--THINGS FALL APART
…This morning I woke up thinking about my dad, my biological dad.
He and my mother divorced when I was five years old. My step-dad raised me and I have always thought of him as my father.
My biological father was a kind, quiet man. I hardly knew him. In those rare times we spoke on the phone, the conversations (or lack thereof) seemed five times longer than they were—awkward silences, ruminations about the weather and bowling scores.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I lived in three towns in three months. My parents were moving around a lot, to say the least. They planned to keep moving and they said I could go with them or live with my biological dad, so I did that. I moved to Mandan, North Dakota.
I was sixteen. It was 1976. I had long, feathered hair. I wore puka shells, bellbottoms, platform shoes and balloon-sleeved acetate shirts with floral patterns.
Boys in North Dakota wore straight-legged Levis, cowboy hats, western shirts with pearl-snap buttons and metal-tipped collars.
I was an oddity.
The girls there thought I was fascinating.
The boys not so much. They hated me. Called me a “fag.” Wanted to beat me up. I spend five months trying not to get killed.
During that time, I don’t recall doing much with my father. I was like a renter who slept on the vinyl sofa and ate meals while my father was at work.
It wasn’t his fault. He just didn’t know what to do with me, though his friends told me that him having me there was the highlight of his life.
Five years ago, he died of a prolonged struggle with prostate cancer. I flew out to see him two months before he died and then for his funeral.
I’ve never been one of those people who believed that simple biology makes you a son or daughter. I’ve never understood why it’s so crucial for adopted children to need to meet and know their biological parents. To me, the ones that raise you are your parents. Being a parent is an act of service, of loyalty, of devotion. Biology, when it comes to making a child, is an act of sex. It can mean something or nothing.
But I woke up today thinking about my biological dad, wishing I had extended myself more in getting to know him.
We look alike. I have his nose and hair line. I am a younger physical version of him. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror after showering this morning was like looking at my father the last day I saw him alive, when I helped him off the hospital bed and his paper sheath flipped open and he hobbled to the bathroom.
I guess I’m thinking about mortality. I’m thinking about regrets and lost opportunities.
I’m trying to learn from it all.