Where was I? Oh, yes! I was telling you about the time I went to see my biological father, ‘Big Beluga’, after he went AWOL and was absent from my life for well over 25 years. I left off at the part where we were walking down the stairwell and headed for the mini-van. In but a few minute’s time, I got to ‘see’ a little bit more of my father than I ever anticipated. And was I disappointed! It wasn’t at all what I expected. I didn’t get the acknowledgement or affection I had so longed for. The ‘vision’ I had in my head quickly crumbled when I saw him for the first time after such a long absence from my life. And I could get over his appearance. I don’t always look my best, I get it. It’s what’s inside that counts. But once he started talking, and 90% of the subject matter was paranoia about ‘Tinkerbells’, I knew that the father I once dreamed of and the beautiful reunion that I so looked forward to, would never be more than that, a ‘dream’. Sigh.
The original plans we had with our father turned into something else altogether. He wanted to run a number of random errands so we humored him. My brother Clover asked where he wanted to go and BB said he wanted to go to a notary. Apparently, he changed his will and he wanted all three of us to sign off on the newly revised document. He had brought two briefcases along, each crudely wrapped in duct tape, and hung onto them as though they held within them something of enormous value. I soon discovered that the revised will was what was inside one of the briefcases. Once all of the paperwork was taken care of, he wanted to make copies for each of us as well as himself. What better place than the library? Off to the library we went. And before I say anything more, I have to provide a few more details so you understand the state of mind I was in.
As you know, I was a bit stunned by the ‘welcome’ I got from my father, and also by what he was fixated on. The whole thing felt like a scene out of a bad movie. The talk of ‘Tinkerbells’ started as we initially headed down the stairwell, but it didn’t stop there. It continued throughout the day. Anytime he wasn’t distracted by something, he returned to the topic of the ‘Tinkerbells’. I was so flummoxed by the whole thing, that I broke out into a fit of giggles. That’s what I tend to do when things get bizarre and I don’t know how to react any longer, I just start laughing uncontrollably! And it was really hard to control myself in the mini-van because my brother Clover, who was driving, kept glancing back in the rearview mirror and looking at me. I could tell by his eyes and his shoulders (that kept shaking) that he was also laughing hysterically and each time either of us heard ‘Tinkerbell’, any composure we had was utterly and hopelessly lost.
At that point, I was a hot mess! I’d finally met my father and the whole thing turned out to be a big, fat FAIL. We had gone to the notary at the bank and then to the library. From there, he wanted to go shopping for clothes at the Goodwill thrift store. I’m pretty sure that’s where he got his entire outfit from, including the baseball cap. I shop at thrift stores. I understand the yearning to purchase goods at bargain-basement prices. But I thought it was an odd thing to do when you’ve finally reunited with your children after nearly a quarter of a century. “Hey kids! I haven’t seen you in years!! Let’s go shopping at Goodwill!!” Not what I would have picked. But it was his birthday, so we just did whatever he suggested. After the thrift store, he was ready for lunch and he asked to go to his favorite pizza joint for their all-you-can-eat buffet. Alfy’s pizza it is!
During lunch, as I wolfed down slice after slice of pepperoni pizza (emotional eating to numb my feelings), I recognized another thing about him that I found peculiar. He wouldn’t or couldn’t look me in the eye(s). Anytime I spoke to him, whenever he’d respond, it seemed as though he were looking at someone just off to my right. It was driving me nuts! I thought maybe something was going on behind me or that maybe someone was standing behind me and he had gotten distracted by them. When I turned around to check, there was nothing there (aside from a bare wall). Not only did I find that odd, but then he shared even more about himself. And when he spoke, he communicated in a clipped, emotionless manner. Between that and the pizza and all of the things I’d seen and heard and observed earlier in the day, it left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. It was clear that something was w-a-y off. We’re talking certifiable ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. It made me wish I had never come. The whole thing was a big disappointment and left me with more questions than answers.
But BB wasn’t done yet. He still needed some toilet paper and other necessary items once lunch wrapped up, so he made yet another request. “Do you mind swinging by the grocery store before you drop me off?” he asked. Of course, not! We wouldn’t mind. We’ve already been to the notary and the library and the thrift store and the restaurant, let’s go to the grocery store! If I had to choose a place to spend some quality time together, that would have been my first choice! After returning to the mini-van and driving a short distance, we arrived at the grocery store. The impact of meeting my father and the disappointment and despair I felt as a result, really took hold of me as we went in search of the nearest Ralph’s or Safeway. Once my brother parked the mini-van, everyone climbed out and headed towards the entrance to the store. But I had no interest in participating in ‘whatever this was’ any longer. I just wanted to return home and forget the whole thing happened.
Usually I’m a people pleaser, and I try to do what’s ‘expected’ of me in order to make people happy. And I thought as a ‘dutiful’ daughter, I should walk alongside BB and help him get what he needed. But once my father started shopping, with my brother Dapper Dan only steps behind (pushing the cart), I wanted no part of it. I just stood at the front of the store and watched them zigzag up and down each aisle, gathering ‘a little bit of this’ and ‘a little bit of that’ as they went. And each time they came around a corner and started up another aisle, my mood darkened. Something began to eat at me, but I didn’t know what it was. I felt bitterness, anger, fear, a whole host of negative emotions. And this person, my father, that I had finally had an opportunity to meet after so many years, I felt nothing.
The trip back to BB’s apartment from the grocery store was brief and I was no longer laughing at that point. This older man sitting near me felt like a stranger, and a ‘strange’ stranger at that. I don’t think I even got out of the mini-van once we arrived at his apartment complex, not to help him with the groceries or to hug him goodbye. As far as I can remember, I think I just waved at him when we pulled out of the parking lot. And I remember feeling this heaviness, this dread. It latched onto me during the 3-hour drive ‘home’ and it stayed with me for weeks, months. Am I going to turn out like ‘him’? Will that be my destiny? I already had depression and anxiety, could it possibly get even worse? Am I going to start getting paranoid and talking endlessly about the ‘gay mafia’ and ‘Tinkerbells’?
When I later shared my concerns with my mom, she reassured me that I ‘was nothing like him’. “You’re fine!” she said. But I know how this stuff works, if ‘daddy’ is ‘one card shy of a full deck’, odds are that I’ve got a good chance of heading down that road myself someday. And when I look at the other 7 surviving siblings in my family, I see a lot of the signs. There’s a lot of paranoia and some p-r-e-t-t-y erratic behavior. I have to be honest, it does make me worry. And since I’m talking about this ‘behavior’, I should mention that my father was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Great! Thanks, Dad! Between you and mom, I’ve got some really great genes at my disposal. Varicose veins? Check! Weight issues? Check! Mental illness? Check!
I cannot predict what the future will bring but I am going to try and make the most of this life. I’ve got a few strikes against me (in the mental health department) but I might get lucky and beat the odds and actually retain my sanity (what little I have left). I have a sense of humor that has helped me surmount countless obstacles. And as long as that’s intact, I think I’ll be fine. I’m not going to spend the rest life worrying about what could potentially happen. It’s not going to solve anything. I’m just going to take each day as it comes, and live by the famous words of Doris Day, “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.”