Next morning when I went to see Kevin, Sister informed me: “Kevin’s mother came to see him last night just before I left. She had been informed about him by her husband. Apparently they have been parted for a few years.” I filed the information in the remote recesses of my mind as a piece of social history of my patient, which had no bearing on the surgical aspect of the case. It remained there until the day Kevin was discharged from the hospital and Justus came to see me, ostensibly to thank me but, as became apparent, to ask me a lot of questions about his son. After a prolonged interrogative session, I complimented Justus on what a devoted dad he was.
“I wish that all fathers of my paediatric patients were like you. Medical research has shown that loving parents produce stable children and create a society which is free of juvenile delinquency.” I then remembered what Sister had told me about the breakdown of Justus’ marriage and modified my compliment. “In our society, children are mainly the responsibility of mothers so Kevin is lucky to have a model father like you.”
That is when Justus dropped the bombshell after taking a little time deciding whether I should be privy to his secret. “I am not Kevin’s real father.”
“What!” I shot out of my chair. “Kevin’s hospital file and my office have mentioned you as Kevin’s dad.”
“Let me correct myself,” Justus said very calmly. “I am not his biological father.” I found his unruffled demeanour a bit disconcerting but suffered it in silence because I could see that he wanted to say more. “It happened like this. Irina and I met in a business school where she was doing an IT course and I was pursuing accountancy. She was attractive and was going round with a bloke. I had an eye on her and eventually unhooked her from Isaac and married her after we finished our training. Kevin was born a year later and I doted on him.” Justus took a pause as the happy smile on his face vanished. “Soon after, cracks started appearing in our relationship. Irina and I were constantly arguing, mainly about Kevin. Once when he was four, we got into a hot argument about his schooling and I said: “Surely I have a say in my son’s education.” Irina lost her cool and blurted out: ‘Kevin is not your son.’ My whole world crashed that moment and all I could do was to ask ‘Whose son is he?’” It turned out that though I thought I had snatched Irina from Isaac, their association continued until Isaac found a girlfriend, who ultimately became his wife.”
“Is there a DNA proof?” I asked when I found my tongue.
“Yes,” replied Justus. “I insisted on it and Irina was proved right. Isaac is Kevin’s biological father.”
“So what did you do?” I had recovered from my shocked state.
“Irina and I eventually parted. In the divorce settlement, I insisted that I got full irrevocable custody of Kevin,” Justus explained.” After all I had brought up Kevin as my own son.
“I had laughed with him and had occasionally cried for him. You can’t forget that simply because he is not conceived with your sperm.” There were tears glistening in his eyes as he emphatically and with deep emotions continued: “I have seen parents showering their adopted children with more love than some biological parents do.”
“What about Irina and Isaac?” I asked. “After all they are important people in this unfortunate triangle.”
“Unfortunate it might be,” replied Justus. “But it is a happy one. Everybody got what they wanted. I wanted my son. Isaac did not want to carry any luggage to the church when he got married.” Justus was good humoured for the first time since I had met him. Offloading his secret to somebody whose lips were sealed by his vocation had freed him emotionally. “He wanted to start on a clean slate and did not want any connection with his past. Irina did not want to bring up Kevin as a single parent. Her chances of getting remarried are better if she is free of encumbrances. She asked for visiting rights and has them.”
“Does Kevin know all this?” It was my final question.
“Not all,” Justus replied. “He knows about Irina and my divorce.”
I felt like saying that he should be told and then I remembered what I had read in my medical journal which said that 10 per cent of fathers bring up children who don’t have their genetic imprint.