Altitude Sickness, Column

A chance at paternity

I have have always wanted children.  This might seem counterintuitive, given my life of fairly wild irresponsibility, travel, and transience, but it is true. I have, however, been very careful to wait to have children until I found a proper host candidate for my offspring.
I have been repeatedly  unsuccessful at choosing domestic partners, my romantic past being a rogues gallery of crazy codependent addicted women (takes one to know one, right?). I have worked very hard at changing my expectations of a partner, and my expectations of a relationship. I have learned, over the years, that the thing that most people call love is not in fact love, but rather infatuation.
Love … true love (to quote “The Princess Bride”) between domestic partners, for me, should be more like mutual nurture than anything else. I have been working for that for a long time, and every time I come out of a relationship, I spend a great deal of time looking at myself, my actions, and staying single to process my experience, and learn from my mistakes. This has led to a fairly long learning curve, and the threat of geriatric fatherhood.
It has been suggested to me that one mistake that I might be making is referring to my future co-parent as a “host candidate” as though we were in an “Alien” sequel. I remain unconvinced.
In any case, I was approached recently by an old friend of mine with whom I was involved about 11 years ago. We cordially disembarked from our relationship, she moved on to another man rather quickly, got pregnant, and proceeded to raise the child herself until she had another child and met the love of her life with whom she has been living for almost eight years.
When she first got pregnant, we looked at a calendar, wondering if the child could be mine, and we both said “No, not possible.” The timing was close, but wrong. We looked back at it again when her child was born (he was a massive baby, almost 10 pounds). He looked nothing like anyone from my family, but we are given to large, late babies. Even if you took it to an extreme, we still decided that it was impossible that the child was mine.
Fast forward 10 years. My friend approaches me and says that she thinks we should do a DNA test. The child is 10, growing quite tall, becoming very musically adept, and is uncommonly good at mathematics. These are traits that are not shared by anyone on either side of his assumed family, and they are traits that my family has in spades (I am terrible with abstract mathematics, but everyone else in my family is aces with it; I’m tall as a Viking; and we are known for our musical skills).
Furthermore, doctors are now saying that the first month after conception “doesn’t count” (or some other B.S.), and so it can take a proverbial bun well over nine months to cook once it is in the proverbial oven. In other words, the conception date for this child could be well within our margin of error.
I agreed that we absolutely should test. In the meantime, I research DNA tests (you can get them at Wal-Mart, no big surprise there), and it doesn’t cost much to do. I also met the boy (my friend told her son what we were doing; he was smart enough to know that something was up when she swabbed his cheek three times), and he is a really smart, good kid; respectful, well behaved, intelligent.
I started to get excited about this possibility. I mean, I’ve always wanted children, and just haven’t been smart enough to get the job done. Maybe this would be real and some of the pressure would be off my relationship forming.
So we did the test and I mailed it off. It took two weeks for the samples to be admitted to the lab, and two more days for the test to yield results. The results came by email, and I got them while driving from one sales appointment to another. I was so nervous and excited about the test results I had to pull over and check the results right then.
The test results were conclusive, with zero percent chance of paternity. We were all surprised by this, and we were all a bit saddened by it (I never talked to the boy about it, but I talked to his mom). We were all engaged in a bit of wishful thinking, I guess.
My life isn’t the most stable, but I have always felt that I would make a good father. Maybe not, maybe I’m too self-centered, but maybe fatherhood would fix that? It did to a great extent with my parents, and I feel like I have a good example in that regard.
I’m not going to lie. I shed a bit of a tear over this one. But I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved on quickly (I was of course prepared for the possibility), but truth be told I was hoping that he would turn out to be my child. Back to the drawing board.

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