“Do you know the story of Superman?”
These two little girls are my step-grandchildren. My first wife and I were infertile, but it was my reluctance to adopt that meant that we would be childless. I could give a number of explanations for why I felt this way—my wife and our marriage were troubled (she would take her own life at age 53)—but the deciding factor was my fear that I would not love and care for an adopted child in the same way as I would my own.
“His planet was dying and his parents had to send him in a rocket ship to Earth…”
How wrong I had been. From the first time I held each of these children I felt a bond that had nothing to do with shared DNA. A parenting drive—a need to nurture, previously unfelt—had been awakened, and with each interaction, I felt greater love and affection.
I did not know what these children would call me, expecting they would use my first name. I foresaw them introducing me as “Frank,” the man who had married their grandmother.
The 3-year-old was sleeping over one weekend and there was a problem with her crib. I looked up from a book I was reading and there she was. “Grandpa, my bed is broken, can you fix it?” Swallowing hard, I said yes and made the repair.
“….but a farmer and his wife who did not have children found him and raised him as their own.”
Relationships are sometimes hard for children to understand. My wife was telling her granddaughter that her father had been her baby, who she had also raised and diapered. She went on to explain that the man my granddaughter knew as “Popi” was her Daddy’s Daddy. The confusion on my granddaughter’s face was obvious, so she added that they had divorced and that she had then married me.
“They called him Clark and the little boy loved the farmer and his wife and called them Mom and Dad.”
I am not sure how much my granddaughter understands of this all too common extended family. Among friends and associates I find that many biological grandparents do not have close relationships with their grandchildren. Estrangements and distance often interfere. Many marvel at the fact that my wife and I have frequent contact.
“He hid his superpowers but helped his parents whenever he could. When he got older he became Superman, but he was always their son.”
Like every parent, with or without a blood relationship, I wondered how the little one I was rocking would fare—how tall would she be? Would she marry? Would I be there to see? The rocking seemed to help us both, since she drifted off to sleep and I to dream of what might be. I knew that I had been given a gift—a chance at parenting that I had once rejected. Biology wasn’t needed, only the depth of feeling.
I could not hear any more of the conversation from the bath, but it did not matter. I knew how the story ended.