I sat and watched my daughter Hannah feed Nutella, my little granddaughter. We were sitting in a food court area at Granville Island Market in Vancouver.
This had always been a favorite destination during our return visits to Vancouver since moving to Utah 16 years ago. Could it possibly be that long? When we lived there in the late 80's and 90's, we rarely went there; or at least I didn't. I was busy going to law school and working. It was only once we left that we came back.
So many of the visits over the years had seemed ... perfunctory. But this one was different. This one was special. I knew it would be as we were driving in from the foggy Fraser Valley into the city.
Granville Island is a special destination. It is one of those places, such as Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco or Pike Place Market in Seattle, that captures and concentrates the essence of a city. It is a place where memories are made. The location in the heart of the city, yet removed from the bustle of downtown, nestled against False Creek with views past the Burrard Street Bridge to Stanley Park and Burrard Inlet. The water taxis bustling back and forth. The seagulls. The variety of the Market, the quaintness of the various shops, studios and places of business.
This visit would mark a first: the first time I visited Granville Island with a grandchild. Similarly, it marked a first for Hannah. After we had found a place to park, unfolded the stroller, installed Nutella inside, and set off walking toward the market, she commented, "I am fulfilling a dream. I have dreamed of this day, when I would stroll around Granville Island, pushing my baby in its stroller, taking it all in, sharing it with her. Now, that day is here." I smiled, basking in the sweetness of that moment.
By the time we had walked around the market a bit, it was time to feed Nutella, which brings me back to my opening sentence. As I sat there watching my daughter feed her daughter, thoughts came into my mind about my family.
I reflected upon the family I had hoped to have before my marriage to my former wife turned south and ultimately crashed. I thought about what had happened since the separation and divorce. In so doing, I realized that I had unconsciously, or perhaps semi-consciously, clung to the idea that we all could still be part of one larger family, that my "old" family would sort of subdivide into two parts of the same whole with my partner added to the mix.
But I realized that this was wrong. What we have instead - and what I need to consciously embrace - is that two completely separate families have been created by the divorce - my ex-wife's being one and mine being the other. We - the two families - are independent, and the only connection we now have is that the two families consist in part of the same members, but with others added to the mix.
What's more, I also realized that I have allowed myself to view my family as being "alternative," which automatically denotes into "less than," "not the ideal," "different," "not the norm." As I wrote about this later in my journal, I expressed how good it felt to write "MY" family:
"I received a head rush of, like, wow, I am a person. I have a family that is mine - not in a possessive sense but in a sense that I don't have a family via or through of mediation of my ex-wife, which is how I viewed things for so long."
I could remember saying, after the birth of my first child, that my wife has a child and I'm married to her; therefore, I must have a child, too. Weird? Not. I viewed everything through my ex-wife, subrogating my role as parent to her. [Subrogate: to put one person in the place of another in respect of a right or claim; connected to the word "surrogate" which means to put in place of another, to appoint as a substitute for oneself.] Such an apt word! I allowed her to be the gateway through which my relationships with my children were channeled - just (as a matter of fact) I did the LDS Church (a subject for another time).
Thus, as I sat gazing upon Hannah and Nutella, I think that, for the first time, I realized/grasped/saw clearly that my relationship with my children is not dependent in any way, shape or form upon my ex-wife; that it is totally independent of her. I am a person and a parent independent of her.
Does this make sense?
What it boils down to, I think, is that for so long I saw myself as an appendage to someone else (in part, I think, because of low self-esteem and sense of self). Now (thanks largely to coming out and the consciousness that this has bestowed upon me), I am independent and I have a much stronger sense of self. When I saw myself as an appendage, I allowed all my relationships with my children to be filtered through my "host." Now, that is no longer the case. I am claiming my family, claiming my right to act as a parent and father in my own right, appointing no substitute for myself, devolving none of my rights to others.
Furthermore, my family is not less than. In point of fact, it is more than.
I am father, hear me roar. ;-0