Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

"Mommy, who is Daddy's Mommy?"

"Grandma is."

"Who is Daddy's Daddy?"

"Grandpa is."

"Who is your Daddy?"

I have been dreading this question for every part of the last almost 7 years, since I found out I was pregnant with our son.

Think, think, are you going to answer her...

"Poppy is like my Daddy."

"OK, but who is your real Daddy?"

Damn these smart can a 4 year old possibly be astute enough to see through that answer? what. I won't lie to my children, I can't do it.

"Honey, you don't know my father, you have never met him." OK, so far so good...

"Does he live far away?"

"Yes, he does."

"Like in heaven with Jesus and the angels?" This is slightly amusing, as my father is a rabbi...yeah honey, he and Jesus are tight, they are like *this*...

"No honey, he's not dead. Mommy didn't grow up with her father."

"But why?"

"Let's talk about something different..."

Thankfully we did. My mind didn't really move on from there though. And it still hasn't. I always want to be honest with my kids; I always try to give them a real answer. This question though? I don't really know how to answer it. It is true, Mommy grew up without her father. But not without a father figure. Not without a Daddy.

My parents met, hitchhiking across country, in the early 70's. They were hippies. All that weed and free lovin' eventually led to a failed marriage and me. Mom raised me without him and I never saw or heard from him until my senior year of high school. Even then, it was only because we tracked him down to help with college. The years that followed were dramatic and painful. And probably the most formative that I could have ever asked for. Years of pining to look like someone, answered. Dreams of seeing how the "other half" lived, fulfilled. Hopes of having a doting father, dashed. We spent years trying to break one another's spirit and in the end, I followed my father's admonishment that a tiger never changes it's stripes and cut ties. 17 years without him had made me a positive, happy person. 7 years with him had left me insecure and lifeless. I got to a point where I couldn't make my voice express how my heart felt. I could say the words I felt, but I couldn't make them sound sincere. I love you rang hollow, and that was just not acceptable. I mobilized, shook it off and cut ties. Nearly 7 years have passed since that day. I have never spoken to nor seen him again. He has never met my husband. If he knows of his grandchildren, it is through no choice of mine. It is sad, but I am confident that it was the right choice.

It occurred to me, that when I was answering my daughter, I was answering her about my father, not my dad.

When I was a very little girl, I met my dad. He was a big bear of a man. He was taller than my wildest dreams and stronger than any monster could be. In short, my dad could beat up your dad. But he never would. The relationship between he and my mother was rocky at best. There was alot of drinking involved and much drama ensued. It was always very clear to me and I suppose to him, that I was my mother's child. I was a loaner to him. When they were *on*, he was my dad, I was his little girl and to be treated as such. When they were *off*, I was his ex's daughter, he was a memory and not at all accessible. But he was still my daddy. I missed him, and would wish that we could all just be together again. When I was 16, they split for good.

They say that you don't get to pick your parents...even if your parent is an abusive one they are still your parent. He might not have always been an ideal dad, but he was my dad. I realize that now. I also realize now that some of his imperfections were not really bad, they were normal conflicts of interest between what a child wants, and what a parent can bend on. I remember when they split for the last time, I basically wrote him out of my life story. I had my reasons at the time, but there was also a certain element of "He wasn't ever my father, therefore he was never my dad." I guess meeting my actual father, and learning that he would never be my dad sort of showed me how twisted my logic was. I always sort of assumed that he felt the same way. That he had washed his hands of me when they divorced. That he never grieved for a child lost to him. Looking back now, with the clarity that being a parent myself has given me, I am not so sure.

Out of their long and rocky relationship, my mom and dad gifted me with a (step)SISTER. Even though our parents divorced, we didn't. We are sisters. When my heart hurts, I know she gets it. She feels it too. When someone makes her feel less than she really is, I want to claw their eyes out. Back off buddy, whoever you are, you will always be waaay beneath her, you will NEVER deserve her...once you understand that, we will get along just fine...Recently we have talked alot about our viewpoints and memories from when we were all a family. It's amazing how different things look from our two lenses. She is 10 years my senior and was privy to some facts and details that I was either shielded from, too young to understand or too self absorbed to notice. I guess that has all been part of what made me really come to terms with the fact that he was my dad. Is my dad. Will always BE my dad in my mind and heart.

The irony of this realization is that my father and my dad both live in the same state now. What are the odds? OK, so the state is FL...the odds are better than you might think. Regardless, my answer to my daughter still stands, he lives far away and she has never met him.

Mom has since re-married (yeah mom!!!!) and her husband is my children's grandfather. He has been since the day that they were born. I couldn't ask for someone to love them more. Mom has always done her best to give her daughter safety, security and love. And I have wrapped that around myself all my life. Her husband treats me as though I was his daughter, and I love him for that. He is like a dad to me. Again, my answer to my daughter is still right, "Poppy" is like my dad. Somehow though, she knows that he isn't my dad.

I am slowly working up the nerve to call my dad, and thank him. I want to thank him for being a dad, when he didn't have to be. For being a dad when I thought I didn't want him to. And for not being a dad when I decided that he wasn't anymore. Only a parent can love you enough to let you go. I also want to apologize. I am sorry that I never saw him for what he was. I am sorry that he always had to live in the shadow of who I thought my daddy really was. I am sorry that he never got to see what, with his help, and input, I grew up to be. And ultimately, I suppose I want to try and get the real answer to my child's question, "Who is Mommy's Daddy?"

1 comment:

Ruben-Singh Family said...

Ilana, your blog entry brought tears to my eyes. I can relate. I, too, was brought up by my mum and my step-father. There was always "dad" and "step-dad". Sigh....

Big hugs,