for advice, telling me that I’m good at putting things in perspective. I do small services for people when they are sick or sad. I teach teenagers not just to write but also to take responsibility for their actions and to think big thoughts. I plant flowers. I babysit for my neighbors when they have an emergency. I demonstrate by example that it’s OK to be down, and it’s OK to be successful.
I think that if Pearlsky goes to live somewhere else, it will take you a long time to adjust, but eventually you can find the meaning in the ways you are “there” every day for all sorts of people — like us, your readers, for example.
Have you thought about adopting a child? (now, not necessarily after Pearlsky turns 22, that is) Kids with even very mild special needs are harder to place in adoption, which means that social workers and/or birth parents are open to a wider range of adoptive parents, including single parents, older parents, etc. Also the powers that be tend to expedite things for hard-to-place kids–we were allowed to finalize our adoption over the phone with the court in my son’s home state, instead of traveling back, for example. So if you’re open to adopting a kid with a mild or moderate disability, (which would be a walk in the park for you at this point, I imagine) I don’t think it would be difficult or expensive for you to get a placement.
The energy of a young child might be fun for Pearlsky and I think it would definitely be fun for you. And I’m certain that joining your family would be a terrific thing for a child; you’re a great Dad.
It’s not exactly the same as parenting your own biological child, but it’s not worse, just different. Just something to think about.
This was a zinger of a post. Written at precisely the right time, from my selfish perspective anyway. It’s super scary how sometimes I think things actually DO happen for a reason…but my refusal to re-activate my relationship with God is overwhelmingly real.
Bennett spent the night at his grandparents last night, and since I am playing the role of SingleDad this week, even though I had lots to do…I found myself doing little and wandering about, with little focus. I felt very…purposeless, it was the weirdest thing. I even didn’t go back to the bed I normally sleep in. I went to the Master bedroom and slept as if Bennett were actually there.
I can never, EVER, claim to know what it is like to walk in your shoes…I can’t even claim to know what they smell like. Because, like C. Thomas Howell in that movie where he (very badly) acted like he was black, said he could always at the end of the day take off the blackness, I know at the end of the week Jen comes back here and I also have another son, a typical one.
But reading your post after experiencing last evening did help me to at least understand what you mean a small percentage better than I would have 24 hours ago, and for that I am grateful, because it gives me perspective not only into my life and my relationship with my disabled son, but into the life and mind of someone I count as a friend, even if that glimpse is fleeting.
You are an insightful, inspiring father, and an amazing human being. It’s my honor to know you.
OK, I’ll say it…
Well, if I wasn’t married already, I would marry you.
But then no guarantees on whether or not our kids would be “normal”.
Also I take after the short(er), squat, no-neck eastern european side of my family. Is that the kind of eastern european you were talking about, or were you referring to the skinny blond russian kind of eastern european? 😉
And honey, empty nest is empty nest. If she was “normal” she would be graduating college at age 22 and moving out ANYWAY. Welcome to the rest of the world.
And just because she moves out doesn’t mean your relationship ceases to exist!
I totally get that Pearlsky defines you and that you would feel “purposeless” without her in the house, but you will always be SingleDad, no matter what. Just because you don’t pass on your genetic code to a long line of offsprings, it doesn’t mean that you don’t leave behind a legacy. You touch and influence so many people and you really make a difference. But I get it, I do.
Now, Aidelmaidel, easy with the short, squat, no-neck Easter European talk 🙂
Mary Dell: The thought of the responsibility of a dog (Pearlsky would love one) drives me to drink, let alone another child. No matter how much I want one, I don’t think I’d do it alone again. But then, maybe.
Ken: A couple of beers. On me. You’re doing great this week.
AidelMaidel: I’ve “met” both types, and I vote for the petite long-neck-challenged version. And yes, I don’t have ownership of the empty nest issue, but I don’t have several years of increasing independence and being hated by my kid to toughen me up first. Here it would be a monumental instantaneous change.
Erika: Working on that contact list for me? Please? Gonna make me beg, aren’t you?
Fine, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you 😉 And just for the record, I might be vertically-challenged (or space-efficient, as I prefer) but I do have a very nice neck 🙂
SarahB: Thanks for your perspective … I happen to know you do many great things. Just maybe we are each leaving our mark on the world one way or another.
As Erika said, you will always be SD. Not only will Pearlsky and David still need you, but those of us who are fairly new at the whole disabled – kid – parenting gig often benefit greatly from your words of wisdom.
If in a few years you find yourself feeling nostalgic for IEP meetings and incompetent nurses, you are welcome to take a trip out here and take over a bit of Monkey’s caseload. 😉
I am scared to death to think about the future. I want Polly to live here as long as she possibly can. In our town in WV, we have a local day program that she may be able to attend. I did, however, work there before Polly was born, and I don’t know that they will tolerate her loud outbursts, tantrums, and violence mostly towards herself but sometimes others. I know it’s several years away, as she is only 11 now, but it weighs on my mind all the time. It’s hard enough to keep a sitter for her now longer than 6 months. Coming from a small town, I’m about to run out of people! I also have a son (typical kid that we adopted that lives with his father, my ex), and I already feel some resentment from him towards her, so much that I feel he will never take any responsiblility for her. I makes me sad to think about her future. I try to stay in the present.
to Sarah B
“One is not a star by how brightly one shines, but how brightly one makes others shine”
You can not possibly know how many people’s lives you have touched and made better,
by even a random act of kindness.
New to the blogosphere so does Pearlsky not have an extended school year? I am quite dismayed that she was left in a room alone with a male. What is the protocol for paras to use the bathroom etc when tending to their student?
Thank you S! That was sweet.
SingleDad, I really think you should have another child. I think the child would be blessed with your knowledge and perspective. It would grow up in an amazing home. I just wanted to de-lurk and tell you so.
That song was perfect musical accompaniment to the post, SD. I bet Pearlsky likes that song, too. One of the edifying experiences we have had as parents is our children (really) liking the music we ‘grew up with’. Our Teen walked into my office as S&G sang and began to sing along.
She knew every word.