Cat was sitting in my lap, her arms around my shoulders, and was talking quietly in my ear about her twin one-year-olds. I rested my chin on her shoulder, my arms around her waist, and thought about that for a long time before giving an answer quietly in her ear.
It occurs to me now that my default mode: being a smartass, didn't even kick in then. In retrospect, I still can't bring myself to imagine answering with, "Well, they can't talk yet, so we have some time to figure that out." I started with a cop-out, instead.
"I want them to call me whatever they're comfortable with." Weak, I know, but how the hell else was I supposed to answer that? The immensity of the question dawned on me, and I realized that this wasn't just some random piece of the conversation.
"I call my step mom Mary," I said. My dad married her when I was seven-ish; I was young, and the details are lost in my memory somewhere. She's been there for me over the years, was emotionally supportive, provided for me everything I needed, and many things that I wanted. She's earned the right to be called "Mom" many times over, yet I still call her Mary.
It makes me wonder how she felt, walking into a marriage with a guy with a seven, and a four (or five, I forget) year-old. I can't help but think she that might have wanted to have the experience of pregnancy, birthing a baby, holding it for the first time, and be able to know what the whole fuss is about parenthood. Instead, she got us, and a whole slew of issues that I won't go into, partly because I don't remember them, and partly because I would rather drive this fork into my wrist than to go into it.
(Pictured below: the fork and my wrist, completely unaware of the danger it was nearly in.)
Through most of my adult life, I've wanted to read my (hypothetical, of course) son or daughter a bedtime story, and have them cuddle up to me and say "G'night, daddy," or some sappy shit like that. I'll be honest, there is still a huge part of me that wants that, and will always want that. I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, or into the military in general, but I have heart problems. I still want to fly planes and blow shit up. I have wanted a whole lot of things over the years - some of them passionately - that I will always kind of want, butnever have. I've come to terms with the fact that things don't happen the way I want them to, and that I need to reevaluate what I want for my life constantly to be able to keep up with how fast it likes to change, sometimes. Do I want to have a child that has my own genetic material in it that I can call mine? Absolutely, but that is not going to stop me from reading those two bedtime stories, and having them help me make a surprise dinner for mommy, and taking them out for ice cream when their lives get hard, and loving them every bit as much as I would had I been their genetic father from the outset. If the only difference is that they call me "Tony" instead of "Daddy," then I'd say that I haven't missed out on a goddamn thing.