We want you to know this. Daniel is not your father. Can you handle that? Should I have introduced it to you in stages?
No, no, there’s nothing wrong. We just feel you are owed the truth. He thought you might be angry if you learned it on your own. There’s a lot of things Daniel can deal with – has dealt with – but I don’t think he could endure you being mad at him. No, I mean really mad, not unfair time-out mad.
Daniel is not your biological father. Do you understand what that means?
Right. Animals and plants. Flowers too. More exactly it means “of biology,” which is just a way of saying that Daniel is not the man who conceived you in my womb. Have you learned about sex at school? Well, never mind, then. You’ll learn that when you’re ready.
Yucky? A little, yes, but listen to me, okay? Daniel did not make you what you are, but he is helping you become who you are. Am I making sense? No? What I mean is that he’s the one who bandaged your knee when you fell off your bike, and took you to the Pirates game for your birthday. He gave you his phone to photograph the doe and its fawn when they came into our yard last year, remember? Of course you do. Your biological father would have loaded you down with guns and bullets and marched you into the woods.
Don’t be scared. You’re not going to do that just because you share his genes. I guess it’s like mud. Add water to a pile of dirt and you’ll get mud. Anyone can do it. But if you pick the right kind of dirt, the right proportion of water, and shape it as carefully and confidently as you can, why, you’ll end up with something beautiful, a pitcher or a vase, or if you’re really lucky, a fine young man like you.
Yes, you can keep calling him ‘Dad’. I’m sure he’ll like that, his chest will swell up inside, all hot and full of love. Like the puppy. Remember when he said you could bring Rex home? Imagine that emotion in a grown up chest, imagine how you feel when Rex comes running as you get home from school. Yes, that’s right. His whole back end does wag just like that.
Here. I wrote your biological father’s name and phone number on this piece of paper. You can put it in your treasure box. If someday you want to meet him, I’ll help any way I can, and Daniel will too. Just remember it was Daniel who mostly shaped you. You are his son, even if he is not your dad.
Yes, that’s a fine idea. He’s weeding in the back yard now, but he’ll be ready for a break. Don’t forget your mitt. That’s right, he’ll need one too.