While I was studying to become a social worker I got to intern in a transitional corrections facility. It was a wonderful experience for me. I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates, conduct family systems assessments, and engage in supervised therapy. Alongside me conducting these operations I was under clinical and direct supervision in which I reported my activity and debriefed in regards as to how I treated clients and why I used the particular methods I did. I also was seeing a personal therapist on a weekly basis.
This was a deep and meaningful period of my life in which I did lots of work on myself and processed the baggage of my past. As I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates I had to submit to a biopsychosocial examination of my own. I was grilled like I was on Oprah and was challenged by my supervisor until I broke. This was painful for me. I was invited to deal with the growing edges of my life in order to better serve my clients. I had to get to know myself before I was able to guide these men and women towards a truer and fuller version of themselves. As painful as that process was it paled in comparison to me having to interview my family and conduct a family systems assessment on them.
This was agonizing. It bared all those deeply hidden secrets of my youth and shed light to the perspective of my parents. Up until then I have witnessed my parents as human only in the idea that they are aging (as am I) and the full faculty of vigor is waning. I have unjustly denied my parents full humanity.
I have been particularly hard on my mom for things I perceived to have gone horribly wrong and I have not questioned my father for his part in these same horribly wrong events. This is the kind of shit that one wants to write about but waits until their parents die or that their own kids find tucked away in some half-ass leather bound journal filled with shaky, hastily written script. This is one boogeyman.
I had to engage this head on and write a paper about it. I put it off for as long as I could. Then at the 11th hour I made a phone call to my mom, she didn’t answer. I left a message. Then I called my pop. He answered.
I tried to explain to him what I was doing in a way that someone tries to explain away the fact they got caught masturbating to this year’s SEARS catalog. I stuttered and struggled through my words. Finally, I asked my father, “Could you tell me about the five years before my birth and the five years after my birth?”
My father retorted, “What?”
I explained again what family systems entails and invited him in to the conversation, again. I was silently nervous. I am asking my John Wayne, my Superman to engage the emotions around my birth. I felt like I was treading on holy group. I waited for God to strike me dead and send me to the place of Uzzah.
Silence slowly started to lift and my father told me that he and my mom had experienced several miscarriages and had all but given up on having children of their own. So, my parents entered in to the adoption process. They were knee-deep into the process and even had a little boy staying with them when my mother found out she was pregnant with me.
My father’s words were filled with sorrow, wonder, and reservation. It was like he had opened up a part of himself that he had long ago closed off and worked to bury. You see, when my mom found out she was pregnant the adoption process was going to end. This potential brother was removed and my parents were sent on their merry way. My father’s voice ached as he shared this with me.
The conversation flowed a little more freely after that. I seemed to have stepped upon a place in which my father no longer feared my questions and even welcomed having a safe face to explore these long forgotten memories. We talked for almost two hours and I learned more about my father than I ever had. My pop became Dorothy’s son, Karen’s brother, Liz’s first love, and Arlene’s soulmate. My pop was human. He has dreams independent on mine. He has a heart for others. He loves strangely and imperfectly.
When my son was born I remembered this conversation. I pondered how I would live in a manner that my son could know I am human, I have faults. How will I live so that my son will not suffer the fate of many of the men of my family? The longer I ran these scenarios through my mind the more and more I wanted to rest near my father as I did when I was a child.
Parenting is the hardest thing I have embarked upon in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am doing great and in other moments I worry that I am utterly fucking with the health of my child. It is in these moments I wish I could lay in my father’s lap as he strokes my head and we watch Elvira together. Most of all I pray that my son gives me more grace to me than I did to my parents. I pray he understand that I am human as well.