Your dad can’t beat up my dad because he doesn’t exist…
Anyone who knows me even reasonably well knows that I grew up without a dad, in the literal sense. In fact, part of why I started this blog was to share my point of view as a fatherless father.
I had a lot of stand-in dads, both related and unrelated to me, but not an actual DAD. This never caused a made-for-tv moment where someone steps up for the father-son boat race or something, but it did make for a lot of awkward moments when other kids would ask me WHY I didn’t have a dad. You can only tell people that he “died in the war” so many times before someone follows it up with “what war?” and you have no out.
My go-to way to make a situation uncomfortable since I’ve been about 20 has been to say “I don’t have a dad” at any random point during a conversation I don’t like. People typically laugh and then realize I’m joking, and then it gets wonderfully awkward.
I’ve never had to buy a Father’s Day gift for anyone really except my grandpa. I loved my grandpa, probably even more because he filled that role of male figure, and even more so because he taught me to garden and swim. Nobody expected me to throw a football or dribble a basketball or anything else I found distasteful for exercise; we dug holes and grew plants.
I’d crafted a narrative in my head that my blood was 100% Italian, as I grew up only with my mother’s side of the family. I can trace my grandparents’ lineage from Calascio, Italy to my hometown, and so without having to even consider my father’s filthy non-Italian genetics, I embraced my heritage. I grew into an adult considering entirely that my genetics were Italian.
Spit in this tube, shatter your self-image
A few years ago, my wife bought me an Ancestry.com spit-vial and I sent it in and they told me that surprise! I was only about 53% Italian, and the rest was made up of various European nations and a little bit of random other stuff: Jewish, Chinese, Ford, etc. The entire thing was an effort to find my biological father but it started off rather bleak for me, and so I largely ignored it and went on with my life. Then, my wife took her hunt for our biological family (her father was adopted) one step further and started internet-sleuthing.
She messaged a person with whom I shared 2nd-cousindry on Ancestry and it WASN’T from my Italian side. This fellow had apparently messaged me about a year ago, but I didn’t see the message. Turns out, I’d have found out about all of this 365 days sooner if I simply paid attention to things but I’m 34 now so that’s not changing soon. In any case, the information this fellow provided lead my wife right to where I’d been dreading this whole time.
All about my genes, and we’re not talking denim
We were sitting in the living room and my wife was glued to her phone. I was talking to the kids and she kept muttering “oh my God” or “oh wow” under her breath. I took this to mean she was involved in something so I didn’t bother her, but she got my attention and showed me a kid who looked a lot like me, but maybe 10 years younger. This is almost certainly my brother, and then she showed me who I now suspect to be my father.
The wonder of social media allows me to know that my biological father is ideologically different than me, in the same way one might say a boulder is different from several birds eating a pizza. We have nothing in common on that front (politically), which matters to me. I’ve also found that this fellow has 4 other kids (well at least – I might not be the only Jon Snow out there). This means that, though I grew up an only child, I actually have siblings and more than one 1st cousin….including one I’ve actually been friends with for a couple decades, never realizing we were in fact family!
Truthfully, this is a lot to handle, and it’s kind of shut me down mentally. This whole thing started out as a way for me to find out my predisposition to certain diseases but it’s turned into something that I was woefully unprepared to process. I’ve written in the past about how not having a father growing up impacts my own parenting. I mean, this guy probably doesn’t even know I exist, but what if he does? How do I approach this guy, knowing that he has a life that never included me, and kids, and a wife? And geez, how would his wife react to knowing this dude has a 34 year old son with another woman?
I guess knowing does help give me some closure, though I feel like it opens up more unresolved issues than it solves. How to travel this path is something I need to figure out, but right now this information feels intrusive and also a bit voyeuristic. I can see this whole line of people that I’ve possibly interacted with over the years and now I have this weird, special knowledge. I can peer into their lives, which are complete without me (and I’m not at all implying that mine isn’t complete without my DNA donor father) and yet, we’re all pieces of this weird genetic puzzle.
One thing that I find funny is my lifelong predisposition to anxiety could have a genetic component from my dad. Is the origin of the anxiety I feel about meeting him and his family genetic, or is it social? I suppose it’s both. Regardless, I have sent off a letter that has some basic information and leaves the door open for correspondence.
So we’ll see – if he responds to me, I guess I have another article to write. If he doesn’t, depending on how that affects me, I may have another article to write. At least it’s out of my hands; after 34 years, I am no longer burdened by the choices of another person.