PAGE # 39
June 17, 2012
Father's Day
3:30 pm

To The Biological Fathers (Mine and Baby Lily's):

I'm sitting in the library of a lush seaside resort instead of napping alongside Sara and Tom.  Today is Father's Day.  Sara, exhausted after a half-day of sunning and swimming, will probably sleep for at least two hours.  Maybe three.  I had put my still-wet head upon the pillow next to our tired toddler, but after a few tosses and turns, realized that I ought to be writing instead of fighting against the caffeine (the over-consumption of coffee being a strategy to avoid the over-consumption of food at this morning's brunch).  

This is the first Father's Day in over a decade that I've wasted even a moment thinking of you--my father that is.  And obviously, this is the first Father's Day that I've thought of Baby Lily's dad--as last year he was not a parent at all (unless you count that he was an expectant father) and my life had not yet collided with either parent of Lily's.  But this year, the two of you fathers, like overlapping images, invade my mind.  And I wonder where you each are.

I don't have any religious beliefs (although I've been warned, many times too, that I might embrace God, or Jesus or The Holy Ghost in a sudden burst of optimism upon my own impending death, like the way someone grabs a life jacket as his boat begins to sink).  But whether or not this proves true in my end, the fact that I wonder about each of your whereabouts--heaven or hell?--has no religious significance to me whatsoever.  It's just an easy dichotomy.  It's black or white.  It's good or evil.  There is a generous simplicity in such notions of an afterlife, a simplicity that this world cannot deliver--for in this life, the nature of man, is not so easy to determine.  Is he good or bad?  Was he better or worse?  These questions are far more challenging to a mere mortal than any all-knowing divinity; the latter getting to separate the bad from the good, clearly and definitively, in one final sweep of judgment.  

But I am able to draw some lines now--at least with my own father--if not Baby Lily's.

It was only a few weeks ago when the terror first struck me--that I had to tell this story but could not do so without disclosing my undying dislike for my own father.  Surely that can't be relevant now!  But trauma, particularly chronic trauma that occurs in early childhood, leaves its neurological imprint upon the brain; consequently, the rest of life is forever cast in its dark shadow, as if an umbilical cord connects each and every movement back to one's beginning.  Indeed, even the most liberating moments of creativity are suspect--for they too are cued by that early gun-shot, the one that starts you running, whatever it is you are running from.  

And it is without doubt that I responded to this adoption situation with a complex mixture of post-traumatic features:  derealization, terror, an impending sense of doom.  There was the corresponding rescue fantasy too--I must save this baby from an abusive father!  But how could I, or anyone in this story, know a man's degree of good versus evil?

As for my father--there are memories.  Pockets of memory so terrifying--who would ever speak of them except to a therapist or personal journal?  And even though the man is underground for 23 years now, to write of him in an open forum--to disclose such horrors in front of family and friends--what risk!  I had to ask myself:  What could be so horrifying that a middle-aged woman, now wrinkled with experience, might stop telling a story in the only way it must be told?  The short answer:  I thought of my brother and how he might feel reading about it.

So I called my little brother--still a blond, curly-haired, cooties-infected boy in my mind--and asked his permission:
"Would you mind if I, well, if I, well, happen to write some bad stuff about Daddy?"
And not only did he say--"Sure, you've got to do what you've got to do," but he remembered!  He was able to corroborate these memories.  We shared details.  Why had we not discussed this before?  And together, for several consecutive nights, we were able to help each other piece together at least part of a picture that has been so fragmented for too many years.  After nearly 15 years of trauma work, 2 prior hospitalizations due to severe flashbacks, and a career path chosen, let's face it--to create my own internal therapist--I was no longer alone in memory.  Relief is an understatement.

And so, because of a little girl born decades after my own traumatic history--because of Baby Lily's story--I get to make a final conclusion, and pronounce with utter certainty that my father was not only no good, but likely a sadistic sociopath at worst, a drug addict at the very least, and a definite child abuser no matter the etiology.  And all this coupled with his not too shabby intellect, some charisma reserved for those outside his immediate household, and a wife who made him look presentable--his early death was a blessing for this once upon a time 14 year-old little girl.

What an ironic twist of events!  That one silent child's story (Baby Lily's) resurrects the story of another silent little girl (that would be me some decades ago)--and brings some closure to at least one of us.

My hope is that this memoir may bring closure to Lily someday too.  I write this narrative for her more so than anyone--that this part of her history may wait for her in cyberspace.  So she can fill those empty spaces with some truth.  Those holes from her first month of life.  The need to make sense of one's origins is an imperative I understand well.

As for the final judgment on you--Baby Lily's father--this remains unknowable.  Good or bad?  Kind or evil?  Heaven or hell?  I would really like to know, but will have to settle with an ambiguous, paradoxical, and limited testament of your character.  At least for now.

I will NOT wish a Happy Father's Day to my own.  Your fate is sealed; I am certain of your kind.  

As for Baby Lily's dad:

You get a maybe Happy Father's Day.  I am not sure whether you were victim or culprit in this tragic tale.  I only know that I chose to err on the side of good, on the possibility of goodness, despite the case against you.  And it was easy to believe in your intrinsic badness, especially given the nature of my earliest recollections of a father figure, but I did not believe then, as I still maintain now, that I was meant to judge you.  Or use my resources against a biological parent.  

So...RIP.  Maybe. 


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