Posted by: Brenda Kula | June 12, 2008

A Boy And His Father


This photo of my son-in-law and grandson, taken a few years ago, epitomizes fatherhood to me. The real deal.


In just a few days, Father’s Day will be here, a staple of June each year. For some, it will be a celebration, a unification of family ties. For others, it will be a day of fond remembrances of a father who has passed. For still others, like me, it will be a day of questions for which there are no answers.

My father is not even a shadowy figure in my past. I never met him. I know he died when I was a child. For a relative came up to me when I was about eight or nine and whispered, "Your father died."

My father? I had a father?

There are all kinds of ways children get separated from their parents.  Divorce, death, natural disasters. Abandonment. 

Adoption is another. For many mothers of a certain era, to be unwed and pregnant was a shameful secret. A young woman having a baby out of wedlock was secreted away to a relative’s home (or home for unwed mothers). There she had her baby privately. And upon that baby’s birth, he or she was whisked away in the blurry aftermath of laboring. Many times, she did not even see or touch the child. Then, later in life, some of the mothers finally reunite with their offspring. And there, finally, is a joyous conclusion.

But to sell a child sounds despicable and immoral. Who on earth would have such reckless disregard for human life, you ask yourself?

Yet it happens, even today.

For instance, in Afghanistan, many men have spent their lifetimes raising opium, as it is the only reliable cash crop most farmers have ever had.

It began for a man named Sayed Shah, a functionally illiterate Afghan farmer with ten children, when he borrowed $2000. He promised to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. But just before harvest, a government crop-eradication team appeared at the family’s little plot of land and destroyed Shah’s entire two and a half acres of poppies. Unable to meet his debt, he took his family and fled. The trafficker found him anyway and demanded his opium. Shah took his case before a tribal council and begged for leniency. But the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving one of his daughters to him in marriage. These girls are called "loan brides." Daughters given in marriage by fathers who have no other way out of debt. For a desperate farmer, that bride price can be salvation – but at a cruel and irretrievable cost.

In my case, where the illusive black market for babies has played a tawdry role, I likely will never know why. Why a couple, married and with one daughter already, would for some reason trade their second baby daughter for cash, and then walk away. Was it depravity or desperation? I have asked myself all of those things. Come up with answers that sound, on the face of things, "reasonable."

I look at the one photo I have of my father and mother. From time to time, I take it out of the box where I keep it. I search into my threshold of memory and try to see the face that belongs to the hand that gave it to me. But I can’t see who it is. That memory is distant and gone.

I stare down at this photo of my parents, and wonder if I can find some semblance of an answer in the way he rests his arm over her shoulder. The way she smiles so broadly into the camera, full of anticipation, on the day of her wedding.

I peer closely at this photo blurred by time and my fingers touching it, and I look for me. I think perhaps I see myself somewhere in the depths of his dark eyes. Or her high cheekbones. But I’m not sure…

But back to this photograph, which started me wondering all this in the first place…


This boy, sitting high on his father’s broad, capable shoulders, now four and a half years old, will never have to wonder. Or worry. Or look for his identity in a box of old photographs. This I know for sure.

If I’ve never yet thanked this man, my son-in-law of nearly ten years, I want to do so now. For when I travel to visit them, I see such pure, unadulterated love in his eyes for this boy, my grandson. I watch them "rough and tumble" about the house, these two who are bound by all that is good and enduring. And I know this dark-haired, good-looking man will always be there for him in every conceivable way.

On this day, I put the old photo, the one that has evoked so many emotions over so many years, back in the box where it belongs. In a few days, on Father’s Day, I will sit down in my reading chair, miles away in my garden room here in Texas, and feel instantly soothed by this image of the two of them. This boy and his father. And feel content and at peace. For I know that some questions simply have no answers. But this photo; this for me is what Father’s Day is all about.




  1. Hi Brenda,
    What an adorable photo. Thanks for your very sweet comments on my bedroom. You made my day!


  2. Oh my gosh, Brenda.. What a lump I have in my throat… And what a beautiful tribute your blog post is to your son-in-law… I’m so happy that photograph gives you peace and soothing. You deserve that and more…Donna

  3. Hi Brenda – you’ve been tagged over at my blog…Donna

  4. Brenda dear, you brought tears to my eyes. Questions with no answers. A hard thing for a child growing up. It sounds as if you made the best of a hard beginning and now bestow on your family the love denied to you. Bless you, honey.

    ((hugs)) Rosie

  5. Brenda dear, you brought tears to my eyes. Questions with no answers. A hard thing for a child growing up. It sounds as if you made the best of a hard beginning and now bestow on your family the love denied to you. Bless you, honey.

    ((hugs)) Rosie

  6. Brenda dear, you brought tears to my eyes. Questions with no answers. A hard thing for a child growing up. It sounds as if you made the best of a hard beginning and now bestow on your family the love denied to you. Bless you, honey.

    ((hugs)) Rosie

  7. Holy crap, that’s was very moving. I’m sorry for the pain you have been through.
    My father was in my life, but he was very distant. When he died, I mourned for the close relationship we never had.
    I feel for you. You mentioned you were going through some difficulties. Try to stay positive.
    It sounds like you are finding the good in your life, like that adorable grandson. Thank God he has a good father!

  8. Ahhhhh, the boy and his father…. so wonderful! That is darling… and love love to see that pic of you smeling the flowers… Happiness to you and yours, sweet friend…



    pd: Hope you can participate in the “Show me your Garden Party”

  9. Sweet Brenda….”WHY” is something we all have to ask at one time or another. I am so thankful you recognize the bond and love between your SIL and his boy…and I am thankful it brings peace to your sweet heart.
    hugs, bj

  10. Brenda, Once again you have made me tear up. Your style of writing is beautiful… and although we’ve just met, through your writing I have grown to feel so close to you. have a good day!! Big hugs, Joanna

  11. Brenda, I’m sorry for your past but was moved to tears by your lovely tribute to your son-in-law. This is my grandson’s Daddy’s 2nd Father’s Day and in his two cards, I have made a point to thank him for being such a wonderful Daddy. Enjoy your weekend!

  12. I love and am lifted by your honest sharing of your vulnerability. So many things people do not talk about. You are one of the bravest women I know. My father is also only a shadow– and I knew him, can see him. I do not talk about it. Too many people involved. So maybe I live vicariously with you speaking out! Just a wonderful piece, thank you, Brenda!

  13. Dear Brenda, this post is so moving.

    I love the photo of your son in law and grandson. It fills my heart with joy, knowing you have this beautiful family.


  14. Brenda, This was so very moving. Sniff.

  15. Brenda – you have a gift for words that make me feel as if I’ve been or going through what you have. You’ve brought on tears and laugther.

    What a comfort to know that yoru grandson will always have a loving father in his life.

    My sons father was never much involed in his life for reasons I’ll never know as we lived in the same town. Such a shame as my son doesn’t even consider him his father only a sperm donor. Fortunately my father was a big part of my son’s life and I’m so grateful for that.

    Enjoy your garden room, it is lovely.


  16. I am sorry for your past but it is wonderful that you have such a wonderful present!!! What a lucky Grandmother you are to have a great SIL and a darling Grandson!!! It is wonderful to hear they share a wonderful relationship too!

  17. You are one amazing lady. I remember reading ‘your letter’ some time ago. It brought me to tears then as well.
    Apart from your obvious writing skills, you’re unbeliveably brave and honest to share even the most painful stories of your life as well as the joyous ones. I think just the best of my parents and often wonder how will I ever make up for all the sacrifice they made in order to make us have the best and happiest childhood. I often wonder why some children are deprived of that. But such is fate, some are sad, some are unlucky and then there’s the lucky ones and those who don’t even realize how lucky they are. I can only imagine the good share of hard times that you’ve had but you’ve certainly been rewarded with a wonderful grandson and son-in-law and a wonderful family. And even though I’m just an ordinary girl writing a comment on your blog, I can honestly say I am really, really glad and happy for you. And I’m sure your family are glad for having such an extraordinary lady in their lives.

    P.S. I have found a work-around with my connection crashing problems, I switched to my dad’s PC with an ordinary modem and it’s all working well. Took me a long time to think of that! LOL

    Take care,

  18. I’ve been reading your past posts, and have really enjoyed them. You are a wonderful lady and it shows through. I guess we all have some “why” questions we have to live with. Take care,


  19. Your post stopped me in my tracks!!!! OMGoodness:( I am so happy that you have a family that loves you and is so “Special”.

  20. I read you often..

    What a moving post, lucky you for having such a wonderful family !!

    All the best,
    Kathy 🙂

  21. Hi Brenda

    I kinda understand what you mean, but not exactly. Not having a real dad is a hard thing to deal with, especially as a child. I’m so thankful for your grandson that he will know and love his 🙂


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