Family Tree and Me

The doctor was sure I was going to be a boy.  When I was born he exclaimed, “It’s a tomboy.” I came on an early Sunday afternoon.  Not long after my mom took me back to the farm.  My dad was not in the picture.  They were separated at the time and eventually divorced.

I never had a dad to read to me, play with me, scare off boyfriends.  I never had a dad’s shoulder to cry on or a dad to teach me to drive.  I never had “the dad experience.”  And that’s okay.   A lot of people don’t have the “the dad experience” and I know that I am incredibly blessed, no matter how difficult things can be.  My mom was always there for me.

I always felt there was something missing though.  Empty branches on half of my tree. My mother, who has always had bad health, encouraged me to try and find him.  She didn’t want me to be alone if something happened to her.  I knew that he was living in South Carolina, but that was about it.  I posted on his high school yearbook alumni page.

Time went by and I all but forgot that I had been looking for him.  Then, one day, I received an e-mail.  It was from his wife.  Next was a phone call and I heard his voice for the first time, a heavy Southern twang mixed in with his native Midwest tones.  We talked and talked.  Every few weeks he would call me.  When a couple of my aunts visited friends in the state I live in, they came and visited me too.  I felt like what was missing was filling up.  My tree was full.


By Abad Joaquin de Fiore (1135-1202) (Manuscritos en el Tiempo Liber Figurarum Tabla II) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This went on for years.  I could not afford to visit him and I eventually left a good paying job to be my mother’s caregiver.  We were struggling.  I used up my retirement. We had to accept state assistance. I sold many of our treasured items to pay bills and get additional groceries.  I felt it was worth it to be able to take care of my mom and having worked in a job that was emotionally and mentally dangerous (I was a forensic interviewer) I needed time to heal.

Then the 2016 election happened.  My Facebook Feed began to fill with venomous rhetoric, devoid of fact, that had an ugliness that made me feel heartsick.  Jokes about Muslims, hateful comments about Muslims and bizarre conspiracy theories.  My dad and his wife were now unfamiliar to me.  I guess, when you have a distance relationship, you get to imbue someone with attributes and characteristics that are sometimes naive and idealistic.  I was not the ideal daughter (opinionated, liberal in thought and action, my own person.) He was not the dad I hoped for (Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird).

I’m okay with differences.  I am not okay with hate and cruelty. I unfriended my dad and his wife.  I was not seeking to sever my relationship but I needed to protect myself from something that I felt was morally wrong.  The next time he and I talked I told him what I did.  He appeared to accept this.

Then Trump came into power.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of dread.  Remember the witches in MacBeth warning “By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes?”  That was how I felt.  Fear, anger, a sense that nothing made sense. In December, I got an e-mail from my dad’s wife.

My dad’s wife told me what a disappointment I was.  That I was basically working the system and she had thought so for awhile. Did I mention there had been an increase, before I dropped them, of postings putting down people who need food stamps and help? I confess that there were times I needed help and I did ask a couple of times.  I also tried to trade valuables for things we needed.  But, I was not begging, or using the system or my family.  She ended with telling me that she had not lost any of “her intelligent liberal friends,” and that she was erasing me from my dad’s phone and that if I tried to call, he would not answer because he did not answer numbers he did not know.  She let me know that they loved me and were praying for me. Um…..

I was upset. I contacted my aunt who let my dad know.  He got the number reinstated. The last time we talked, though, was in December of 2016. He did not know everything his wife told me, so I read it to him.  He said he could not make her apologize.  I did not want her to apologize.  I wanted him to care.  He then went on to tell me he worried about my social security.  Huh?  I was paying social security. I was earning income from a caregiver program to take care of my mom.  No empathy, no real attempt to understand.  I thought to myself, later on, “he believes what his wife believes.”

Since our last phone call by life has been hectic, but in some ways good hectic.  I finally found a second job that allows me to work from home and on-line so that my mom is safe and comfortable.  And, I love this job.  It is copyediting study lessons and it is fun. I get to learn and play with words at the same time.

I have come to accept that my dad is not going to be in my life.  And that’s okay.  I don’t need a father to define who I am, to make me feel whole.  I’m glad I was able to fill in the rest of my tree; I have no regrets.  Sometimes people just are not meant to stay in your life. I feel very blessed.  My mom is the only parent I need. She always has been.






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