December 10th, 2004, early in the morning. My home phone rings. A kind of shock, as I was into a deep sleep. Not even a second before I realized. It was your mother saying you were just born. Your cries in the back. My heart kind of exploding with what I could not even tell myself as being pure joy. Difficult to turn into words, even after all those years. I hung up but did not go back to sleep, my mind wondering about a whole universe with thoughts, fancies about what would you look like, how your tiny hand and feet would feel like once I would have had them between my fingers, what my life with you in this world could have been. And a strong desire to hold you in my arms, a longing that was also a deep fear: what would it be like?
I had spent the last few months not knowing how to handle what was going on outside – your mum being pregnant with you and myself and her splitting up pretty dramatically – and inside – me not surrendering to the strong fact that, apart being aware that I was to be sharing a child with a person I somewhat loved but could not interact in a decent way, I was delighted with the idea of becoming a father. Only, I couldn’t admit it with my own self: an inner struggle that brought me into sleepless nights, lots of drinks, stupid things such as staying up boring to death in silly nightclubs doing nothing but sipping tasteless cocktails waiting for sleep to take over my entire life. And sleep would not come for nights and nights.
At that time I had not told anybody, not my father, not my other few relatives I would speak to, but most importantly, to my friends, whom I have always considered my true family. Not even my best friend, much like a brother to me, who was to be your Godfather just a few months later. It was a difficult period for me because I had all this underground river pushing from within, almost bursting inside, while outside – only at a superficial level – there was the same old life. I had split up, what a news, my relationships had never lasted much, I was working during the day, going out at night. All according to a sort of reassuring routine I had set up for myself and that – I wanted to convince myself – was working after all. Happiness, though, was different altogether and part of me knew it. But in the months during your mother pregnancy, I was not ready to see that clearly. So I kind of stepped aside. And she got angry with me for this. Very angry.
As it is in those circumstances, there is a point of no return, an epiphany which shows you clearly how things really are, no matter what you are able to see in the circumstance. For me, it happened one night, after dinner. I had decided to stay home and watch tv. Kind of a lazy Tuesday night when there was a TV show I wanted to watch and had a can of beer ready for the chill. The tv announcer said the show was canceled and they were going to air a documentary instead. Being too tired and lazy to switch into something else I started to passively watch the documentary about mostly men who, in the Sixties and Seventies, the age of free love and flower power, after wild one-night-stands or short and tumultuous relationships, had received notes or letters from the women they had been together with saying they were fathers. Most of them never got a chance of even seeing their kids and wondered the streets of the places they lived in wondering how my child could be, what he or she would look like, wonder if it’s that kid or that girl over there who just walked the street. Or that man. Or that woman.
Trust me it was the simplest answer to what I didn’t even perceive as a question or a set of questions. I just wasn’t right but kept going, in a kind of dark too overcrowded with light which did not lighten nor warm, just like those poor bastards going around Europe wondering where their lost children would be and what they would be doing. Or look like. it was like a huge wham waking me up from a mid-slumber in which I had felt kind of cosy and awkwardly out of place. I knew then, before the documentary was over, that I didn’t want to end up like one of them. I knew I wanted to take part of that life I had contributed to sparkle up. I knew I was going to be the father of a child who would have parts of me in her or him. I was awake. Only I was not ready to come off the bed yet.
I spent the following Christmas torn between the secret desire of just coming up and holding you tight against my chest and the deep fear of having to go public with the fact that I had become a father, something that, by late December 2004, only a very few people did know. It wasn’t shame holding me, mind you: it was some inexplicable profound blob made up of anxiety, distress, and concern, one stuck in between my stomach and my heart which would not go either up nor down. A fastidious lump that I felt was growing and whose growth I had to stop. I knew that for sure. As I knew it would have been long before I had taken a plane, hired a car, drove more than 200 Kilometres on small country roads and rose to meet you.
So, with the new year, after my usual 1st of January lunch with my father, I showed him some pictures of you, explaining who you were. He was very confused at first, did not understand what was going on, and how it had happened (what a silly question, wasn’t it?). It took him a while to fully realize he had turned into a grandfather and at least it was happy and asked me when could he fly to Ireland and see you. I felt relieved. I had fear his judgement so much that it actually was the main glueing matter holding the lump together. Next thing I booked my plane and my rent car. Next thing you were in my arms.