I have so many things that I want to talk about today, but I feel compelled to talk about my biological father. I’m going to refer to him as ‘Big Beluga’ from here on out, or ‘BB’ for short. As I mentioned in an earlier post, ‘One person can make all of the difference (PART ONE)‘, I talked a bit about my father and our relationship. He treated me exceptionally well when I was a child. I have so many memories of all of our outings together. But once my mom remarried, when I was at the tender age of eight, he disappeared, just like that! Poof. There was no ‘goodbye’, no envelope left behind with a heartfelt letter, no phone call, he was just gone. Over the years, I wondered if I had done something to displease him. Was he angry with me? Did he have another family somewhere? Or was he even alive?
I got my answer after my paternal grandmother passed away. She’s the one that I had to ambush in order to fit in a visit. When she was alive, I used to ask her if she knew where my father was or if he was alive and she always said that she had no idea. Turns out, she was well aware. After she died, when relatives went through her home to clear it out, they discovered BB’s address in her nightstand. I found out through the grapevine that he was still alive. And then I experienced so many conflicting feelings. He’s been alive this entire time and he’s never once called or written or stopped by? How is that possible? How do you walk away from nine children and literally erase them from your life? What kind of person is capable of that? I could never do that to my own children. What set him apart?
I wanted to know. I wanted to understand. By and by, I was able to acquire a valid phone number to reach him at. I was on pins and needles on the day I finally connected with him. It had been over 13 years since I’d seen or heard from my father, and I had so many questions. But when I did finally reach him, I wasn’t sure whether I had dialed the right number. His voice was almost robotic. He didn’t show any interest in my life or my children’s. He never said what I had always expected, “My darling girl, I miss you! I’m so sorry for being out of your life for so long. I thought of you every single day but I had so much guilt for leaving that I couldn’t bring myself to reach out. I love you, my darling girl! How beautiful you are!” All he wanted to talk about were all the ‘Tinkerbells’. I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. But I was able to put two and two together after he mentioned that the ‘gay mafia’ was after him, and the ‘gays’ kept trying to break into his apartment, and all his co-workers were ‘Tinkerbells’. Oh, ok, I get it. Sort of. Apparently, BB was just a ‘tad’ homophobic.
For several years that followed, after our initial contact, we exchanged a few brief phone calls, but he was always so fixated on ‘the gays’ and acted so odd that I distanced myself. It was clear there was something not-quite-right. Even still, I yearned to see him. I had hoped that maybe if he saw me in person, he would finally ‘respond’ as I’d hoped. There’d be a warm embrace and tears and apologies. But my nuclear family was still hopping around from base to base so it was difficult to schedule a meet-up. It wasn’t until BB turned 80 years old and my husband and I and our children had finally settled down that the opportunity presented itself to actually get together.
That memorable day started with the three of us (Clover, Dapper Dan and yours truly) driving down to the neighboring state ‘minivan-style’. We wanted to treat our father for his birthday and offered to take him out for lunch at his favorite restaurant. During the trip, I had butterflies in my stomach. Am I going to get that warm embrace at long last? What will he be like? Will I even recognize him? Our journey lasted about 3 hours, at which point we pulled into an apartment complex. Once we parked and I got my bearings, my brother Clover guided me up to his apartment and with much anticipation, I knocked on the door. I’m pretty sure my father hollered, “I’ll be right out!” or something to that effect. And then a few minutes later, he opened the door, just wide enough to poke his head through and said, “I just need another minute or two.” I didn’t know how to process what had just happened. The man that poked his head out of the door sort of looked like my father, just an older, puffier version of the one I remembered. But what was with not inviting us in? Where was the embrace? Where was the greeting? And what was with the hair dye trickling down his forehead?!
When he did finally finish up whatever he was doing, he stepped out of his apartment and quickly closed the door behind him. My brother Clover and I had been standing out in the hallway just outside his door. “Ok, finally!” I thought to myself. “Finally, I’m going to get that long-overdue hug and hear how much he missed me and how he regrets all the years he missed out on and we’re going to hold each other and cry and all of the doubt and all of the anger and all of the hurt will be silenced once and for all.” “HA-HA,” the Universe said. “Not on my watch!” My dear old Dad, Big Beluga, just brushed right past me and headed for the parking lot. There was no greeting, no nothing. I didn’t even get a fist bump.
As we headed down the stairwell, ‘it’ started. “The Tinkerbells keep breaking into my car,” he said. “They went and took a bunch a stuff out of it. And they keep trying to break into my apartment and rob me. I put empty soda cans on the windowsills so if they try to climb in, it’ll knock the cans over and alert me.” Huh? What am I missing here? Is my father ‘nuts’ or is it just me? And before I continue, I have to give you a brief description of what he looked like. He stood around six feet tall, his build rather portly. I’d say he was probably around 270 pounds or thereabouts. On top of his freshly-dyed brownish hair, he wore a baseball cap that was adorned with all sorts of military regalia (none of which he had any affiliation). His shirt was a cotton, faded pink polo emblazoned with a random company’s logo. His pants were made from some type of gray, pilled material (polyester?) that had seen better days. He had them pulled up over his belly, just below his chest, with a belt cinched tight at the waist to hold them on. They were at least 2-3 inches too short so I got to see quite a bit of his ankles and noticed he wasn’t wearing socks, but what appeared to be some type of ‘hose’. And that whole mess was completed with a dirty pair of white athletic shoes.
Oh my goodness, I’ve been going on and on and still have so much to talk about! I’m going to wrap up ‘part one’ but I promise to follow up with ‘part two’ tomorrow!