Every Father’s Day I work really hard to not feel crappy.
Usually I’m good at it. I focus on the wonderful men I have met who are great
Dads. The kind of men whose kids adore
and respect them, and who go way above the rim when it comes to the important
things, like love, understanding, discipline, fun. None are Dad to me, but I
tell myself that witnessing outstanding Daddy-ness is enough. Except this year
it wasn’t. I have spent more than half a
century as a fatherless daughter—that missing limb is not supposed to pain me
anymore, but a week after the big F Day, I am still on the verge of tears, and
I don’t cry. I think I decided crying made people feel bad so I wouldn’t do it.
Or maybe I decided my tears made me seem like a chump and that wasn’t
acceptable. In any case, I had mastered that skill by the age of four, which is
three years and ten months after my father last saw me. I don’t remember the
At this point, I’m not mad at him. When I was 25 I found out he had been dead
for two years. Mad is irrelevant, but
something is eating me. And I have spent much of my life eating whatever was
handy to soothe myself into numbness and/or control. But I am forty pounds down
after giving that up—again— which leaves me without a go-to coping strategy.
I suppose my
heightened agitation resulted from the recent public release of the 1940 U.S.
Census records. I have been anticipating them for… let’s see, the last thirty years
or so, ever since I first actively pursued information about my absentee
parent. Mostly, I have waited patiently,
except as the release date neared I got edgy. I went on Ancestry.com jags and
yet again searched every scrap of information I had, hoping the next click
would turn up some tidbit that was new to me, like his mother’s actual birth
name. I have three different surnames for this theoretically biological
grandparent, and I have lost count of the number of spelling variations. Ditto
for his father, who also seems to have exited, stage left. When nothing turns up I want to hurl my
laptop into the wall, so I step away from the desk. I have already gone through his military
records. The 1940 Census seems my last hope for new info—then what, DNA testing?
Searching for primogenitors from whatever continent won’t help my curiosity for
more immediate information, like an address I can stand in front of.
As of today, nothing has turned up and I have made myself
stop looking for a while. I’m not sure
how I will feel when I come across his name on the Census grid—or when I don’t,
and have to face the fact that I may never know any more than I do now. There
is not a cookie or a cocktail that will take the hurt away. What I will have
left, are my Mom, the memories of Granddaddy and Nana, my husband, who while he
is not blood, is most certainly my family and the friends I have enjoyed through the years, who are, as Virginia and I
have written in many books, the family
you get to choose. So I keep striving to be fully me, to have faith that I have
been graced with all that I need,
and to accept that
faith involves believing what we cannot ever fully know.