I pretend not to know the things I know.
The knowing of not only what I missed, such as first days of school or tantrums in Kroger, but knowing there are bonds impossible for me to know. A void of experience sitting heavy in my soul: knowing I will not know the bond between a father and his children. It is akin to a personal black hole: knowing it’s there, knowing it’s exerting a gravitational pull over my life and knowing that I cannot ever peer into its depths or cross the event horizon. Sometimes knowing consumes me and tears me to pieces.
But it isn’t always that dramatic. It’s often no more impactful than a type of soulful gravity holding a distant and unseen object in an emotional orbit. It’s the Pluto of my life.
Most months I liken it to an emotional tide with high and low moments; I can sit and watch it roll in and then out with nary more than a sigh. Occasionally, it is a storm surge, flooding my life with reckless abandon and no amount of emotional sandbagging will stem its flow.
Yet, I pretend the feelings are like water off a duck’s back. Which makes me a duck, or at least a variety of fowl.
I pretend for others too. Always. Sometimes poorly, but those that matter know that already.
When I watch other parents with their children occasionally it sparks a deep, painful and at times debilitating feelings of loss, inadequacy and doubt. Best not to be in those situation if I know I’m already in a mood.
When you invite me to your kids birthday party? Um, no. I know I will not be there. Family holidays? Only with a tonic of bourbon and Colorado’s finest. High school football? I’ll be at home gouging my eyes out.
Perhaps others perceive my armor of emotional indifference as a sign of disinterest and contempt for children or, worse yet, specifically you and your children. Know this, I am neither contemptful or disinterested. I’m insanely envious. I am bitter. I know a life I’ll never know when I see it.
It is impossible for me to find joy in your joy. Every giggle and laugh forces a knife in my heart to turn. When I was young, and before I knew better, I knowingly placed a dagger my heart to kill the home of anguish and loss. For self preservation I adopted a scorched earth policy for the soul.
Save your platitudes, sympathy and pithy little cliches. I don’t want your leftovers. I don’t want your hopes for me. I don’t need your understanding or empathy. I made a choice. I know because I live with the choice.
I reject the “someday” someone will come along. I’ve hoed that row. I’m past that idealism, romanticized and playground of ideals that would responsibly allow me to to sow those seeds. I’m pragmatic about what I know: children are no longer an option at this point in my life.
Of course, I didn’t always believe that, I had a partner once tell me what I wanted to hear, or I heard what I wanted to hear. Regardless of what was negotiated, intended or heard, the outcome was the same. Nearly a decade later the resentment festers.
While everyone else is laughing about something cute, cuddly or special over dinner I end up with bile in the back of my throat and leave the room to take an imaginary call on my phone. They know it is cute relating the horrors of changing diapers or their child’s first steps or the drama of potty training. I will accept their explanation of the joy with a mixture of envy, terror and humor.
As I said, my emotional options are limited as I know nothing of children.