OTHER FATHER

★ ★ ★ ★

MY FUTURE LIFE

By James Prenatt

It was a cold, rainy morning and I had woken up at four-thirty for my five AM to 9 AM shift at the golf course. My wife left me coffee to drink on my way there. Little gestures like that always made the day more bearable. I spent those few hours doing the monotonous work, thinking of going home and trying to stay dry. I’m a lucky man. I always have going home to look forward to, no matter how hard the day gets.

Every hour away from my wife, we text each other that we miss one another. It may sound silly, but I guess in a relationship as committed as ours, you can’t be apart easily. I don’t know how people did it before cell phones.

When I got home she had left a note for me telling me that she’s pregnant. I’m the father of her child. I don’t think I will ever forget the strange feeling of happiness. I just kept laughing.

In the next few weeks, things seemed to just come together. Despite a few financial hardships, eventually good things fell into place. I got a full-time job doing something I like, another part-time job on top of it and my writing was beginning to click, like I knew what I wanted and what I had. I knew who I was.

I’ve always been the kind of person who needed something to work towards, needed to have a dream in mind that I was pursuing because if I didn’t, I felt lost, bored and aimless. Part of my dream has always been having a family, but like most dreams it seemed far out of my grasp. How could I ever support anyone when I hardly could support myself? Well, I’ve found a way and even though my job isn’t a dream, it pays more than I’ve ever made and I have benefits. Benefits. Retirement, paid days off, family and medical leave, all things that didn’t occur to me before. And on top of that, they’ll pay for some of my schooling and a few years down the road, my kids’ college and my wife’s.

I used to think working so much would get in the way of writing, you know, my real dream, pipe dream, the one I’m always embarrassed to say is what I want deep down. The dream I’ve been working towards since I learned I could make art out of words. But the weird thing is, I’m more motivated and productive now, with two jobs, a toddler stepson, and a wife who is expecting, than I ever was during college or when I had loads of free time.

I feel like I’m working hard. I feel valued and validated. I still have a lot of the same anxieties, if not more, new and very serious fears that every parent faces. I don’t want to be stuck at a job forever, but the benefits are good and I’ll know I’ve worked hard for my kids. I want to be a full-time writer, but I constantly have the fear it’ll just never happen. It doesn’t happen for most, why should it happen to me? But I work. I get up early to write every day. I take any overtime I can manage. I set aside time to play with my stepson and enjoy my wife’s company.

There are so many days I want more. Sometimes that is a good thing because without desire, I wouldn’t work towards much. It can be a burden. But there other days when I am nothing but grateful. I think about what my kids will be like. Will they want to write, like me? Will they be rebellious or responsible? Will they be more like me or their mom?

The funny thing about finding out that my wife is having a baby is that for so long I worried about being a stepfather, that it meant I wasn’t a real dad or I was missing out on something, but so far, I don’t feel much different. It just validates what I felt like before. I used to think what I really needed to make me work hard, and I mean really hard, was to know I had kids to support, but I was working just as hard before that.

I think about my own father, about how he managed to spend time with all seven of his children along with working full time and enjoying his own hobbies, which included carpentry, home remodeling, marathon running, and reading. I’ve got about two hobbies and fewer kids and maintaining that can feel like a struggle. I’m sorry he can’t be here now, but I don’t dwell on it because I know that I am beginning to become the best parts of him.

In my ideal future life, my kids know me as a writer and they’re invested in my work. I’ll still be reaching for more by then. That’s a good way to go through life, I think, always looking for more. It sets a good example and that’s what I want to be. I don’t know what my kids will end up like, but I know I will be there for them. Parenting is filled with mistakes and hardships, but so is growing up. For once, despite all the anxiety and stress, I’m excited for my future. Everything I have now I once thought was completely out of grasp. Well, it’s not. The best example I can set is by being someone who understands that if you pursue your dreams, eventually you will reach them, no matter what life throws at you.

James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and stepson, who tells lovely stories about bunnies and crabs. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee.

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