Sunday, June 15

Father's Day musings

I know it's a little late in the day, but I honestly hadn't thought much about Father's Day (except to make sure my husband got his dad a card) much until I saw the cascade of Facebook posts. 

I never met my father. He and my mother divorced when I was less than a year old, although they'd been separated since before I was even born. That's it's own long story. 

When I was little, I had people ask me if I missed my father. Even then I thought it was an odd question. How can you miss someone you've never even met? 

I went through periods when I was angry at him for up and leaving us. As I grew older, I understood why he would want to leave my mother, but why me? What did I do?

Then as I got old enough to hear enough stories and add 2 plus 2, I came to question (as I suspect he did, too) whether or not the man named on my birth certificate was actually my father at all. (Like I said, I understood why he'd leave my mother.) I'm not sure that made what he did right, but I at least stopped being angry at the man whose name appears above the line for "father" on my birth certificate. A few years ago when I divorced my daughter's father, I gave myself a present: a new name. I didn't want his last name, but I didn't want my maiden name (my father's name), either. He may not even be m father, and in any case, I couldn't pick him out of a crowded room, so why should I be stuck with his name?
I chose my great grandmother's maiden (creatively spelled, of course *G*) for my last name, and my grandmother's name for my first name. (She made me promise never to name a daughter after her; she never said I couldn't take her name for myself!)

If you read my Mother's Day Musings, from a few months back, you know already that it was my grandmother who raised me. Sh was mother and father, grandmother and grandfather--but she wasn't alone. She had her sisters, especially her sister Mary and Mary's husband Jesse, my godparents in the Russian Orthodoxy. Her other sister June's husband, Jack, was also a huge influence. He taught me to ride a bike without training wheels and how to roller skate. My Uncle Jesse shared his love of gardening and where other kids might have to sit through grandpa's "fish story", I sat through Jesse's zucchini story, because I swear, that zucchini his father grew when he was a boy got bigger every telling, until by the last time I heard it, it was nearly six feet long!

(I thought of him a couple of years ago when I harvested a monster of a zuke out of my garden; usually I get them when they're small, but this one somehow went unnoticed until it was almost three feet long.) 

I'm grateful to my grandmother and miss every single day, but I'm also grateful to the other  adults who had an impact on my youth, especially my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jesse (who are both gone now, as well). I miss their big garden and their warm house. I miss having coffee with my aunt and sitting with my uncle out in the garden (conversation was nearly impossible, he was deaf as a post but refused to get a hearing aid. My aunt used to tell him to go clean out his ears; he'd snap back without missing a beat that it wasn't his hearing, it was that everyone else talked like they had a mouth full of shit. Yes. He was a rather colorful old man.)  I even miss the insane bickering, her yelling at him in Russian and him yelling back in Spanish, because despite the yelling, they loved each other and it showed in the little things they did. My uncle liked boxing and baseball, and when my daughter was little he called her "chicken". He was from Mexico but had lived here for decades; he introduced my grandmother to her second husband (the only one she didn't divorce). 

I miss my uncle; I would love him to see my daughter all grown up and I wonder what he'd think of our dog (also from Mexico--or at least his breed is). I wish he was around to help with the new house (he was a whiz at electrical work and fixing things); I wish he could have met my husband and my in laws (him and Dad would have gotten along famously--assuming they turned their hearing aids up long enough to talk!) 

Jesse was gruff and some of my friends thought he was a terribly mean old man, but the truth is that he wasn't. He was kind and generous, and  I am very, very lucky to have had him in my life. 

So wherever you are, Happy Father's Day, Uncle Jesse! I'm sure you wouldn't love everything I've done with my life, but I hope I've done a few things that would make you proud. And a few years ago, I pulled this zucchini out of the garden and it was this long.... 

1 comment:

Jamie Lake said...

That's a very touching story. Thank you for sharing it. I'm glad you seem to have found your place, using your grandmother's name, for she was your support. I wish you and your daughter the best!