I always knew I had a daughter. It wasn’t a surprise or anything. I was married for a while, after all, and that’s what happens when you get married. You have daughters. But I was also divorced, and that’s what happens when you get divorced. Daughters move away with their mothers.
And then after a while you move away, and then one move leads to another and you get farther apart and in the pre-internet days the odds for miscommunication (which are pretty high in divorce situations anyway) expand geometrically. Pretty soon miscommunication is replaced by non-communication. So I knew I had a daughter. But she was more a daughter in theory than in practice.
And let’s face it—you adjust to that. You can adjust to almost anything. You adjust to a new city, you adjust to a new job, you adjust to being single, you adjust to being not-a-parent. People ask “Do you have kids?” and at first you say “Yes.” Then later it becomes “Yes, but…” After a while it becomes “Not really” because it’s easier and quicker than explaining all the events that led to that ‘not really.’ And eventually you don’t say anything—you just shake your head, because the cold and ugly truth is you don’t. You may have fathered a child, but to say you ‘have kids’ is a lie. You don’t.
Having kids isn’t passing along your DNA to another living being. Having kids is also them having you. Having you there. I wasn’t there.
Yesterday, at the hospice center where my brother is slowly dying, I met my daughter for the first time in a couple of decades. It wasn’t the most ideal circumstance for such a meeting. And yet, it was absolutely the most ideal circumstance for such a meeting.
To say it was weird is to diminish the term ‘weird.’ To say it was surreal would be to stretch surreality all out of proportion. To say it was wonderful is to turn ‘wonderful’ into a tiny little speck of a word. It was more of all those things than those words could possibly convey.
So I met my daughter. I saw theory become reality. Once again I ‘have kids’ and she has me. Of course, it’s not that simple or easy. It is, in fact, strange and confusing and messy and complicated. And wonderful. Full of wonder.
And then we left the hospice and went bowling.