Today I turned 51

“Monday, it’s your birthday” means you and your family and/or friends will exchange birthday wishes for the upcoming year and for the great year that has passed. “Christmas is your birthday?” Now that’s an entirely different situation.
When I was much younger, I was convinced that all the merriment, the trees, the lights, the gifts and family gatherings were all to celebrate me. Yeah, I know it’s a little fantastical, but we never celebrated anyone’s else birthday with the same sort of fanfare. So, what was I supposed to think? Raised an only child. Spending most of my formative years with either adults or children much younger than me, made for a confusing time. Christmas day as the only tween in the family or as the only person under 25 years old naturally caused much of the attention to be on me. The younger neices & nepews were at least 10+ years younger and they all had each other. One set included 4 sisters & the other was a sister and a brother. All the while I’m over here like, what about me?
I learned early on how to navigate, ok, manipulate the setting to work in my favor. Some called it spoiled, I called it loved. That’s what you do when you know you’re adopted. “They” chose me. The cousins were “stuck” with their kids. Therefore, I could easily conclude I had the advantage. I had the upper hand and here’s my time to cash in. If you are thinking “damn, that’s a pretty messed up why to look at the holidays”, I will agree. Hindsight is so much clearer.
Getting married young; 18 and having the first kid at 20, followed quickly by 2 more by the time I was 23, did in the immortal words of the “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire” my world was flipped turned upside down. No longer could I allow the holidays to be about me. No more would the celebration or the gatherings have yours truly as the center of attention. Wow, talk about having your world flipped upside down, but I had no alternative. My babies were way more important than me. Seeing them happy was a the greatest joy I could imagine.

Fast forward several years. The boys are grown and have family’s of there own, and me, well depression sucks. My current state causes me mass amounts of anxiety and a reason to withdraw. Add to the fact they all live 2 hours away, and I’m completely overwhelmed. Do not think I take for granted the loving relationship and the desire to be the coolest “Papa Marky” that ever lived as trivial. As much as I love my older boys, the grandkids make my heart flutter. They are beautiful, amazing, funny, stubborn, opinionated, and loving. In them I see an immense amount of fortitude and personality, just like their dads. As I was always the center of attention growing up, I now want the make them the center of attention. My birthday, on Christmas, means very little to me now.
My one and only hope is that one day, I can learn to deal with my depression so that my grandkids receive my full attention. They already have my unwavering, neverending, undying love, and are my greatest joy. To AJ, Timmy, Lily-bean, Daxton & Niko, your papa Marky love you beyond words & can only hope you grasp on to the love and concern your daddies have for you. I want this to be a generational understanding; the babies come first. No matter how old you are, the youngest among us deserves the greatest attention.
What started out as a self-focused, selfish time of year, has become the greatest time of year to focus on the kiddo’s. To my kids, I love you and am so proud of you. To my grandkids, you are my world, and I want the best life has to offer you.
Papa Marky loves you.
I just wish I could love myself.

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For you…

This is for you, whomever you are. 

I’ve dreamt of you all my life. I’ve spent countless hours memorizing your eyes, for in your eyes I see a reflection of my soul. I lose all sense of time and thought as I contemplate what I’ll say, when I finally meet you. I do not know where you are, but I can sense your presence. We may have never met, but I know your deepest desires.
As I gaze into the vastness of nighttime sky, every star, every planet, every Galaxy pales in comparison to your beauty. It’s as if you’ve been painted with the brush strokes of a master painter, who is in no rush to reveal his masterpiece.

One day, my dream will become my reality. One day, you will walk into my life and I will know you, even though I’ve never seen you. Until the time I can travel the back roads with you, stopping to walk through the morning mist, while listening to the song of the morning dove, I will prepare myself as a highly skilled athlete trains for the biggest race of his life. 

For now, rest sweet as you drift slowly off to sleep, knowing that with the first rays of the morning sun comes another opportunity to meet your destiny.

I’m a single dad, not a freak of nature

At the school talent show a few years ago, I walk in with my kids, sit down, and immediately feel the stares of nearly every mom in the room. I couldn’t hear what the were saying to each other in hushed whispers, but from the looks I was getting, you’d think I was a bug-eyed Martian who just stepped out of a UFO, only to randomly wander into the High School cafeteria.

From the age of 23, I was a single dad, raising three young boys under the age of 4. This is the result of finding all of my stuff and the boys stuff packed up, sitting on the front porch when I arrived home from work. Their mother basically told me to go, take the boys, and leave because she needed a break. That break turned out to be several years long, much of which involved little to no contact or visitation between mother and children. To say this was strange is putting it lightly. In the early 90’s, father’s don’t have custody of their children, let alone be raising them. Other than a few years during their early teens when they lived with their mother, I had physical custody of my boys up until they turned 18. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Would I change anything? Absolutely not. 

Fast forward to 2014. Having remarried to a lady having three small children under the age of 5 in 2005, I found myself once again single. This time, the children I had raised as my own, the only father the 2 youngest had ever known, were suddenly taken away as a means of sticking it to me. Knowing I still wanted to he a part of their life, even if their mother and I were not going to be together, the easiest way to get back at me, hurt me, or manipulate me to do something I didn’t want to do, was to threaten to keep me away from them. 

Fast forward to the second half of the year, and I am called by Child Protective Services. Am I interested in taking in the three children I had raised and been a father (stepfather) to? Absolutely! Could I come pick them up? Absolutely! From this point, the court became involved and I eventually received my foster care license and I fostered the three of them until 2016 when I was granted permanent guardianship. 

So, it was during this time that we went to the talent show at the High School, mentioned above. In 2015, what is so strange about a man raising children on his own? Why were there the odd stares, the hushed whispers, and the sense that I was out of place? I am normally the last person to pick up on subtle hints. Come on, I’m a guy. We need it spelled out, diagramed, and given strict instructions or we just don’t pick up on signals from women.

It’s hard enough trying to be a dad, let alone having to fill both roles to teenagers. It’s even more difficult when the 16 year old, the oldest, is a daughter, better yet, a young lady. You mother’s know what you’ve had to do, those trips to the pharmacy for “products”, the shopping trip because the undergarments are too small and need to be replaced, or the conversations that you’ve had about boys and dating. 

You know how hard it was to get parents to allow their young daughter to spend the night with my daughter, once they found out there wasn’t going to an adult female there? I watched her reaction when her friends said they couldn’t stay the night, or the other parents who were more than happy to have her come to their house, but she couldn’t experience that same feeling. 

What is the big deal? Why do the children have to suffer for the reasons outside of their control? Yes, I’m a single dad. But, I’m not a freak of nature and my children are not strange because they live with their dad. If same sex couples can raise happy and healthy children, if single ladies can raise happy and healthy children, then single men can raise happy and healthy children.

So, the next time you see a dad with children, don’t assume the mom is just busy, don’t think the mother had to be a criminal for the dad to have custody, and most importantly, do not treat the kids as if they’re damaged, simply because they are being raised by Dad.

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