In honor of Father’s Day, this month’s pick is A Song for Lost Angels: How Daddy and Papa Fought to Save Their Family (2015, Two Penny Press, paperback, 222 pages, $15.27) by Kevin Fisher-Paulson. His memoir embodies the extreme highs and lows of the fatherhood experience.
After months of waiting to be chosen to care for a foster child, he and partner, Brian, received a call that three medically-challenged babies were in urgent need of a home. Kevin (Daddy) and Brian (Papa) embraced the challenge with open hearts. They took home two of the infants (Joshua and Vivienne), but Kyle’s life was too fragile to leave the hospital. Daddy’s and Papa’s first glimpse of Kyle required them to dress up in surgical scrubs and enter the Intensive Care Unit where their new charge was on a ventilator, had needles in his arms to receive food , and was hooked up to a heart monitor. The inexperienced parents were thrust into a brand-new life that included the typical sleepless nights of infant care but with the added requirement of learning the technique of changing Kyle’s external colostomy bag once the child was released from the hospital.
Through Fisher-Paulson’s excellent prose, readers experience the angst of waiting to find out if their foster son will survive an intricate surgery. Paulson’s heartfelt words are guaranteed to make a lasting impression. Equally touching is how Kevin and Brian’s friends and family come together to help them cope with a seemingly endless revolving cycle of feedings and diapers. Within the umbrella of a community’s love, the three babies thrive.
On top of the daily care of the children, the two dads must make regular trips across the Bay Bridge into Oakland to allow a clearly unfit mother and the children’s grandmother to visit the children. In one visitation, the mother is allowed (with the approval of a social services worker) to drive off without putting the baby in a car seat. During these mandated visitations, the grandmother fails to follow Kyle’s special dietary needs and the child is returned with diarrhea more often than not.
Despite the hardships, Papa and Daddy find joy in fathering these special needs children. The two Dads grow to love them as their own. And then the hammer falls. The memoir is more than the touching story of two men and their foster children, it tackles important social issues surrounding the inherent failings of the foster care system and everyday prejudices endured by gay men.
A Song for Lost Angels was a three-time book contest finalist, achieving honors in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Awards, the Independent Book Publishers Association, and the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Kevin Fisher-Paulson is a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. He also contributes to KQED radio’s “Perspective” series. Kevin and Brian are now married and they live with in San Francisco with their two sons, and several rescue dogs. He also serves as captain of the honor guard for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Infused with humor and inspirational friendships, A Song for Lost Angels is a perfect Father’s Day gift.