Legacy

I have likely expressed some of the following sentiments elsewhere in my blog, but I’m too lazy to go through every post to see if this is the case. Nonetheless, this is what is on my mind and heart today.

Father’s Day is always a hard day for me. Facebook fills up with friends posting photos of their fathers accompanied by loving sentiments. Or they post photos of their husbands whose parenting skills they praise.

To consider my own father is tough enough. I’ve written before about him, a sociopath without a capacity of love or an understanding of empathy. It took me a long time and a lot of therapy to come to terms with his illness, to understand why he was the way he was without okaying his abuse.

But harder still to contemplate that I will never be a father.

An intricately drawn family tree in black ink  on paper that resembles yellowed parchment.

My branch of the human family tree ends with me. Photo by Via Tsuji via Flickr. http://bit.ly/1eBqG6h

And every time I say this, people immediately chime in, “Well, you can always adopt.” But this statement misapprehends the mechanism of adoption. It’s simply not possible for just anyone to adopt just any child. First off, I’m too old to adopt an infant, for I’m well past the age-35 cutoff for being allowed to do so. Of course, people have children “the natural way” at my age and older, which has also become much more common in recent years. But this is how it is with adoption.

Of course, I could also adopt an older child, a teenager, even. Indeed, there are a great many older children in dire need of parents. But when you consider that, at age 40, I have never been able to afford a pet, it’s hard for me to conceive that I will ever be able to afford the considerably greater expense of raising a child.

But let’s say that, by some miracle, I end up earning a proper income someday. Then, quite honestly, there’s the issue of my psychiatric impairments. I highly doubt that, on my own, I would be allowed to adopt as a single person. And whether I will be always single is a complicated question — more complicated than I care to get into here — without a certain answer.

I imagine I sound like I’m lapsing into a bout of self-pity. I know I’m not the only one who can’t have children. And I understand there are good reasons why these restrictions are in place for potential adopted children. They’ve had a much tougher go in life and thus have special needs that not everyone can meet.

But I can’t underestimate how powerful the paternal drive has been my whole life. I began choosing my children’s names when I was seven years old. As a teenager, I daydreamed about my children and even grandchildren; I’d look up at the full moon and imagine visiting my grandchildren there. (Wrong on two counts there, eh?)

I wasted my twenties in a dangerous “therapy” that froze my social, educational, and vocational development, and contributed to my depression, anxiety, and PTSD so as to make them even worse. And one of the greatest drives that kept me in the “therapy” for a full decade was the hope that I might become heterosexual enough to have children. The greatest irony was that if I hadn’t stayed in the “therapy” so long, I may well have been healthy and better established early on and I could have adopted.

Along the way, I put together a career in early-childhood education and paradeducation. And I thought that could scratch the paternal itch. But here’s the thing I learned from working with other people’s children: you’ll never have a hundredth of the influence on the children as the parents will, and the parents will never, ever trust anyone with their children. And the worst part is that you see parents teaching their children awful things, teaching them to be incurious and selfish and prejudiced, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

It’s not like I have some fantasy of raising the perfect family. Parenting is ridiculously hard work, and perhaps doubly so for gay fathers. I wondered for a long time why I had this drive to become a father. And that let me to wonder why anyone wants to become a parent. Not the reasons we tell each other, but the subconscious, even instinctual reasons. We have plenty of people on the planet, so it’s not a need about maintaining the population of the species.

I concluded that one reason we procreate is to create a legacy, a preventative measure against our unavoidable mortality. We pass on our genes, to be sure, but we also pass on our wisdom — and lack thereof! — to our progeny. And, ideally, you create a legacy that helps to preserve the species.

And it was in recognition that I, even childless, still owed it to my species to create a legacy that could help to preserve our species.

And so I write.

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About Whittier Strong

Whittier Strong is an MFA student in creative writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with a focus in nonfiction. He graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in creative writing. He has special interests in sociology and philosophy.

Posted on 21 June, 2015, in Personal life, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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