He has impossibly long eyelashes. The same kind I had growing up, and still have. The eyelashes that teachers and strangers would bring up seemingly out of nowhere, leaving me feeling awkward and embarrassed.
I wasn’t ready to see those eyelashes.
Despite having read numerous books on pregnancy and fatherhood, and getting plenty of unsolicited advice from people I haven't seen in a decade, none of these books came with a specialized section that said, “so you’re an adoptee having your first child.”
Maybe there’s a pamphlet someplace that I missed. A set of instructions.
Something better than the horrifying Google results that come up, reading like a nightmare, with additional search suggestions like “I don’t want my adopted child.”
He has an outrageously thick head of hair. Hair that made the nurses and doctors gasp in the hospital the moment he was born. The hair everyone seems to comment on. It’s my hair. Or at least, the hair I used to have, once upon a time. Black and silky. I hope that, unlike me, he gets to keep it long beyond his 30’s.
I wasn’t ready to see that hair.
Instead, you’re left unprepared. There’s no readying yourself for it. This moment of being so close to someone, talking to someone (even if they can't say much)… who looks like you. That first biological relative. Here. Right now. Looking to me like I’m everything. Smiling and laughing when I get close enough for him to see me.
He has a laugh. My goodness, how he laughs. How he laughs when I dance around the living room with him, holding him in my arms while Hootie & the Blowfish, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, or any other kind of 90’s alternative or pop-punk or emo plays through our speakers, and how maybe he somehow knows these are his dad’s favorite bands, and he saves that laughter just for me.
I wasn’t ready to hear that laugh.
There aren't any articles that tell you how to brace yourself. Me and my wife, Nena, we wondered. Would he have her eyes? My skin? Her hair? My nose? What was the combination going to be? There were things I didn’t want him to have. I don’t like my feet. My nose isn’t great. Nena’s is. Hell, everything about her is great. If he could just have everything of Nena’s…
I said something like that during every doctor visit, whenever the sonogram went live. Maybe I was afraid of him looking too much like me. What it would feel like. Because there’s no pamphlet. Nothing to prepare you.
And now, everyone comments on how he looks so much like my wife. And he does.
But. There’s are the eyelashes. The hair. The laugh. The little things.
And his face.
There’s the skin on his cheeks. How right now, it’s lighter than the rest of his face, something our doctor assured me would go away as his melanin comes in over time. How every time I look at his face, and those lightly colored symmetrical splashes on his cheeks, I run my hand over my own, my fingers scratching against my beard, where my discolored birthmark is. The one that mars my jawline, discolors it all the way up around my ear.
The one that I hide.
I think how, if he somehow has the skin same condition I do, I’ll shave my beard. I think about that most mornings, when those little splashes are still there, just in case they remain.
How I’ll shave my beard every single day, so he’ll never feel alone. It’s okay, son. Your Dad has it too. See?
And for that, I’m ready.
I’m ready for him to never feel alone. To see a bit of himself in me, the way I see myself when I look at him.
I’m here. I’m still unprepared for so much. What his voice will sound like. If he loves books as much as I do. If he’ll be sensitive or tough. How he’ll do in school. If he’ll love the outdoors. If he can sing. If he’ll keep laughing recklessly over everything and nothing, and how its my job to make sure he does.
And I don't need a pamphlet.