By Wendy Rhein
I guess he’s been mulling it over for a couple of months. Or maybe it is the start of a new school year with new classmates getting to know one another through family pictures created with the Crayola 24 pack. Or the fact that today was a school open house with moms and dads invited to stop by and participate in the lessons on noise pollution and water cycles. Moms AND dads. Whatever the reason, Nate chose tonight to write his first letter to his father.
I sat in his room, putting long sleeved shirts in the dresser, pulling out short sleeved ones, finally surrendering to the onset of Fall, while he took a shower. He’s a talker, my elder son, and he likes to talk through his day while in the shower. I could hear him creating a narrative and a smile crept across my face, my little creative writer coming up with a new story in the shower. How sweet. And then he yelled to me.
“Hey Mom, I’m gonna write a letter to my dad.”
Not missing a beat, I replied, “That sounds great. When do you want to do that?”
He sat at the kitchen table, the site of many a tearful quarrel over spelling words and punctuation, and he began to compose a letter to the father he does not know. I sat with him and stayed quiet unless asked to help spell a word. I fought the urge to make suggestions, to read over his shoulder. No, this has to be his and all his. His words, his relationship, if there will be one. I sat, and I watched my 7-year-old, with his still damp hair askew and his football flannel pajamas, bent over his letter, carefully writing each line that may bring this mystery man into his world. Maybe.
Nate’s letter ended up covering the front and back of a standard white piece of paper. He introduced himself. He shared a secret with his dad, that he has a crush on a girl in his class. He ended it with a PS – please respond Dad. Together we put the letter and his second grade class picture in an envelope and addressed it. I don’t even know if his father is still at the address that I have, and I told Nate that this is the only address I have so we’ll give it a try.
“Because the door is always open, right Mom?”
“Yes love, because that door is always open. If you want to contact him, I will do my best to help.”
I owe him that much. I owe both of my sons the connection of fathers and family. I look at my boys, both of whom have or will have questions about where they come from. For Sam, he will surely want to know more about his biological mother – does he look like her? Is his father tall like he is? Where did his smile come from? For Nate, he knows half of his heritage. He knows that he looks like me when he smiles but that his hair is more like his dad’s. He asks where his long legs come from (me) and where his love of building and creating comes from. Today he asked why we never married. My two sons and their divergent yet similar paths – both with questions about their nature and those people who are ever-present shadows in their minds and mine. I owe them all the explanations and truths that I can muster. And today, it starts with a letter.