I remember when my son Orrin took his very first steps. I had just walked into the room to see him cruising along while holding on to a table. But when he saw me, his eyes just lit up. Orrin tumbled toward me with one, two, three, four, five quick steps before he fell and I caught him in my arms.
A few years later, though, I was the one who felt as if I were falling. After five years together, my wife and I decided to separate. And while I was sad to lose her, my biggest concern at that time was the possibility of not being able to see Orrin. I didn't have a legal leg to stand on once we parted ways because I'm not his biological father.
I had gone through a split like this in my first marriage. One difference: It wasn't until after the breakup that I found out my daughter with my first wife wasn't biologically mine. She took her to South Carolina, and then later I relinquished parental rights to her biological father. With my second wife, I knew Orrin wasn't my biological son. But I grew up without a father, and I know the importance of a male figure in a child's life. I was fortunate enough to have men who guided and molded me as I was growing up, so I had no problem doing the same thing for another young man.
Orrin and I have a special connection. When I met him for the first time he was just a baby, but we clicked. Looking into his eyes I sensed a strong bond with him. The way he stared up at me and smiled-I fell in love with him right there. That was the spark for my love for his mother, too.
I knew that taking the relationship to the next level with my second wife was a package deal, so I thought about it and we dated for a while before eventually getting married. When my wife enrolled in an intense radiology program at Harlem Hospital and spent most of her time doing volunteer work there or studying, Orrin and I really bonded. Being Mr. Mom was no big deal for me. It gave me a chance to be with him even more, but later it made our divorce difficult for him. He was used to my being there every day, and it took nearly a year for him to get adjusted to different homes and the new schedule.
My ex never tried to keep me away from Orrin. In fact, she asked me to stay in his life, saying that she felt Orrin needed me. Our separation was very amicable and visitation was set up right away.
Orrin just turned 12, and we see each other practically every weekend. I teach him about the things that are important to me: responsibility, respect, particularly respect for women. Education is also a big thing with me. He's a straight-A student and an avid reader, and he doesn't mind being looked upon as a nerd.
I'd like to think that the contributions I've made to my son's life helped shape who he is as a person. If anything, we're spiritually connected. I never refer to Orrin as my stepson; he's my son. He's always known that I'm not his biological father, and it's never been an issue. Orrin's love was the first time I ever experienced unconditional love.