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Father of None, Father of All


a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos

The line snaked down a gravel path for nearly a quarter mile and the wait time to get into the historic home on the edge of the Potomac River was nearly 55 minutes long. The shade from the tulip and oak trees helped to bring relief to the antsy and eclectic group of people shuffling their feet waiting to get a look back into the life of Martha and George Washington.

With time to kill between seeing the introductory movie in the visitor center and stepping across the threshold of Mt. Vernon, I kept turning over in my mind one line from the film: "Married at 26, George became father to Martha's two young children but they didn't have any children together."

It was one of many statements relayed in a series of biographical one-liners that likely went over the heads of the tourists visiting from all over the world, but it clapped over my head like a thunderbolt. George Washington, the Father of our Country was infertile!

Suddenly George went from being a vague, austere, symbolic image on a one dollar bill to a very real person with wants, feelings and unrealized dreams. Not to take away from his very real impact in raising and caring for Martha's two surviving children from her first marriage, but George's inability to produce an heir had to be a blow. In the 1700s, a man's ability to procreate was essential to carrying on the bloodline and passing along the family estate.

George was a man of great ambition, an industrious inventor, farmer and entrepreneur as well as a soldier and politician, but "nature" clearly had its own confounding plan for George and it was probably one that was difficult George (or any of us infertiles, in particular) to easily accept.

After a long and storied life, George Washington left a legacy that far exceeds that which most people who walk this planet will ever leave behind. That's especially reassuring to those of us whose DNA won't get passed along to future generations.

He may not have fathered his own son or daughter, but he did father a country.

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