He Didn't Have to Be by: Jen

Rating: PG-13

Dear Willy,

As I stand here watching you, my first born, I can't help but to feel the need to tell you a very important story. You may not initially understand why I'm writing this, and that's fine, but I hope that one day you will realize this simple, yet important parable is a large part of both you and I. The story of my parents, your grandparents, is simple in its complexity, yet it holds the key to why I am who I am, and why you will be who you will be. Willy, this story needs to be told, not only to you, but to anyone who will listen.

It all started back in 1983, when they were born. They grew up together, Mom and Dad, in Capeside, Massachusetts. They were two of three best friends who stuck together through thick and thin. A tumultuous twenty-three years later, I was born, partially the creation of someone I care not to name. Before I even came into the world, the man who some would call my father split. He was supposed to be my mother's best friend, and even Dad calls him his once-best friend, but he proved unworthy of both titles.

As soon as I was born, I was loved by the strongest woman I will ever know. She did everything for me. My mother, luckily, had graduated college before my birth, and worked long days at an accounting firm in Boston, where I grew up. It's amazing how much a child can understand, and even though I was little, I knew that she was working so hard just for me. Yes, we were considerably healthy, not quite wealthy, and very well, but something was missing. When I turned three, my mother decided she needed to date again.

Every date she went on, she told me later, seemed like her very first job interview. When the inevitable, "Do you want kids?" question came up, she never lied. She always told them about me, and they never called for a second date. My mother, the beautiful, intelligent women she is, couldn't get a man who wouldn't run away from her, and it was all because of me.

That is, until she ran into the other friend from so many years ago. I was five, and on their first date, I got to go. I'm certain it wasn't very romantic, watching Pinnochio with a five-year-old sitting between them, but I sure thought it was fun. I felt like a grown up, and Dad treated me as if I were his equal. Of course, the child-like nature he exudes drew me to him like a bear to a beehive. I don't remember much else from way back then, except that one night I heard him ask her.

I was supposed to be asleep, and it was way past my bedtime, but I snuck down the hall to the top of the stairs to eavesdrop. I heard him ask, and got down on my hands and knees and prayed that Mom would say yes.

Mom said yes, and we became a family. It seemed strange to have another person in the house, but nothing was missing anymore. Mom, Dad and I became a family. When they married, Mom changed her name, but not mine, and Dad didn't adopt me; she just kept me as Will Potter, legal son of only Joey. Since the day we met, I had always been Dad's kid, but that wasn't enough for me. The day I turned thirteen I knew I had decided; I was taking Dad's name and I was going to become his kid, for all the world to see. I felt as though I needed to prove something, not only to myself, but to everyone else. Dad was my father in spirit, and some could claim in law, but I wanted it to be official.

When I told Dad this, he wasn't certain that I should do it. He thought that I didn't realize all of the implications, and told me that I should talk about it with Mom. I informed Mom of my decision, and she told me I had a big heart and an even a bigger mind, but that I would have to talk to Dad. After this wild goose chase, I brought them both together and explained that I no longer wanted to have only Mom sign my papers and only Mom be able to take me to the doctor's office. I told them that, as far as I was concerned, Dad was my only father, and the name on my birth certificate was just that, a name. I had them totally convinced that I knew exactly what all of it meant, so Mom and Dad took me down to city hall, and I legally became my fathers' son.

Dad did everything for me, just as Mom did, and he didn't even have to.

To this day, I cannot see exactly what makes Dad the man he is, but one thing is for sure: I know that he is an amazing man. I only hope I can be half the man he is, half the father he is, because he was my father, but he didn't have to be.

I'm positive Mom and Dad are the most supportive parents in the world; they never missed a soccer, basketball or baseball game in all my seven years of middle and high school. In second grade we needed adults to read to our class, so Dad came faithfully every Monday and Tuesday. When my sixth grade class needed parents for career day, Mom and Dad were the first two names on the list. As a sophomore, my best friend Matt was literally waging a war with his father after his mothers' death, so Mom invited him stay with us until they worked it out. They paid for the entire junior class of 350 to go to Washington D.C. when our fund-raising fell through. When I was named valedictorian of the senior class, Dad stayed up all night for a week helping me write the perfect speech. My mother and father are, in every sense of the words, Super Mom and Super Dad.

Now I'm twenty-six, and I met your mother, Emma, three years ago. I've grown into a man, and made my parents proud. They paid for me to go to college, and I graduated from Harvard at the top of my class. I followed my father into the business of being a corporate lawyer, and am carrying on the legacy that Dad created. Emma and I have had the perfect marriage, but we knew, as did Mom and I so many years ago, that something was missing. So now I'm standing here, in front of the nursery window, waiting for them to bring in you, my son, and all I can think about is the man who stands beside me, my father. Once again, I'm wishing that I can be at least half of the father he is to me. A man that I trust, a man that I admire, a man that I love, but most importantly, a man who didn't have to be that in the first place.

Your mother chose your name. I gave her total authority because I knew she would give you one you deserved. Emma knows how much my father means to me, and she wanted a junior, so she chose the perfect name: William Pacey Witter.

When I'm older, and you are having children, I'll be sure to remind you of my amazing father, Grandpa Pacey. And I will tell you, little Will, that there was once a day that I hoped I would be at least half the dad that he didn't have to be.

With love from your father,
William James Witter

When a single mom goes out on a date with somebody new
It always winds up feeling more like a job interview
My momma used to wonder if she'd ever meet someone
Who wouldn't find out about me and then turn around and run

I met the man I call my dad when I was five years old
He took my mom out to a movie and for once I got to go
A few months later I remember lying there in bed
I overheard him pop the question and prayed that she'd say yes

And then all of a sudden
Oh, it seemed so strange to me
He we went from something's missing
To a family
Lookin' back all I can say
About all the things he did for me
Is I hope I'm at least hallf the dad
That he didn't have to be

I met the girl that's now my wife about three years ago
We had the perfect marriage but we wanted somethin' more
Now here I stand surrounded by our family and friends
Crowded 'round the nursery window as they bring the baby in

And now all of a sudden
It seemed so strange to me
How we've gone from something's missing
To a family
Lookin' through the glass I think about the man
That's standin' next to me
And I hope I'm at least half the dad
That he didn't need to be

Lookin' back all I can say
About all the things he did for me
Is I hope I'm at least half the dad
He didn't need to be

Yeah, I hope I'm at least half the dad
That he didn't have to be
Because he didn't have to be
You know he didn't have to be
-He Didn't Have To Be
(Brad Paisley, Kelley Lovelance)

The End

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