Dear Mom, Sorry I Missed Your Funeral
Sorry to have missed your funeral. It was only on Thanksgiving Day that I had found out that you had passed away back on May 31, 2015. To say that I was surprised would not be accurate, it was more of a letting go than anything else. What I felt was ambivalence to the news. You see, the last time we had spoke, it had been several years ago, maybe seven or eight years ago, I’m not even sure, and when we did speak, you had forgotten who I was. As I spoke with you, I knew that you were in the twilight with dementia. I had resigned myself to the fact that for all practical purposes, your body was there but your mind had begun to leave you. Even as you slowly left, you were so polite and kind to this new stranger.
As I look back on the life that we had, I spent technically 16 years with you. I went off to college at the age of 17 and I had told myself that for now on, I’m on my own, there is nothing more that you could do for me, I was technically of my own as I traveled over 1,000 miles away to Texas with a handful of my friends to attend college. And that was true, I never sought out anything from you, nothing financial, nothing materialistic, you never raised me and my brother like that. It’s just that it was only with the exception of one thing, who was my father?
It is the question that I discovered most kids ask when they don’t know who one or both of their parents are. I don’t know if it’s instinctive or biological for a kid to want to know who that parent is when they do not know? In my case, I remembered when it all began and that was when I applied for my social security card. The person at the Social Security office ask me who my father was when I was filling out the application. I honestly didn’t know and they called you. You told them but I don’t think that was a true statement. When I got home, I was in trouble with you and I could never understood why that was a big deal, but it was.
Years move forward and being a kid with the kinds of friends I grew up with, you get picked on by some just for being you. One day, a friend of mine asked me that if I didn’t have a father, where did I come from? I didn’t hear the question fully and only heard, “where did I come from?’ And being matter of fact, I said, “I walked.” We were at a store with other classmates and everybody laughed at my expense. Time moves on. It was only as adults did I told him about that story and the impact it had on me and he sincerely apologized. Hell, we were in grade school but those words stayed with me like a dagger stuck in my chest for all of those years.
My college days had come to an end and it was graduation time. You had come for the ceremonies and I was glad to see you but the lingering question remains, who was my father. I decided to ask you one more time. We were outside of the house I lived in at the time and I asked you again but you a very reluctant to tell me, in fact, you didn’t tell me. The only thing that I could get out of you was that he was still living and that was it. I could the discomfort and pain on your face with the line of questions and out of respect for you, I drop any further inquiries. But what was it about this guy that still brough you pain? Why was his name forbidden to pass through your lips?
For years I had wonder about this. I just couldn’t let it go. It was the very thing that had shaped my consciousness, my existence, my very being. It had come to define who I was as a person. Relationships never really stood on a solid ground filled with hits and misses. Finding surrogates in male teachers and older friends to guide me along the way into adulthood was very unfulfilled and short-lived. I remembered Mr. Vincent briefly teaching me how to drive a car. And there was your boyfriend, the cop. Who wasn’t a bad guy but he and I were just passing each other. We didn’t have anything of note to say, no common interest, he was just your boyfriend. He couldn’t understand why I became a vegetarian when I came home from college the one and only time. He wanted to turn it into an issue, I just wanted to be left the fuck alone, it was my business.
And somewhere along the way, that was to become a part of my legacy. I retreated within myself and live a life off everybody’s radar, off the grid, as they say. I ran silent for eighteen years. You get kind of used to living that sort of existence. It has darkness in some of those passages. You embrace it, you discover who you are as a person which is only a sum of the whole. You slowly emerge from the shadows of some of that existence but you keep a foot inside not because of the solitude but more that you found a comfort to it.
And as you come out from those shadows, you find yourself still keeping a foot or half your body in it while trying to reconnect with everyone, including you dear mother. When you were lucid, I had called you and you had thought that I was dead after falling out of contact with everyone in the immediate family. No, I just chose to live a life that wasn’t traditional. As I was once told, I had became a ghost, showing up nowhere in anybody’s databases. But the question still remained, who was my father. I had come to discover that other people in our immediate family knew who this person was including my cousins. Why was this information being held from me?
My half-brother had found out who his was when we were kids. He met some of his half siblings but I don’t think he ever cared or maybe he did. We hardly speak at all. The last time we did, it was during your twilight. His memories of us growing up and you raising us was in stark contrast to what I remembered. I don’t fault him for looking at those images through rose colored glasses. That is the world that he’s wishing to recall. I, on the other hand, has taken a more pragmatic approach and saw things in shades of black and white. He and I haven’t spoken in years and still haven’t spoken to him since your passing. I’ve never spoken to him about his biological father either or how he felt about it or if he’s ever stayed in contact with any of his half siblings.
I was given a name and phone number of who my alleged father might be and I called it. The person on the other end told me that no, he wasn’t my father. That conversation took all of about three seconds and that was it. I didn’t think I would feel bad about what he had said but, surprisingly, I did. I didn’t know this person on the other end of that phone line, he was just a stranger. Whether or not if it was true, only a DNA test could say otherwise as to the claim of paternity but still, it surprised me. Maybe it was because that door, for whatever length of time it was open, slammed shut. It’s a helluva thing not knowing who you are. I have always wondered where did my thinking come from? I know it didn’t come from you, mom. Why do I do all of these things in life, architecture, music, photography, writing, poetry, film making to name a few. Who is responsible for this?
I had taken a genealogy test to at least get an idea of where I came from and the results were surprising. It was on the paternal side, the company that did the testing only test for the paternal side. I’ll take another test from a different company next time to gt the maternal side as well but the results from this one yielded some results and I hail from across the globe. My origins include three places in Africa, a big chunk from England/Ireland, some Scandinavian country, a spot around Micronesia and a sprinkling from Asia. The Irish thing probably explains why I like Celtic music and I long to go to Ireland one day.
This is who I am but the answers was with you and I do not know because you died with secrets. Your generation was good at keeping secrets from what my cousin has told me. There is a level of dysfunction within our family. We were a reality show if they had reality shows during our days. My cousin, Keith, who knew of my father, has informed me that he is dead now, died two years ago. And after corresponding with him via email, I now have a name. But he is still an alleged father. Maybe he has offsprings and some test could be performed to find any similarities in the genomes.
I have yet to grieve for you mom. I don’t think I ever will. I had spoken with a friend of mine about the last conversation you and I had and I told him about your condition. He said to remember you as you once were, in those days where you were fluid and vibrant, in those memories where I still liked your smile. You had a wonderful smile. We didn’t have a lot growing up. You did your best with the skills that you had and the times that you lived in. I was not a bad son nor the best son, maybe an okay son, one who never got into any kind of trouble and went off to school and never looked back. I became the prodigal son in the long run.
That last conversation we had where you didn’t recognize who I was, I probably mourned your loss then. I said goodbye to that mom who made Christmas work for us, with an aluminum Christmas tree and a rotating color wheel of red, blue, orange and yellow. I said goodbye to a mom who provided us with shelter until we moved out out on our own. I said goodbye to a mom who made us laugh when she was angry with us when she said, “You come in with your fingers in your ass, you leave out with your fingers in your ass.” To us that made no sense and we laughed and you finally had to laugh when we laughed. Goodbye, to the woman christened Hannah, goodbye, mom.