Day for the fatherless

With all the wealth of mothers I have these days, I feel like I’m being ungrateful to complain about not having a father. And adoptees are always supposed to be grateful, aren’t we? After all, we could have been aborted or left to rot in orphanages or just not cared for at all, right? I hate the very powerlessness of grateful.

But I am well off in terms of mothers.

Today is about Father’s, though, and there is no escaping it. I lost the father I grew up with in 1998. We never got along well — the one bit of my temperament that happened to match well with my adoptive family was my stubbornness. My father and I shared that, and it did not make for an easy relationship. From maybe late middle school on, we did not like each other. Love, yes. Like, not so much. Some days, I’m still angry at him for dying before he saw me become an adult, find my own hard-won path, become… well, I’m still becoming. But he’s not here.

The father whose genes I carry has more or less rejected my existence. It was confusing, the rejection and not-quite rejection that came on the heels of one another, and I’m still trying to sort that out a year later. Sometimes. Mostly, I just try not to think about it. I was angry. Now I’m more sad, sad that he doesn’t have the spine to stand up and take some sort of responsibility, even if that was to demand (or just take) a DNA test. His wife gave me some family information, answered some of my questions, on the unspoken but Very Clear condition that I understand that all of my communication would be with her, not him. I got information; I wanted that. But I dropped it soon after, as there was no point at all.

The only other strong male figure in my life was my grandfather — my adoptive mother’s dad. He was never a father figure, though we all lived together for years. He was absolutely the grandfather — he had candy hidden in his dresser that he’d share with us kids. He had goofy jokes — mostly things like how he could move each of his ears separately, make goofy faces, flip his front teeth (bridge) in and out. We thought he was hilarious.

This weekend, I’m thinking of positive tribute to him. I saw Jurassic World yesterday and can’t help but remember the original movie. My grandparents took us to see Jurassic Park while my parents were out of town. We went to a late matinee, and I loved the dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum, both. I’m still not sure why we all went to see a movie. My grandmother loved movies, but my grandfather was not a fan, not at all. Coming out of the movie, he just couldn’t get over how stupid he thought the whole idea was. Dinosaurs! Who in their right mind would bring back dinosaurs? And why? And a theme park? Was everyone an idiot?

And he’s right! A dinosaur theme park is an awful, horrible, no good, very bad idea, even if the science weren’t pretty sketchy. None of this makes the movie less fun, honestly. The plot is even slimmer in the new movie, maybe in part because the special effects are so much more advanced, but it’s a chase movie, with dinosaurs, and I love dinosaurs more than your average 5 year old.

I loved my grandfather, but I didn’t know him very well. He died when I was in college, before I’d gotten around to being able to see my grandparents as people, not just grandparents. He was, in my (adoptive) family of extroverts, a quiet man, one who used few words. He was a calm place in that family. I miss him and I wish I’d gotten to know him better.

Family-centered holidays can be hard for anyone who has trouble defining their family, or trouble getting along with them, or trouble liking them. It seems that they are particularly triggering for adoptees, yes, but in some respects it is comforting knowing that, in this at least, we are very much not alone.

I’m going to spend mine making a baby blanket for a friend, watching some television, and maybe making a nice dinner. Not an odd Sunday at all, but another day where I’ve declined to participate in the dominant cultural narrative. This time, it’s less of a choice.


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