Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day .....

Today -- June 21, 2015 -- is celebrated as Father's Day here in the U.S.  So I thought I'd talk about my birth father.

Very early in this blog, I shared the little I know about his life prior to and during his marriage to my mother.  They were married for a few years, and most of the time he was away at sea.  He was home enough to sire four children (twins in 1956, me in 1957, my younger brother in 1958), but walked out on our family sometime between my birth and my brother's.

A few years ago I came across a handful of photos that my mother had sent to my grandparents. Included among them were some pictures of my birth father doing various activities (in one he was hanging wet diapers on a clothesline and was captioned something like "And he swore he would never wash diapers").  I kept them for a while, then sent them all to my sister.

I did keep one photograph, though, just so that I'd have something to remind me where I come from.  Every now and then I pull it out and stare at it. Do I look like him?  Do I act like him?  What part(s) of me came from him?

Dear old dad, circa 1955




I've tried without success to determine where the photograph was taken.  It appears to be the New Occidental Hotel and, from the Shrine Circus poster in the window, the location is in or around San Francisco.  One online site puts that hotel at 607 Montgomery Street, but if that's the correct address, the hotel is no longer there and the entire area has been renovated.  But I digress.
  
My birth father was, by all accounts, not a nice man.   He was extremely abusive towards my sister when they reunited a few years after he walked out.  He died from a "gunshot to the head", at the age of 70, per his death certificate.  Apparently this was the aftermath of a bar fight gone bad.  One of his brothers finally agreed to pay for a headstone, because no one else was willing to do it.  My brother attended the funeral, just to verify for himself that the man was finally, indeed, dead.

After his death, his then-wife sent a box of personal papers to my siblings.  My sister was worried about looking through them, but finally relented.  Among the things she found was a paper in which he attested under oath that he had no children.  Legally, he had relinquished parental rights to my younger brother and I, but his parental rights were never terminated with respect to my siblings.  My sister, for whom family relationships has always been important, was crushed.

Have I mentioned that he was not a nice man?

He was an occasional presence in my early life, but I have no conscious memories of him.  Even with all his many short-comings, I wish I could have met him. 

Once.

Accompanied by someone bigger and stronger than him, for my own protection. But I didn't, so all I know of and about him I've had to learn second-hand.

Despite that, in many ways, I'm fortunate, because I at least know who my birth father was.  There are countless adoptees who are still seeking that information.  Adoption files are sealed, records are falsified, birth mothers take names to the grave with them.

How can you fully understand who you are when you don't know who and where you come from?  Adoptees deserve to know that, as much as every other child does.