Is. is in Virginia with me this week. We’re eating and driving and hiking. Giles County yesterday. Floyd County today. A supreme pizza from Palisades yesterday. Sandwiches at the Floyd Country Store for lunch today. It’s Father’s Day. That’d the day each year when the full spectrum of fathers get recognized. Fathers living, fathers dead. Fathers uplifting, fathers downputting. Fathers drinking-always-drunk, fathers ascetic straight-edge sober. Lovingkind fathers, bully and dipshit fathers, too. Fathers present, fathers absent. I could go on. Or you could.
The clock on fatherhood started for me with a kind of hidden compartment around 1997. So that’s 24 years ago. It was also on a Sunday that year (as every year?), Sunday, June 15. My mom had died four days earlier. For all I know or fail to recall, might’ve been the day we buried her. Nobody considered me a father right there and then. But there was enough build-up building that I figured I’d be resigning my job in Detroit (well, Bingham Farms), moving to KC again, and stepping up to see things through with Ph.
This Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ph.’s birth certificate. I keep a clean, minimalist desk. Not a whole lot of shit on it. A bum hard drive we could call Fickle Lacie 2 TB or Crapola Lacie 2 TB. A dancing bears coffee mug holds pens. A standard mouth quart Ball jar has some change in it. If I had to guess, I’d guess it’s $6.85 in change. A lamp. A computer. A wire thingamabob for holding books open. And a few note cards, which I use for making to-do lists. Folded alongside the note cards is a copy of Ph.’s adoptive birth certificate. It was issued in 2001. Four years lapsed from the time my mom died to then the adoption was official and materially certificate-able.
I’ve carried that certificate in my work bag for twenty years. At least four or five work bags in that time. Always had it with me, knowing someone somewhere would ask to see it. I didn’t need to get it out very often. But while in grad school at Syracuse, when driving across southern Ontario and crossing at Buffalo-Niagara or Sarnia-Port Huron or Windsor-Detroit, best have it ready. Border keepers would ask, skeptical: how do y’all know each other? And the certificate had damn well be in my work bag or otherwise close at hand.
Sometime in April, I was checking into the possibilities of buying a house in or around Blacksburg. Getting a pre-approval letters, as one does in this rabid wolfpack of a housing market. And in rummaging for my passport (so infrequently needed during Covid), I found Ph.’s birth certificate. Gave it a long-held pause and close look: the paper giving up at the creases, surrendering to time and folds, a spill of something like sunscreen splotching a translucent freeform over two-thirds of it, or maybe that’s just the outline of human heart. Could be.
Ph. turned 30 in March, so you’d think that nobody in the world would still be carrying around his birth certificate, which is not at all to say thinking about it constantly, but always ready to be asked. I suppose that’s why the folded old mess of a dilapidated photocopy, in its journey to eventually, inevitably being discarded, only made it from my work bag to the place where it is now tucked innocuously by the blank note cards between the dancing bears mug and the big spender change jar. What’s merely a sheet of paper, a scraplet of an event long ago settled, I think I’ll continue holding onto it for now. Another few weeks or months or more.