Reflections of a bastard: A serious post

Warning: This isn’t one of my amusing posts. It’s a true story, yes, but without the spark of mischief most of my childhood stories seem to involve. Also, there are no pictures.

When I was almost 12, I found out my dad and I weren’t actually biologically related which led  me to believe David Bowie was my father. It made sense to me at the time and sometimes I randomly hope it still turns out to be true because, come on, how cool would it be to have Ziggy Stardust, the Goblin King, as your dad? Pretty freaking cool.

Not long after I found out my dad wasn’t my dad, I had the opportunity to meet my biological father. I spent weeks being nervous. Who was he to me? What would I say when I met him? Was I mad at him? I thought I was but part of my anger was that, round-aboutly because of him, I had to start shaving my legs and I wasn’t ready for that. My dad, whom I now understood was actually my step-dad, was going to adopt me so I had to go to court and speak before the judge. The man who gave his sperm to make me was supposed to show up, as well, to tell the court he was ok with this. Because I was going to court, I had to wear pantyhose instead of my cute child tights and because I was going to wear pantyhose, I had to shave and because I didn’t want Band-Aids to be visible through the hose, I had to learn well in advance how to do this strange female thing without butchering myself (I only wore one Band-Aid for my court date, it was on my ankle bone which is still where it most often appears when I bother mowing down the leg hairs) Because I had an unknown father, I had to grow up sooner than I’d wanted.

So I shaved and wore pantyhose and went to court and spoke politely to the judge and was nervous about meeting my real dad only he didn’t show up and so defaulted his consent to my adoption. I never saw his face. I was hurt. Talk about “I shaved my legs for this?” A few years later, I thought about contacting him, finding him, meeting him, and this plan followed me well into my teen years. Then I just…forgot about him somehow. He was no longer a big deal. I’d gleaned enough information about him from my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, and others to know he wouldn’t make a difference in my life anyway.

He came up again shortly after I got married the first time around, as we discussed having children. Yes, I discussed having children once, believe it or not. I’ve got a lot of health problems on my mom’s side of the family but I had no idea what else lurked in my blood and I realized I would have to contact this father of mine for a health history, you know, because that’s good planning. I didn’t try very hard to track the man down, mainly because (as I now know) I was using him as an excuse to put off getting pregnant. Soon enough, it became a moot point because that husband and I divorced and went our separate ways. After that, I knew I didn’t want to have children so as soon as I could, I got spayed and ceased having to worry about what mysteries reside in my DNA to potentially be passed along. I once again forgot about the father I didn’t know. Granted, it comes up from time to time, mostly when talking to Noelle or Alex because it always weirds us out to realize we’re only half-siblings. I used to hold that over them when I was a mean teen and wanted to distance myself from all the people in my family but I don’t think I’ve ever believed the truth of the fact. We’re sisters and brother and that’s that.

Now that I’m old, it’s a bit easier to look at this whole thing objectively. My life was never impacted by not knowing my biological father. It’s been an off-and-on source of curiosity but it certainly hasn’t impeded my progress or success nor has it contributed to any of my failures. I’ve had plenty of male role models in my life, from my grandfather and my uncles to my mom’s current husband. I like to think the self-inflicted shame of being a bastard (self-inflicted because nobody cared in the 80’s; it wasn’t a thing in my community) helped me be scrappier and stronger and more motivated to show the world that I could do whatever I set out to do despite my disadvantage which, as it turned out, wasn’t anything like a disadvantage at all. It’s not like I was denied college entry because I was the product of an unplanned teen pregnancy.

And yet…I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a child and not know the child, not because the other parent has taken that opportunity from you but because it was a choice you made, yourself. You wouldn’t know it, but I do have a vague and incorrect idea of what it’s like to be a parent; I’ve helped to raise a lot of kids, some of them related and others not. I don’t know what it means to be a mother but I know what it feels like to love someone so much that you would kill someone else to protect her, that you would sacrifice your own life to save his, that you would make hard decisions based on their well-being if you had to. I know that kind love even if the children I feel that way toward did not come from my uterus. I know what it’s like to choose not to have children but I don’t know how it feels to have a child come from me and then to never see it, never acknowledge it, by choice. I know there are plenty of parents out there who are in that exact situation. Do they ever wonder what has become of their kids? Do they grow old and wish they’d have made a connection so that they’d have one more person who will care when they die? Or do those children never appear in their thoughts? Does my father think of me as often – or as little – as I think of him? I guess it’s different for every one of those parents, but it all seems strange to me. The thing my family has taught me is that, even if you hate them, family is everything, it’s vitally important, a cornerstone to your entire being. Luckily, I love my family (most of the time), both the family I was born with and the family that has grown since.

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11 Comments

Filed under Adventures, My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

11 responses to “Reflections of a bastard: A serious post

  1. You know… both of my children are essentially “bastards”. I’ve never really thought about the effect it would have on their lives to that extent. It’s certainly not a forced issue. I would love for them to be adopted by whomever decides to love us. You’ve given me a lot to think about…. thank you 🙂

    • It was weird to find out that my dad wasn’t my dad. That was my biggest stumbling block; the family structure I thought I knew turned out to be a bit askew and I didn’t know how to deal with that as an 11-year-old.
      It is a strange thing to know about yourself, to know that there’s someone out there connected to you but that you will never know, especially if you put a lot of stock in the family idea.
      At the same time, it doesn’t matter at all. It doesn’t make any difference in any way whatsoever.
      And then again, as an adult, and, again, because the concept of family is so important to me, despite me not making one of my own, I am so intrigued at the thought of knowing you have a child in the world but not knowing the child because you don’t want to. Not because you couldn’t care for the child and gave it up for adoption, not because the child was taken from you, but because you made the choice to not want to know your own kid. I have a very hard time wrapping my mind around that concept. I also have an overblown sense of responsibility so that could account for my confusion on this matter.

      But ANYway! Probably, when you guys find that person who wants to love and be with you all for always, it won’t really matter if adoption happens or not, but if it is something important to your children, then I hope it does happen.
      And you’re welcome. I hope all the thinking doesn’t give you a headache. I don’t need to be giving out any more headaches than I already do.

  2. I know a couple who have kids and the husband fathered a child before the marriage with someone else (the wife wasn’t around at the time and he was in a relationship with the mother of the child at the time). He has nothing at all to do with that child, though he’s a great, involved dad to his kids with his wife. The wife thought he never thought about the first child, but then realized he’s been Google searching for her, trying to find out what happened to her (people need to erase their histories because Google will just suggest an old search for you if it’s still in there). Anyhow, it seems he thinks of her and searches for her, though maybe not that hard. I don’t know.

    I mention this because it’s impossible to know and I think women would have a much harder time walking away from their kids or loved ones (and if you’ve helped raise kids, you do know what I’m talking about). Babies come out looking like their fathers so their dads won’t reject them. Even biology knows a certain number of dads are just going to walk away, right or not.

    I’m glad it hasn’t scarred you. I know some women who’ve let their biological father’s abandonment shape them and every poor decision they’ve made along the way in search of that love they feel they were deprived. It breaks my heart because these beautiful women think they aren’t worthy of a good, solid relationship solely because their dad walked away. Maybe they’re better off. Maybe that guy was an asshole. Or maybe he was a rock star with a busy touring schedule and couldn’t make a court appearance. 😉

    As a mother, I don’t understand it. Even though I threaten to take off for Mexico every now and then, I don’t see how I could walk away from my kids. But I recognize that I’m programmed not to. I’m not saying it’s all biology, but I do think there’s a fundamental difference. I keep those kids close. I’m their mama, enough said. For the record, I don’t see my husband walking away from them, either.

    I do a know a man whose mother abandoned all 5 of her kids, so it’s not just fathers, though I feel those stories are so much fewer and far between. Is it our biology, our hormones, what society expects of us, all of those things that make us stay? Why can’t more people work together to co-parent even if the relationship falls apart or the pregnancy was unplanned? I think this post raises a lot of hard questions and I don’t know the answers, am just sharing my thoughts (which I recognize may seem a little man-hating, but that is not the case. Just noting differences).

    • Yeah…I think I’m just going to copy your comment and make it the post because it’s really well-written and makes a lot more sense than my weird ramblings.
      Ok, no I won’t because I don’t think the comment would make as much sense out of context like that, but I will continue to pretend I’m going to do a copy/paste because, dude. It’s a great comment.

      You know, I think I lucked out on this situation. I didn’t know I’d been abandoned until after I already had everyone in place. I mean, it’s not like I knew the guy and then he left and a gaping hole was all that remained. I had no idea. I already had a mom and dad and all these loving family members so I think it couldn’t hurt me. It was just hard for me to understand and the only part of it that is still hard for me to understand is the part where a parent knows there’s a kid out there with whom he intentionally does not have a relationship. That is the part I don’t get. But, again, it’s not like it’s hurting me. Actually, knowing my white trash background, it’s probably good because…come on, how on earth would I put David Bowie up if he were in town? I don’t think he and my stepmother, Iman, would be overly impressed with my made-for-nieces-and-nephews guest room.

      I know two men whose moms left them, both when they were toddlers, and each of the guys had to be raised by their dads. Both of them still bear a lot of resentment toward both parents, for different reasons. And yet, I can understand the moms leaving. I can understand a dad leaving, too. I totally get someone looking at what they started and going, “Holy hell, this is WAY too hard. I’m outta here” and running. It is hard. It causes a lot of fear. I get that. It’s why I don’t have kids. In the cases of both these guys, the moms tried to reconnect once they had their lives the way they wanted them. I get that, too, because why wouldn’t you be curious? Why wouldn’t you reach back out to your kid?
      But to intentionally never know again what has become of your child? That boggles me. Probably because I’m a stalker. 🙂

      The couple with the Googling husband: how did the wife feel when she found out the husband had been looking for his daughter? Back in my dating days, I was always weirded out by guys who admitted to having children and having given up all parental rights, who hadn’t seen, talked to, sent a card to their kids in years.

  3. Rosalie Keefe

    My oldest changed his name by his choice to his stepfather’s (the man who raised him). We had to wait until he was 18 because his biological father threatened to use his “sperm rights” even though he had no interest in being a part of his son’s life. I think the father’s interest was only to gain approval of the paternal (and well to do) grandparents who were more interested in preserving their name than their grandson. Otherwise, I am not even sure he gave his son much thought. When asked at the hospital if he wanted to see the baby, he said “I’ll see it when it comes home”. My son met his biological father once and didn’t like him. Some things are better left alone.

    • So…I don’t remember which one is older…took Jim’s name?

      Yeah. Some people weren’t meant to be parents and yet, it happens anyhow. I’m glad you got rid of that guy and found a better dad for your kids!

      I don’t need to know who fertilized my mom’s egg, not anymore. That’s part of the reason: he probably isn’t someone I’d like. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering if he ever thinks to himself, “Hey, I’ve got a kid out there in the world. I wonder what she’s up to?” which then leads me to wonder how many walk-aways have that thought. Because, really? That’s just weird to me.

  4. I read that and my first response was to feel sad. But honestly, I know who my dad was (and is), and when I was younger he was too busy doing his own thing to have time for me. Ironically, he’s how older nd wants the time of his children, but this one has other things to do.

    • No, no sadness. Not for either of us.
      These things just happen.
      Sometimes, though, it’s fun to think about. And in your case, it’s almost like you have the opportunity to get a type of revenge, though of course I would never condone such a thing, being such a non-vengeful person, myself (that is 100% BS, by the way) But, seriously, that’s got to feel good on some level?
      Oddly, the dad who adopted me turned out to be very similar to your dad. He didn’t much like his passel of children but he seems eager to spend time with all of us now that we’re grown and that is just strange.

  5. How did I miss this post! Sorry I’m so late to the party, especially when you’ve written about something important to you. You said “I don’t know what it means to be a mother but I know what it feels like to love someone so much that you would kill someone else to protect her, that you would sacrifice your own life to save his…” I think you understand perfectly what it means to be a mother. Just as your (bio) dad contributing DNA absolutely did not make him a father, your instincts to unconditionally love and protect the little ones in your life absolutely make you a mum. Ideally I think all kids should have a nice variety of parental figures/role models in the older people around them…like the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and the bigger we can grow our ‘families’ the better 🙂

    • You missed this post because of life. It is always getting in the way of doing the things you really want to do. You know, like reading my blog. :/
      But I just got around to reading yours so I think we’re even.

      Thank you – I am being serious, just so you know – for the compliment on being mom-like. That’s not something I hear often…because I don’t have kids. So having a mom tell me that I’m not far off, that felt nice.
      And I agree on letting lots of people help raise children. I like being part of a bigger community in which I can still help teach and guide (and totally spoil/poorly influence) kids. I think it helps make them well-rounded individuals. Plus, I can get away with teaching them the songs they’re not supposed to know in order to drive their parents nuts. Heh heh heh

      • You’re welcome. We can never have enough grownups to keep an eye out for the little ones so anyone who shows an interest should be encouraged! As to teaching inappropriate songs, I approve! As long as you are in Colorado and I’m in Queensland. 😉

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