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.