Wednesday, April 27, 2016

He Collected Me

The series finale of American Idol remains unviewed on my Hulu watch list.  For over a decade I watched the series and made a point of watching each season finale as it was broadcast.  Certainly, the show changed television, music, the way we consume music, the way stars are born.  But through the course of the years the show lost its magic.  Between changes in format, changes in judging panels, and changes in the method of voting, the final season of American Idol simply didn't have the sparkle of the first.

Unquestionably, the most poignant moment of the season was when the very first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, appeared as a guest judge and in a very pregnant and very emotional display, sang the song "Piece by Piece."  The song is a tender tribute to her stepfather, the man who took on the role of father for her when her biological dad abandoned her family.

I have no daddy issues.  My father was present, quite present, for my entire life.  He worked nights, and slept during the day while we were at school.  He packed our lunches, took us to the bus stop, went to softball practices, came to award ceremonies, and did everything that could be expected of a father and more.  Now, he watches my daughters five days a week and I know it was the right decision to have him provide care because every day, when he first sees them, he smiles with genuine joy that they are his for the next 9 hours.  He has set a high bar.

So, when I heard Kelly sing "Piece by Piece," I did not think of my own father.  I thought of the man who is father to my girls, and stepfather to my son.

I thought of my days as a single mom, caring for my son's memory and wondering if I would ever find a relationship that could bear the burden of my unusual but very deep relationship with my son.  I wondered if I would ever have a family that would openly include Gabriel.  He was my world, and I wasn't sure if anyone would ever want to live in our world.

Every day, in my home, Gabriel's name is mentioned.  On the wall of our stair case, his picture hangs with his sisters', and framed photos of him also have a place in our living room, family room, my bedroom, and Eden's bedroom.  On holidays, or sometimes just because I feel like it, Marcos treks with me and our daughters to the cemetery where my son's ashes rest.  Gabriel is my son; he is my girls' big brother; and Marcos is his stepfather.

Marcos didn't have to be the man that he is.  He didn't have to welcome both me and my son into his life.  Because of him, my son's memory can live.  Because of him, my girls know their big brother.  Because of him, my girls will know that they have a family history of neural tube defect and take the necessary precautions when they have their own children, because that part of our lives is not hidden.  Because of him, our girls will pray for their brother's intercession throughout their lives.  Because of him, I do not have to tuck my grief away and instead, I can heal.

He took the bits of a broken home, an unconventional mother and son, and he shaped us into a new family.  He refilled my heart with his love, and from that love our daughters were born, so that my heart was not only full but overflowing.  He has made it possible for me to hear someone call me "Mommy" every day - A sound I thought I might not ever hear.  Piece by piece he has taken an unstable, grieving woman, and made her as whole as she has ever felt.  A man can be kind.  A father can be great.  And he is.

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