Previously, I wrote a brief comment about my experience at the recent Women of Faith conference, and especially my encounter with Sheila Walsh – who spoke about her experience dealing with the death of her dad, who drowned in a river when she was five.
Sheila’s angst over not having her dad for all those years spoke volumes to me. In recent months I’ve been really struggling with the fact that I am an orphan. Even though I was adopted by a couple after the death of my mother when I was a toddler, I spent my entire life feeling very much the “outsider” to varying degrees – sometimes it was just some random fleeting thoughts, but as I got older it felt even more “true” and much stronger.
My mother, Ellen, died when I was a toddler, but my father Nick simply took off. I do not believe he even stayed around to sign the adoption papers – I have vague recollections of Nick, but nothing more than a shadowy figure from the distant past who wore a cowboy hat. In fact, my only memory of him – if it is of him – is of him ordering me back to bed. It could have been one of my brothers, I suppose, but for some reason I always remembered opening my bedroom door and seeing Nick jump off the sofa yelling at me to “GET BACK IN THERE.”
Nick liked to drink, and liked to be away from his kids. My brother Michael has stronger memories of Nick since he was older. I really resent not remembering my mother or father.
My adoptive dad and I didn’t get along too well – I guess we did up until I was about 8 or 9, but it went downhill from there. I remember spitting out the words “YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER!” to him in anger during a fight, and he’d reply with “HE WAS GOOD FOR NOTHING AND DIDN’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU ANYWAY…”
Was he? Was he really good for nothing? Did he really want nothing to do with us? The Pollyanna within me wants to know if he stayed away from us out of love – maybe he knew that he would totally stink at being a father…and he figured it was for the best if he disappeared. I don’t know, and I’ll never know, since he died a long, long time ago – when I was about 12, I guess.
Up until his death, I entertained ideas of finding him, reuniting with him, and making him love me. I never felt like my adopted dad loved me, though I suppose he did in his own way. I longed for, and yearned for, my “real family.” Does that make me ungrateful to my adopted family? I suppose.
I’m jealous of people who were adopted and then later reunited with their birth parents. That can’t happen with me….they’re dead. Now that my adopted parents are both dead too, that connection is gone as well, and I feel like an Ishmael…in spite of my wonderful husband and beautiful kids, I still feel somewhat disconnected from everyone and everything and I hate Mother’s and Father’s Days.
As I said, I could so relate to Sheila’s yearning for that father who was missing from her life. I have no idea if my father is in heaven or hell, but all I do know is, that I wish I had my Daddy.
Whoever he is.