It was always very important to me that my child be mine. Mine, in the blood sense. In the sense that part of me, those small things I’d never seen, would carry on to the next generation. And that child – let’s be a honest, a son – would take me and my name into the future.
I am not the sort of man who places all of his hopes and dreams in his children. I have known men, been taught my men, and worked with men who had convinced themselves that their children were the last thing they could succeed at in this life. I know what sort of man I am. I’ve succeeded in those parts of my life as I can succeed in. But I always wanted a family, even in my youth, even when I was wandering in and out of bedrooms and basements in my youth, and then not in my youth, and then long past my youth.
No one would have believed me then. And whether or not I believed it was irrelevant. It was part of me, something for the future’s version of myself to dedicate himself to. When I did meet my wife, children were discussed early and often. When we could not conceive, we took every test available.
It was neither my wife nor I that was entirely to blame. It was a little of both of us, pieces that could not fit together, chemistry that was incompatible. It was possible that we would be fertile with others. It was possible that both of us were incapable of producing offspring.
We took time. Apart, I imagined foraging into the dark world of dating again, finding another woman, younger, capable of giving me what I wanted. I removed all emotion from the equation and looked at it like a purely logical male seeking a single, fertile female. But of course that was ridiculous. At the end of the fantasy I was still what I was, a respectable but still illogical male. I had been in love with my wife too long.
Adoption was the last consideration. We had tried in vitro, for a year, tried conceiving naturally until both of us were all but exhausted by the physical act, even sick of it. My wife never held the same reservations as I did, or at least never spoke them aloud. She was relieved, she said, to not have to go through the physical torture of pregnancy.
And meanwhile I dreamed of nothing but holding my wife’s swollen belly, nothing but smaller versions of ourselves ruining our quiet lives, through kitchens and living rooms and bedrooms of houses that would become the earliest memories of our babies. My wife would turn over in her sleep and I would turn away, angry. I was angry for a long time.
Adoption was the last consideration, and at last we considered it. I made excuses. I worked late. I did not go.
Last month I held my goddaughter in my arms, the child of my brother’s son. She nestled into my chest, her little fingers clawing at the wool in my sweater, her enormous eyes gazing up at me in abstract wonder. Last year my wife passed after thirty four years and since the house has been quiet and clean and forsaken. And I do, at long last, see where I was wrong, and why. And I do sincerely regret that I had not gone, just once, to hold a child that needed to be held, when my arms were tan and strong.
Time is said to heal all wounds. I have never heard anyone say that time can open wounds of its own, yet it can. It has.