Friday, March 30, 2012

No Regrets

There's a handful of days in my life that I'll always remember the date of. July 4, 1993 was one of them.

An old friend and college roommate, Garrett, was visiting for the weekend. I'd been having a crazy year-- working two full time jobs, and carrying on a couple of relationships. I was looking forward to the summer-- that would mean a break from one of the jobs-- the teaching job-- and a break from both of the relationships I'd been carrying on. My life had become impossibly complicated because of it all, and I needed to back up and figure it all out. A weekend with an old friend was just what the doctor ordered.

My friend and I had been out hitting our favorite watering holes-- he'd roomed with me for a couple of months when he'd gotten out of the military a couple of years before, and wanted to go to the places we'd hung out in back then.

I got a call the morning of July 4th-- I was hung over, had my friend and a couple of other people sleeping at my apartment. It was one of the women I'd been seeing. She was, she told me pregnant.

I felt like a building was collapsing around me.

Over the next nine months, I struggled to keep it together. I felt completely unprepared to be a parent. I kept thinking of an old Firefall song, "Cinderella."

Cinderella by Firefall

"Last December I met a girl
She took a likin' to me
Said she loved me
But she didn't know the meanin' of the word

She imagined love to be grand
Me holdin' her hand and
Whisperin' sweet things and
Cooin' softly like a song bird

Then one mornin' she came to me
With a tear in her eye
And a sigh on her breath
And Lord, she said,
"Hon, I'm heavy with child"

And I said, "God damn girl, can't you see
That I'm breakin' my back
Just tryin' to keep my head above water
And it's turnin' me wild"

Cinderella can't you see
Don't want your company
You better leave this mornin', leave today
Take your love and your child away

Rockin' chair on the front porch
Well, I'm thinkin' about all the things that I did
As a young man
Now that I'm old

And I remember her and the boy
Did he have all the toys and the joys
That a young man should have
Before he gets too old

Cinderella couldn't you see
I didn't want your company
You shoulda left that mornin' left that day
Took your love and your child away"

One night, I was drinking with a couple of friends and discovered they had a copy of the album this song was on. I played it several times, drunk, letting the song sink in. I puzzled over the meaning of the song. Did he stay, giving up his youth to make sure his son had all the "toys and the joys that a young man should have before he gets old?" Or was he sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, full of regret, wondering what happened to the woman and the boy?

In the end, I stuck around. She and I made a go at it, but eventually ended. But the boy stayed. I took an ass-whipping dealing with his mother but I have no regrets. I don't have to wonder. He had baseball and Yu-Gi-Oh and Spongebob Squarepants and Star Wars and music and nights out for Chinese food and friends and the things a young boy should have. He's had laughter and love around him-- at least in my home.

He turned 18 earlier this month. He got into the college he wanted to go to. He got a scholarship and some loans and my plan, to get a nursing degree and a nursing job, worked; thanks to that, I'll be able to come up most of the rest.

His imminent departure brings out conflicted feelings. I did my job. I did my part in raising a smart, happy, confident adult. But my heart is breaking knowing I'll only see him a few times a year.

I keep coming back to a moment right after he was born when my father, who was full of regrets about his own children, told me: right now you're looking at the next 18 years as a long, long time. But you'll discover someday that it will turn out to be a short, short time. You get them such a short time in their lives and then they're gone. They come and visit, and you have a relationship with them and talk to them on the phone, but this time, this next 18 years, enjoy it. Remember that money comes and goes, but you can never get back time missed with them.

I'm sure glad I listened to my father.


SkylersDad said...

You have done an amazing job as a parent JY, and your young man is well prepared for the world that waits for him. The time does fly by so very fast, doesn't it...

Mnmom said...

Oh right there with you my good friend! My twins turned 18 this year, and will be going off to colleges over 4 hours away. The days are long but the years are short. I couldn't give them much in the way of material things or money, but I know I gave them love, music, laughter, books, campfires, etc. We have shot good adults into the future - we have done our job.

The Notorious B.I.F. said...

If only more Fathers were like you. My Father was already a millionaire when I was born in late 1983. He had all the money, but none of the soul. He was mad that I was born Phyically Diabled and ignored me. At lest he didn't beat me like he did my older sister and Mom. My Mom took my sister and me and left him in 1988. We left a giant house on a Golf Course for a small two bedroom apartment. He never came for a single visitation after the Divorce was final and rarely paid Child Support (maybe I check every 4-6 months). I haven't seen him outside of Court since I was 4 years old. I can't imagion ever doing that to one of my kids (if I had kids, that is). It doesn't make sense how a Man (in his case I use that word loosely) with all the advantages can not be there for his kids. When a (real) Man who has to work his ass off for everything he gets is able to provide finational and emotional support for his kid. I bet your Son never asked his Mom if you loved him knowing when she said "Yes" it was a lie.
Enough of my sob story.
Good luck to your Son, I hope he does well in Collage.

Pat Tillett said...

Hey there!
What a moving story. I know and felt what was going through your mind.
We now seen our five kids grow up and become adults. It felt like an eternity while we were doing all the things that parenting involves. Now it all seems like an instant.
To me, and even better time of life is ahead for you. It's when parents and their children start relating to each other as adults and equals. It's a big change from being mommy and daddy, that's for sure, but it's a healthy and rewarding time for sure...

dmarks said...

Wow. I've been going through old cassettes from the 1970s that my brothers and I made, and I found this song. One they don't play on the oldies station. And it's been in my head a lot.

bubbles said...

Oh, JY, I have so much empathy. I'm struggling with my feelings as my kids have left or will leave.

I'm grateful for the one that stays close, lets me know she's o.k.

I cry about the one that left too early, that I need to have back, so that I can put on the finishing touches.

I worry for the boy that hasn't had a father present - yet I see a man emerging that can make a difference in the world.

Me... I feel many deep feelings.. I'm so glad I was here, but now I need one of them to care for me in my old age! Wish me good luck!


bubbles said...

I think in the song he wishes he never knew. She left, but he knew the child was out there, and he wishes he didn't.

LegalMist said...

Your father was a wise man, at least on this issue...