June 19, 2011

SERIES - #11 I Didn't Expect: To Meet My Father After 40 Years

Father's Day is an interesting day for me.

For most of my life I had never met nor ever even seen my father (except in some old pictures my mom had).

The meeting happened one day when his family (which would be my relatives too right?) was having a family reunion in the small town my sister lived in and her husband got wind that my father would be there.
(My father lives 1500 miles away.)

I don't remember exactly what I thought or felt at that time.

Once, when I was about 21 he was supposed to come to my home town and I set myself up with expectations to meet him but he never showed.
Looking back, I think it was a good thing because I would have been disappointed expecting that he would be the father I imagined but never had.

Now here over 20 years later, I had no expectations except to see what the man whose DNA I housed, looked like.
I was not bitter.
I was not excited.
I was anticipatory. 
I was open.

It was a strange feeling, almost embarrassing, as each man that looked like there was even a remote chance he could have fathered me, I would ask my brother-in-law, "Is that my dad?"
You know how people will say that all _____ people of a race all look the same?
Well, these people all looked the same!

What do you say to the man who created you but did not even know the date or year you were born?
To the man who was never around to help pay bills or support the family?
To the man whose place was taken by other well-meaning fathers who would take me under their wing and for a night be my "father" for the Father-Daughter-Dinner-Date?
To the man who had no branch on the family tree and how humiliating it was as a class project to be reminded of that?

You don't say anything to that man.

You address the man as a stranger you are meeting for the first time because that is what he is.

I know I may sound resentful.
But I am not.
There were times of that emotion growing up I'm sure, as reminders came up and I had to vocalize what I ignored for the most part.
"That I did not know who my dad was."
"That I didn't have a dad." 
But truth be told I did not know anything different, so mostly I was just stating facts not being upset.

We tried at establishing some sort of relationship as I know that all people make mistakes.
Everyone can change so I was open to accepting him into my life.

But after a year or two he, in my opinion had not learned to treat women with the respect that I believe a woman should be treated with.
So I no longer have contact with him.
I do not feel angry that nothing became of it.
Now that I am a parent, I count it as his loss.
That is sad to me, but I recognize we all have our agency to choose how we will live our lives.

So Father's Day does not mean anything to me regarding my father but it is still very meaningful to me.

I love to tell men (including my son) who are lovinginly active in their childrens lives how special they are.

And what a blessing they are not only to that child but to the world!

So to all you responsibly present fathers out there-HAPPY FATHER"S DAY!

"It is much easier to become a father than to be one." 
~Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man, 1994


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