Dear Dad

I’ve spent the last two nights staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. Writing is how I process things, but I have so many things to process I don’t know where to start. First I found out who my dad is, then I connected with relatives and learned so much in such a short time. I was so happy, elated. But also overwhelmed. It’s a lot. And at a time when you have to rely on strangers to help you out, I was fortunate to find some good ones. But then the attacks started. People told me I was wrong and an embarrassment to their family name. A family name I don’t even want. A family name from a family in small town in Kansas. It was a little absurd.

The truth is, I have a family, I don’t want another one. And I know they are trying to cope just like I am. They are angry with me because they can’t write the narrative on this one, but it’s misplaced anger and besides, they shouldn’t get to write the narrative. This is my life, my dad, my story. It shouldn’t be this difficult to be compassionate, but for them it is. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be kind. My family made me who I am, with a little bit of DNA from my dad, and a whole lot of loving from my mom and my sisters and my brother and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

Yet here I am, wishing I could talk to my dad one time about that little bit of DNA. I have no idea where to start tonight, but I have to start getting something out so I figure I’ll start here.

Dear Dad,

I know you are gone. And I’m not sure where you are. I’m not too religious, don’t believe much in life after death. I don’t think we are reincarnated or made to burn in hellfire damnation for our sins, which is probably good, cause it sounds like you were no stranger to a good time.

It’s only been a few days but there is a theme occurring each time I talk to someone new about you: Oh your dad was funny, they tell me. Oh, your dad was so sweet. The best Uncle! The nicest guy. A little rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.

Opinionated. Kind. Thoughtful. Chubby.

Seems we have a lot in common.

My mom said you drank beer. Lots of beer. That you took her to your bar once to eat sandwiches. That you played pool. Do you remember that? You called her a wallflower. Started dating someone else to make her jealous. It worked.

She told me when I was 10 years old that you had a massive heart attack and ran your car off the road. I didn’t know then that you were my dad. She never told me that, I truly don’t think she knew. I think she wanted me to belong to someone else. And I think when we believe something so much, we make it so. But I remember that day. The day she told me, the day she said your name. I remember thinking that we had the same initials: M.M. Like an M&M.

Years later when I came across your obituary in my mom’s old dresser I wondered more about you again. You must have meant something to her, something special to have this old, faded cut out from the newspaper. She obviously still thought about you from time to time.

My sister said you were the nicest boyfriend our mom ever had. She said you called her princess, gave her a ring. She said you wore overalls. Always wore overalls.

I know you knew about me, but I don’t think you knew I was yours. You asked, but you weren’t told the truth. A mom trying to protect her kid, her heart. I’m not mad at her. I’m not mad at you. I’m sort of tired of being mad at anyone.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time being mad at a man who I thought was my dad. A man that I thought deserted me. A horrible cheating man. But it wasn’t him. It was you all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t push more for the truth. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help.

You have a son-in-law. I think you’d like him. I hope you’d like him. He’s kind. Genuine. He can work on cars, he can skin a fish, he can run a budget for a multi-million dollar company. He works so I don’t have to. He supports me in all my crazy ideas.

You have a grandson. He’s 12 years old. He has blond hair and blue eyes and he’s smart. Really smart. He’s funny too. Talkative. Opinionated. The real life of the party, always has been. Doesn’t get that from me or his dad. I think maybe he gets it from you. It’s a funny thing, genetics.

It’s a funny thing, family. Yours doesn’t want me. Don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t have much room in my life for them. They aren’t like me. We are different at our core. But I do want you to know that I tried. I tried and will keep trying, other cousins, there’s so many cousins, Dad! Someone will want to know me, someone will want to know my son, see him grow, watch what he becomes since you can’t.

I don’t know what you look like, Dad. I can’t close my eyes and remember you like other people can because I never met you. I used to dream about you. Not you exactly, but who I thought you were. Who I hoped you were. When other kids at school who would make fun of me for not having a dad, I would tell them that you were dead. I just wanted to stop the teasing. I didn’t know it was true.

I was only nine months old when you died. You were only forty two. Forty two is young, too young. I turn forty this year. I wish you could have made it longer. I bet you would have tried, like me.

I think we’d fight. Over politics, certainly. Over other things too. About you drinking too much. About you eating better. About me living so far away. About silly things, and not silly things. But at the end of the day I think we’d hug. You’d tell me that it will all be alright. I’d say see you later. Drive back home, 1000 miles away. Knowing I’d see you again next time.

I’ve never said this to anyone because I never had the opportunity to say it, but I love you, Dad. I know I didn’t know you, but I figure I won’t really ever have the chance to know you so what is the harm? Or maybe I will. Who knows. Not me.

The flowers are still blooming where I am, the rain still slicing through the sickly sweet air. And I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re happy. Please know that I am. Finally, I am content. I’m the happiest.

M.

History and Hope

The front page of the Altanta Journal Constitution today says, History and Hope. The headline speaks to the fact that we have a new president in the White House and the first female Vice President, who also happens to be a member of the BIPOC community. Of course this thrills me to no end, but I am co-opting the headline today to apply it to my own life because y’all, you all, I got my DNA test back this week and I have finally found out with certainty who my father is and, are you ready for this, is is not the man I thought it was my whole entire life!

Some backstory, my mother had a couple of boyfriends around the time she got pregnant with me. One was a married man that she was in desperate love with, and one was sort of just this guy she kinda knew who made her laugh and she thought was cute. They’d play pool together and eat burgers at his beer joint in Easton, Kansas. But when she found out she was pregnant she stopped messing with both of them, told the one she loved I was his baby, and convinced herself of that too. He of course didn’t want anything to do with me, denied I was his, but of course still hooked up with my mom because he was a piece of shit. And therefore I have spent my entire life thinking this asshole, piece of shit was my dad and that he didn’t want anything to do with me. That’s a lot to deal with, in case you don’t know.

The other guy, the fun-loving funny man whose nieces and nephews called “Uncle Mikey” called my mom to ask her back out one night when she was big and pregnant. She said no. She was still in love with the other guy. Then he asked if she was still pregnant with “the baby” and she said yes and, this is where the story gets confusing because my mom told me one version several years ago and has since recanted the story. She told me several years ago that he then asked if the baby was his and she said no, that it was the other guys, even though she had no idea which one of them was actually the father. Today she told me he never asked and she never said that. I suspect self-preservation on her part, but I’m going to let her sit with that for a bit and ask again another time.

Anyway, none of it matters because several months later, in the summer of 1982, when I was nine months old, my father, the fun-loving boyfriend whom my sister says wore overalls, died of a massive heart attack while driving down the road. He was 42 years old.

(Long sigh)

There is so much more to this story. So much more. And I have already connected with five first cousins through 23andMe and already have access to a family tree, know the names of my grandparents and have learned a lot about my dad. I promise to tell you guys more but today I just want to do two things: 1. Thank my sister Belinda who has been so supportive (she has her own DNA story that mimics mine and is working through it) and 2. Tell y’all that if you have ever, ever even considered one of those “weird” DNA tests for whatever reason, DO IT! I implore you. It could be life changing.

As for my dad, well, he’s out there somewhere. Wherever people go when they leave this life and for the first time in my life I can smile when I think about my dad. I still can’t put a face to a name, waiting on some cousins to come through with some photos, but from what they say, and my mom and my sister, he was the kind of guy you’d like to hang out with, and I hope so much that I have made him proud.

History and hope this week, y’all. All around.

M.