A man who abandons you without ever really knowing you— and does it by his own volition— that man is not a father. He is a catalyst. A failure. A contributor to your genetic makeup. None of these things merits being a father. Even Frankenstein loved his creation more.
A brother who sticks by you, who tries to parent you, is not a father. He might be as good as you will get, but it is never anything like the same. He was almost as much a child as you back then, much closer to an equal than you’d like. He can love you, raise you, and try and try and try, but he can’t quite give you what you need—can’t offer what he never had himself.
A man of good intent— a progressive thinker who offers dignity in a position where no-one expects it… he is not your father either. He sees the good in people when he can— so hard in a place like this. He respects intelligence and artistry, and at his core is a man worth choosing if the universe allowed it. He does not have his own children, as far as you know, and this so obviously is a missed opportunity. He would have been a good father—he has been like one in the short time you’ve known him. If not for the failure of that first escape attempt, you would never have gotten to this point where you betray him personally. It hurts, destroying his trust in you. In his eyes, you can see his opinion of you has changed. The care with which you lock him in his own closet will not be remembered. The fact that you truly admired him will never be believed. You have created self-doubts and tainted memories in someone you truly admired. As you shut the door on him—his anniversary and his faith in you ruined—you find yourself thinking that you never deserved any sort of father at all.
A man of wisdom who is not your father has eased your time inside. He knows most of what you’ve done, and what’s more… he understands. He could forgive, if his absolution had value. He knows that you do this for love, that you have your own “do no harm” approach to planning. He believes in your kindness, and has returned it with his own. He has taken the initiative on crucial steps to ensure this escape, and they have cost him everything he had to call his own.
Yet he does not blame you—or anyone—in his final benedictions. He offers a gift of undeserved value, and he grants it with his blessing.
And there is nothing you can do—you cannot save him or give him what he wants. His last words are full of warmth, and they genuinely belong to you. The weight of it is more than you could have guessed.
He was a criminal, albeit a gentleman, but you will not let that word become your memory.
You would have chosen him—or someone like him—if family were made and not born.
And you can’t help thinking that although this time was brief… it means something lasting to know that he chose you.
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