Time for an update on my dead daddy information search.
The news isn’t good; it looks like my mother was right about him. The only positive attributes reported are that he was handsome and charming when he wanted to be and I’d already learned that from the few pictures I had. Five siblings live out there somewhere and I’m not sure how they fared, but it doesn’t appear their paternal role model was anyone to emulate. The little I have learned of them–hunting and fishing enthusiasts, NASCAR affectionados, political leanings light-years from mine–tells me I landed far from the tree in more ways than one. I don’t think it would bring them any joy to know of my existence, so I’ll stop here.
On a brighter note, my youngest daughter, queen of the Internet search, unearthed a most delightful second cousin for herself in her search for information on Mom’s Dad. Having grown up with a dearth of relatives anywhere near her age, Pogo is thrilled with her new find. Already she and New-found Cousin have begun a correspondence and friendship. . . something she’s never had with her two first cousins. I so hope it continues! Will our other two offspring want in on this new relationship? Will it expand to include New-found Cousin’s siblings? Does NFC’s father know or care that he has a first cousin he’s never met? We’ll have to wait and see.
Oddly, this N-FC’s picture shows a young woman who, as my daughter says, LOOKS like us, so much so that when she showed the photo to her husband, he thought it was a younger me. Genes are amazing, huh?
My grandparents must have known about me; my mother knew them, after all. They are reported to have been kind, genuine people, no doubt heartbroken by their son’s black sheep path. My existence as well as the divorce must have been a painful reminder to those good Catholic folks. They never saw that I had my father’s large brown eyes.
It has been an interesting exploration and I am not disappointed in the results. I have new appreciation for my mother and realize that her refusal to speak of him was a kindness, allowing me to create my own girlhood image of the father I didn’t know. Mother didn’t make good choices in her two husbands, but once she cut them loose, she had little use for men. They topped her list of To Be Shunned along with the Religious Right, chitlins, pushbutton phones, and after a misunderstanding with them– her local library.
My own husband’s status, as far as she was concerned, hung in limbo for the first ten years of our marriage. In every phone call, she would ask me, “Is he being good to you?” Once he finally passed muster, his status as a rare breed took him to prominent heights and changed her questions of me to, “Are you taking good care of him?” He felt she loved him unconditionally. She was extremely proud to have a good man in the family.
Perhaps it is easier for me that the news of my birth father was not that he was a wonderful, delightful man and that everyone around him felt blessed to know him. It gave me no pleasure to learn the things I did, but it did not add salt to the hole in my heart.
As for the half-brothers and sisters who grew up under his roof, I do not envy them for growing up with him. I hope his demons and dysfunctions did not tarnish their lives.
One thing I will still carry with me. In the summer of 1980 I felt a strong urge to find my father, a feeling which became so overpowering that I began calling long distance operators in various areas in a search for someone with that name. Eventually I suceeded, but was so paralyzed with trepidation that I kept the number for several days, then asked my husband to make the call. The afternoon he phoned my father’s house turned out to be his wake. How’s that for an ironic twist? The son who answered said that years of drinking and smoking had exacted their toll in a race to see which disease could kill him first.
Could it be that sometimes, as he lay dying, he examined the sins of omission and commission in life, and tried to right them in telepathic connection?
Maybe, for a moment or so, he thought of me.