Cracking open the box

Today I cracked open Pandora’s box. I am afraid to peer into what lies inside.

I spent most of the weekend feeling blah. It rained all weekend with high temps in the lower 60’s. Some of our outdoor plans got cancelled. It has been very frustrating. So far summer break has been cool and rainy. Surprisingly, the best days of the year so far fell on Alex’s graduation day and again for his grad party.

The weather has been making me feel restless and bored. There is nothing I hate more than boredom. I’d rather be way too busy. Not to mention that all my favorite running trails are underwater. Although, thankfully, my ankle is starting to feel better.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, something exciting happened though. I got a message on Ancestry from a relative on Paul’s dads side. On Father’s Day of all days too. You see, Paul never knew who his dad was. From what I can tell, this man is Paul’s cousin.

I told myself that I wouldn’t go seeking out answers. I was far more curious than Paul. But if someone came to me asking, that was an altogether different story indeed.

Today I reached back to Paul’s cousin and told him what details I knew about Paul’s dad. We’ll see what happens. Paul said he was okay if I did that.

It’s hard, Paul built his whole identity around not having a father. But what if he has a whole new family out there that wants to get to know him?

Why do I feel like I cracked open Pandora’s box? Do I really want to know what’s inside?

I can tell you one thing, life got a little more interesting.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day…it’s always been a difficult day for me.

I see the posts online of you with your dad smiling and happy. I wonder why my dad never cared about me. I don’t think I have any pictures of us like that, dad.

I just remember you laughing at the TV in some distant room while my autistic brother hit me yet again. You could have held me while I cried. Why didn’t you?

I remember the time that I was afraid of weeds up at the lake. You took my tiny little body and planted my feet in the slimy weeds. You laughed at me when I ran back to shore crying. You threw weeds at me and called me names.

I am not afraid anymore, dad. I push myself so hard. I run myself ragged.

This one day of the year, I wish for just one picture…one memory…of us together smiling and happy. It is so painful to see the things I didn’t have.

What is wrong with me? Why didn’t you love me dad?

 

Dark doors

The other day my son asked me why he is so dark.

Immediately I said that it was a part of his personality. Maybe it is something that you could work on. Oh my, did he get that from me??

Then he said, “Not my personality mom, my skin.”

That was a few days after he took the Ancestry DNA test. I told him that we would find out soon. I also heard that the test could match you up with long lost relatives or maybe famous people.

Famous people? Then I got to thinking some more.

Why are my oldest two kids freakishly talented at music? This past weekend my son made it to state as a junior for his graduate level solo and ensemble piece along with 2 other pieces. My daughter was involved in a big singing competition, made it to a difficult level, and earned the opportunity to sing for a big opera star. She was invited to compete at an event in Boston. So far they are the only sibling duo to receive perfect scores at state for music in their high school.

There aren’t any professional musicians in the family. No one had a garage band. Not even one music teacher. Just a haphazard bunch that played an instrument for awhile or sang in the church choir.

Was it because of the early childhood piano lessons? The family involvement in community theater?

This got me thinking some more…

Maybe Paul’s real father is Jim Morrison from The Doors. It makes sense. It was the 60’s and Morrison was alive back then. So it has some face validity. Talking about his face, my son does resemble him a little. They have the exact same scowl.

But, if Paul’s dad is a rock star…why did his mother fail to mention that? This is where my theory gets a little tricky.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the Ancestry DNA results to come back.

What if we find out who Paul’s father is? What do we do with that information? Maybe Paul has siblings? Or a hefty inheritance that no one has claimed?

Or maybe we are cracking open the door to Pandora’s box.

 

Paul’s journey, part 2

He spent his earliest formative years in the projects in the inner city of Chicago.

You might think that the story would’ve ended differently if Martha’s dad survived to see his grandchild arrive. Maybe he would have been a great father figure for this infant fatherless child.

Where we left off yesterday, Martha gave birth alone to a baby boy. I can imagine how frightened she must have been. Childbirth is a terrifying thought during pregnancy…rich or poor…young or old…married or alone. But possibly more so if you are poor, young, and alone.

During childbirth, Martha was in a delirious state and saw her father there watching over her. Martha cherished her father. But from what I heard, he wasn’t a very good man. He was said to be an abusive drunk.

I once heard a story of how Martha’s older brothers teamed up as teenagers and fought their father. I couldn’t tell you why. But I could tell you that it was probably justified.

I heard that he was a crooked cop. Maybe involved somehow with the mob. I also heard that he had a girlfriend and maybe even another family on the side.

I really didn’t hear anything about his character that would make me think that he would be a suitable father or father figure for anyone. If he hadn’t dropped dead of a heart attack when Martha was 12, I might not be telling the same story or this story at all.

For a short period of time, Paul had a ‘dad’.

Martha got married just long enough to change her name when Paul was 3. Martha said she left her new husband after a year because he was abusive to her son. The only thing that Paul remembers about his step-dad was that he had 2 large black dogs.

It has always been a debate in our house which is worse…not having a dad or having a terrible father. If his step-dad was truly a mean man, then perhaps he was better off without a dad. Thankfully his grandpa never was a part of his life either. He didn’t have a dad or grandpa, but some of his uncles were nice.

 

 

 

 

I wanted a dad…

I wanted a dad that would hold my hand and walk with me when I was afraid.

I wanted a dad that would tell me a bedtime story, tuck me in with a hug, and kiss me good night.

I wanted a dad that told me he loved me.

I wanted a dad that wouldn’t let anyone hurt his little girl.

I wanted a dad that would teach me everything he knew without laughing at me for being so stupid.

I wanted a dad that would take me to the park and push me high as the sky on the swings.

I wanted a dad that would tell me I am beautiful, even if it was just on my wedding day.

I wanted a dad that was more interested in the things I was doing than whatever show was on TV.

I wanted a dad that showed up for special occasions.

I wanted a dad that would take me on father daughter adventures.

I wanted a dad that would tell me how proud he was of me, even if it was just for the big accomplishments like graduating from college.

I wanted a dad to ask me how my day was.

I wanted a dad that didn’t think my dreams, goals, and beliefs were a joke.

I wanted a dad that laughed when I laughed and cried when I cried, not one that laughed when I cried.

I wanted a dad that showed love to my mother, siblings, and children.

I wanted a dad that would give me advice on how to be a better person.

I wanted a dad that would buy me flowers or little gifts, even if it was just for my birthday.

I wanted a dad that I couldn’t bear to live without.

I wanted a dad to tell me that I was smart when I got good grades.

I wanted a dad that I wanted to be just like.

I wanted a dad to lift me up when I was down.

I wanted a dad that would call me names like princess or honey.

I wanted a dad to be there when he was around.

I wanted a dad that I couldn’t wait to share good news with.

I wanted a dad that I could trust with my feelings.

I wanted a dad that would say he was sorry after losing his temper.

I wanted a dad that I could see the goodness of God in.

I wanted a dad that would encourage me when I felt like a failure.

I wanted a dad that thought I was good enough just the way I am.

I wanted a dad that I would love to visit.

I wanted a dad that was fun.

I wanted a dad that cared.

I wanted a dad that I could write wonderful stories about.

But you, my love, only wanted a dad.

Thanksgiving leftovers

The day before Thanksgiving, I spoke to my mom on the phone. She told me that my dad was going to drive 8 hours round trip to drop something off at my brother Mark’s house, but he wasn’t going to come over to my house for Thanksgiving.

I said, “Let me get this straight, dad is going to drive 4 hours to see Mark but he won’t drive 20 minutes to come over and eat a meal that he doesn’t have to prepare?”

My dad showed up for Thanksgiving. Then after the meal, he left without saying good-bye.

Later in the day, we were playing Loaded Questions and everyone had to guess my response to the question asking who I always wondered if they liked me or not. Some people said Aunt Grace or my sister-in-laws. No one guessed that I put my dad down as my answer. It’s sad that I feel unsure if my dad likes me.

It seems ironic that Paul never had a dad and I always wondered if my dad likes me while we were surrounded this Thanksgiving with men that had estranged relationships with their children.

Paul’s step-dad Darryl and my Uncle Rick were guests in our house this Thanksgiving. They weren’t invited anywhere else. Their stories are similar.

Darryl was previously married to a woman that he had two children with. When his children were little, his wife left and took the boys with her several states away. Ever since I’ve known Darryl, he has wanted a relationship with his sons that was not reciprocated. The only time that they called him regularly was when they were incarcerated. Darryl was the man that stood patiently by his wife’s side as she was dying of cancer. Darryl loves to spend time with his step-grandchildren, my kids. Darryl married my mother-in-law when Paul was in his upper 20’s, so he never thought of Darryl as a dad.

My Uncle Rick has a similar story. He is recently divorced not of his choosing. His adult children all decided to side with their mother instead of him. They also cut themselves off from all of his family. My Uncle Rick is one of those nice guys that women seem to walk over. He wears his heart on his sleeve but would give the shirt off of his back. He brought a ‘F off’ letter that his daughter wrote to him for us to read at our house.

 

Paul and I would’ve given anything to have a dad like Darryl or Rick, yet their kids want nothing to do with them. They are wonderful men. I’ve known them long enough to know that. I just don’t get it.

I find it heartbreaking when kids feel like they have to pick sides when their parents divorce. Why can’t they have both parents in their lives??

Maybe someday their kids will come around.

Until then, we are thankful for your broken, discarded, leftover dads.

 

Wings without roots

Last weekend Paul went ice fishing with Darryl. (Yes, it was still cold enough here despite the calendar saying something about spring).

Paul and Darryl talked about fatherhood. Usually when the guys go out on the ice, they talk about nothing even if they are gone for the whole weekend. There is never any interesting gossip to share. Unlike getting together with a group of women which usually includes emotions, crying, and gossip galore.

Darryl told Paul that he was working on his will. Darryl wants Paul to be the executor of his will. Paul told him that he didn’t have to worry about giving us anything. After all, he isn’t Darryl’s real son and his mother is gone now.

Darryl has two sons. He kept his landline for years just in case they called. After Martha passed, Darryl was in rough shape. He really wanted to contact his estranged sons but didn’t have a way. I was able to find one of the sons on Facebook and told him to give his dad a call. Both sons called, but didn’t attend the funeral or even send a card. That was really upsetting to Darryl.

I always thought that Darryl would’ve been a great father. His ex-wife left him and moved out of state with their two boys when they were little. She was bitter and poisoned their minds against their father. He had the boys every summer for a few weeks. They were always trouble. They would steal money that wasn’t hidden away. They got in trouble for shoplifting. Both boys spent half of their adult lives in prison.

Martha always had that over Darryl. Look at your sons in prison while my son got an MBA and started a business.

So it went on for many years…Darryl wanting his sons…a father without his sons…Paul wanting a father…a boy without a father..

Regret…

Too bad Darryl came along after Paul grew up.

Darryl told Paul that he was a wonderful father for never having a father

Then the conversation turned to the identity of his real father. Darryl thought that Paul’s brief step-dad in early childhood was his father..

How can you be married to someone over 20 years and not know the identity of their child’s father??

I found that shocking. Wouldn’t you??  I guess that secret has been buried with Martha.

I asked Paul if he ever wanted to find his bio dad. Now would be the day and age to do it..We only have snippets of info to go on..his name was legally omitted from the birth certificate…but we have an approximate age…69…last name Wilson…no first name, just initials…in a Chicago motorcycle gang…from somewhere else…Kentucky or Tennessee…red hair…green eyes…

He may have died in Vietnam…he may have tried to steal Paul…he wasn’t interested at all in being a dad…the same conflicting stories told over and over that never made any sense.

Is any of it real??

I admit to being a little curious over the years, but Paul never wanted to know.

Sometimes, I google variations of the name on Facebook or online. Is that your father?? Is that your dad?? Sometimes the temptation to open Pandora’s box is rather great for me…But I can see that the problem with opening that box is the risk of knowing what is inside..We can’t unknow things after they are known..but sometimes, just sometimes, I want to peak inside..

Maybe I am looking for the wrong things…

Am I blind to what is right in front of me??

I should focus on the here and now without looking back…appreciate the man with strong wings to fly alone…and not look for hidden roots…

Maybe some things are better left buried…hidden in the past…forgotten forever..

3.Describe your relationship with your parents

Day 3: Describe your relationship with your parents.

My parents then…

When I was a child, my mom and I were always close. She considered me to be her best friend. As a parent, she did the best that she could and had the perfect amount of strictness. In that area, she has been my role model for parenting. I identified with my mother. She always worked hard. She rarely sat down and relaxed. She was not one to sit and chat. She was always buying gifts for me. When times were hard, she would bring home a bouquet of flowers for me. She confided in me because she didn’t have anyone else that understood.

When I was a child, I hated my father. He never hugged me or told me that he loved me. Instead of teaching me everything that he knew, he told me I was stupid for not knowing what he knew. He never set aside time to spend alone with me. He ridiculed my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and dreams. He was very lenient. He didn’t care when I came home, who I went out with, or what I did. He never sympathized with me. He never comforted me and told me things would be alright. He was never on my team. He never took an interest in my life. He never had patience for me. When the going got tough, he checked out emotionally. If he was forced to deal with me it was usually with irritation, anger, or harsh words. He never said that he was sorry. Our relationship was generally negative.

My parents now…

Fast forward the clock 30 years..

My mom and I are still close. Sometimes I resent her for not giving me a childhood. Sometimes she resents me for having healthy children and a loving spouse, things she always wanted. There was a rough patch in there after my autistic brother Matt attacked my daughter. I felt that she sided with Matt over me. But that was many years ago now. Over time, the rough seas smoothed out into reflective glass. We lived through some very difficult times together. Despite everything that happened, we are still very close. My mother has my utmost respect and admiration for her perseverance through hard times.

My dad and I still aren’t very close, although we probably get along better now than we ever have before. All in all, I don’t believe that my dad is a bad person. But when he had to step up to the parenting plate, he failed miserably. For this reason, we will never be close. I no longer hate him. I pity him for his weakness. I feel sorrow for the relationship we never had and never will have.

Sail away for Father’s Day

 
Yesterday we decided to sail to a new harbor for Father’s Day. We left in the morning with strong south winds. The biggest problem was that we were heading south! So we did end up motoring. It was another hot day and we spent most of the afternoon at the pool.

Then we drove into town to eat at an Indian restaurant. The food was great. Afterwards we all got back into my daughter’s small car. I squeezed myself into the back middle seat between my other two teens. I find that if I wedge myself in the middle, there is less fighting. Who wants fighting for Father’s Day?? But the problem was that I was carrying things on my lap and there wasn’t any floor room either.  So I shoved the leftover styrofoam boxes behind me by the back window. When my daughter hit the brakes for a red light, my leftover curry popped open and went down the back of my white shirt. Life always seems to be an adventure whether on land or sea!

After we got back to the boat, I decided to call my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Paul and I were sitting alone on the boat at this time. It always feels a little ackward calling my dad when my husband doesn’t have a dad to call. It can be hard for me because my dad sounds so much like my grandma and her brother, the way he talks and mannerisms. I really miss them and sometimes he reminds me that they are gone. I saw a lot of pictures of women my age on Facebook with their dads, but I wasn’t one of them. I wish sometimes that my dad and I were closer.

So I spent the day with the best father that I know, my husband. I am very proud of him for being a wonderful dad despite never having a father himself. Sometimes I wish that things were different. Relationships can be messy and complicated. Right now I just feel thankful for what I have, a husband that makes a wonderful father. 

Not only was the car packed full of people yesterday, but the sailboat is rather small to fit all five of us overnight as well. The oldest two drove home for the night while Paul and I stayed overnight with Arabella. It was a windy night which kept away the bugs. It did cool off and we were expecting storms so we had to shut up everything tight for the night. It was sweltering hot in the middle of the night making it difficult to sleep. We opened everything up until the storms came through. The winds whistled through day and night. Over the weekend, we noticed that there was a problem with the mast. 

There is a wind advisory for today. With the weather and the condition of our boat, we are going to have to stay most of the day to wait things out. Another day by the pool with boat drinks doesn’t sounds that bad…