I knew even in my late teens and early 20s I would never be a father.
Now, you may ask, how is that possible?
You have to understand, if it is even possible to grasp the concept, how overwhelmingly, stiflingly and cripplingly shy I was when young. Not to mention insecure. And it didn’t help that I was homely, had little money and absolutely no self-confidence.
That’s not a recipe for dating success. Through high school and college the concept of me going on a date was off the charts absurd.
On a date?
With a woman?
I figured I’d have a better chance of tackling Larry Csonka in the open field or hitting a Nolan Ryan fastball or blocking a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook.
In other words, the chances of a date were utterly and entirely beyond the realm of possibility.
Not being a father back then didn’t trouble in the least. It was like asking if I was bothered that I would never become the Olympic decathlon champ. Each concept was as absurd as the other.
I think, ironically, I would have been a good father. I think I would have been devoted to my kids, if I ever had any. I think I would have tried raising them to be good people, lovers of books and the arts and to be kind and gentle and encouraged them to participate in sports. But I wouldn’t have pushed sports on them. I would have let them pursue their own passions, whether it was baseball or the violin or pottery.
I think. …
But one never knows for sure. Maybe I would have been a deadbeat dad who abandoned my kids. I hope not. I don’t think that’s in my nature.
But back in the 1970s the fatherhood concept never entered into my thinking. How could I become a father if I didn’t go on dates?
The theoretical possibility of dating remained just that for most of what was known as the Me Decade – a theory.
Go on a date?
With a woman?
I figured I’d have a better chance of beating Bobby Fischer in chess or dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet or replacing Roger Moore as James Bond in the 007 series.
In other words – not a chance in hell.
But gradually over the course of the decade I worked through my shyness and went on a few dates in the closing months of the 1970s.
I even found a girlfriend in the early 1980s. Or so I thought. The concepts of marriage and parenthood never entered into the equation. That was beyond my powers to imagine.
But after a while when I asked her out she kept saying she was spending the weekend with her mother. Oh, that’s nice. I thought. No problem. It turned out to be a big problem.
The stories about spending time with mom were just that – stories. She was up to other activities not involving her mom. They involved my roommate.
One night we finally went out again. On the way to a restaurant for dinner she told me she was marrying my roommate.
I was shocked. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t joking and the joke was on me. I was stunned. I was devastated. How could this be? The deception and betrayal were overwhelming.
But, she said cheerfully, I was invited to the wedding.
It was a painful and public debasement. All three of us worked at the same newspaper. My roommate worked in the sports department with me and she worked in advertising.
This was so long ago I think it was even before electronic messaging. I seem to recall writing out a handwritten note to my roommate kicking him out of the Treasure Island apartment I had rented and invited him to take the second bedroom.
He took more than that.
When I kicked him out he also took some of my furniture. Now that was too much.
I recall telling teammates on one of my rec softball teams about this turn of events. They were outraged. Two of the fellows offered to retrieve the furniture. That’s not all they offered.
They were mysterious fellows, guys whose off-field employment was rather, er, murky. What else did they offer?
“You want we should break his legs, too?”
What a sweet gesture. I was truly touched. I’m sure the guys normally charged for the leg-breaking services they offered me for free. I declined the heart-warming offer.
They seemed disappointed.
“We could just break his fingers if you want.”
Again, I declined the generous offer of their pro bono bone-breaking skills. I asked for the most basic of favors from my muscle-bound teammates.
“Just the furniture. Oh, and get my spare key back.”
They retrieved the furniture and my spare key.
I should have asked out of curiosity what they typically charged for their services. How much to break a femur? How much to break a tibia? How much to break a pinky? But I never asked.
In recent years since, though, I’ve thought about other more serious questions than the rates offered in the 1980s to break limbs and fingers.
Would I have been a good father?
What sort of kids might I have had?
Would I be a good grandfather?
How loudly would I have cheered for my kids in Little League or applauded them in a school play?
Obviously, I’ll never know.
And I’ll never know much my old softball teammates charged for their leg-breaking services.