Mama was nervous about giving birth to a baby she would have to raise alone, but she wanted to have me. My mother assured me sometime that she was pro-choice, and if she didn’t want to have me she wouldn’t have. Now there’s a heart warming story for the next Chicken Soup for the Soul, but seriously, I’m glad. It puts a less burden on myself for worrying that I ruined her life.
One time looking through a photo album, I found a note from my mother’s best friend, Norma. She named off some girl and boy names for me and said at the end, “With all of us helping you pick a name, you’ll still end up naming that youngin’ Fanny.” I don’t know if Norma got to see me before she died, but she died sometime around the time I was born, making her the second of my mother’s best friends to die…She died of cancer, but the other friend, a man, died of a heart attack earlier. My therapist, when I was 16 ,told Mama he did not know what would have become of her if I hadn’t been born. More fodder for the next Chicken Soup for the Soul book. I think if I was the consolation prize that my therapist implied, the contestant should have asked if she could have a toaster oven instead.
But for good or ill, I came into the world at 8:03 pm on December 8, 1977, delivered by a doctor in a hurry to leave. I don’t know if my dad even knew he was going to be a father at the time, but there I was. My mother named me Lisa, short enough to be spared from butchering, unlike her name which she hated. She was born Patricia, which got chopped down to Patsy in childhood, and finally ground down to gender neutral Pat in adulthood.
The first time my grandparents saw me they were terrified something was wrong with me, but no. They didn’t realize that the darkened soles of my feet were from being footprinted and the ink not entirely washing off instead of a dread disease. If this was a story and not the truth, I would use this incident as a foreshadowing of what a strange person I would become, but as this is the truth as far as I know it, you may take it to mean that my whole family is nuts.
My mother had an apartment above my grandparents’ garage they built for her years ago and this was where we stayed for about a year and a half before Mama found it necessary to flee. I think she had to go because my father tried to talk to her again and again, but my grandmother was a fortress against him, firm and forceful in getting him to leave. My grandmother could be a bit of a bully.
Mama started working nights at a hospital while I was still infant. “I don’t mind keeping the baby while you work, but I won’t keep her for you to go out with men,” said Grandma. Goodbye life, hello motherhood. But strangely enough, everyone wanted me. They all wanted the baby to be a girl and I obliged. Not just my mother and grandmother, but my sensitive grandfather as well. Mama would come in after midnight from work, go into the house and into my grandparents room to pick me up from the bassinet by their bed. Grandpa would wake up and say “Aww, leave that baby. She’s asleep,” but Mama picked me up anyway.
My mother needed her mother though sometimes. If I wouldn’t stop crying no matter what, Grandma would be enlisted to calm me down and rock me to sleep. I had colic. I wasn’t breast-fed because Grandma told her daughter, the registered nurse, it was dirty (well, thinking about it, it does seem a bit yucky. Tell you what though. If I ever became a mom I’d definitely want to taste my own milk, just a taste, you know? Is that so weird? Of course not!!!). But then, my mother didn’t even know about sexual intercourse until she was 17 and in nurse’s training…..that was my grandmother for you: The kind of mother who didn’t find it necessary to warn her daughter of menstruation until the day it happened and her daughter thought she was dying. Perhaps that was the norm when my mother was 12 in 1954.
When I was about 1 1/2 , Mama decided it was time to flee again. By then my father had found us, but Grandma always came to the door and demanded he leave. By then Mama built up a terrible fear of her husband, a fear far worse than at anytime when she actually lived with him. So she decided on moving to a town in Florida near Vero Beach, where some other relatives had settled also. We stayed in Florida until I was 5 and sometimes my grandparents stayed for long periods of time too.
It was at the age of 3 my mother at last severed all ties to the fact I ever had a father. In Florida somehow it is easier to obtain a divorce and that’s what my mother did. Claiming “Desertion,” my Mama got full custody granted. No visitation rights, my father wasn’t there to ask for them. Mama didn’t want anything to do with the man, not even child support or alimony, though he had tried to send money a few times. Mama didn’t even want me to have his name, so when she changed back to her maiden name, she changed mine back to her maiden name too. Instant immaculate conception or instant bastardization, however you want to look at it. Slate clean.
Before the divorce, my father once found us in Florida. To the door he came, drunk. I guess Grandma was there too to ward him off. He had come all the way from Homestate to see me, he claimed. “I only got to see my daughter through the window!” Did he see me through the window before they came to the door, me playing on my mother’s bed oblivious that I even had a father? I hope he did, though they thought he was lying. I don’t think he ever even got a photo of me.
Did my mother do right in keeping my father out of my life? It was cruel to him, but may have spared me intense misery. She feels with my sort of personality, he would have manipulated me terribly and made me miserable. She’s probably right, but it would take someone far stronger than me to deny him a visit after he came so far. BUT…Dude was drunk and my Mom was afraid , so maybe I would do the exact same damn thing and send my mother to deal with him. Shit-fire-damn.
My father died when I was 17. I always thought I would meet him someday, but no, dead at 57. He was found in a motel. It wasn’t cirrhosis, but his heart . I hope he died in his sleep and didn’t know he was dying alone, which is one of my own fears.
After my father died and there was no harm in it, my second cousin thought it would be a curiosity for us to see what my sire looked like much older. Cousin cleaned homes for the elderly and saw to their needs. One of these elderly women Cousin helped just happened to my paternal grandmother. I don’t know if Grandma Pearl knew Cousin was cousin to her son’s ex. It was a small county in the Appalachian Mountains. Nearly everyone is related there or knew someone who is related to someone . What Cousin did was ask my mom if she wanted to see a photo of my father while in a phone conversation if I remember right. So the next time Cousin came down to the beach she brought a “borrowed” photo of my now dead dad, which she returned before it could be missed. My father had changed from the black and white photo I saw a glimpse or two of in my life. From a thin, dark, curly-haired man with a mustache to a beer bellied, pear-shaped creature with a tuft of grey hair. I remember he wore a light blue shirt.
What would have happened if I had met my father? Would he like me? I don’t even particularly like me. Would he compare me to his other progeny and ask me why I couldn’t have turned out like them? Would he have stopped trying to pickle himself ? Doubt it. Would he have manipulated me and made my life hell? Probably.Would he have died alone in a motel room at 57? Maybe not. Was it the result of his blood in me that made me so weird? I can only imagine. I never even met a single relative on his side unless you count a couple of his female cousins who went to the same church when I was an infant. Maybe they reported I wasn’t a tentacled mutation of an infant. But then I hope they didn’t rub it in with “a pretty baby. You should see her sometime.” But he might not care much and only wanted his good lady wife back.
I looked at the obituary of my father while Cousin was down here. There were 2 daughters listed….neither were me. I was the second result of his misadventures I think and the only one born in wedlock for all the good it did me. Cousin told me that the first joined the Air Force and that’s all she knew. So I take it she grew up to be normal. It’s really sort of funny to me, since I think the best time of my mother’s life was as an Air Force nurse in the 1960s when she stormed the beach at Myrtle in South Carolina. Too bad my mother didn’t get that one for a daughter instead of me, but that’s fate for you. What happened to the other girl I have no idea, but rather apparent whatever relationship bore his last child didn’t last either. Considering his knack for the production of female children and I can only guess his disdain for rubbers, perhaps I have more!I don’t remember my sisters’ names and I don’t know where my father’s obituary is now. Hopefully I still have it somewhere or can one day find it some other way. I want to know what they look like and whatever happened to them. Basically I want to know everything about them. Are they in any way like me? Did they love him? The thought of actually meeting or talking or even emailing them though terrifies me. The social anxiety and fear of what they would think of me holds me back. One becomes particularly aware of her appearance, ways, lack of accomplishments , and redeeming qualities when having to make an account of oneself. I don’t think I’m up to it.
When my father died, Mama received the news with both sadness and relief. She was sad that her one-time husband and father of her child had died, but she felt relieved when she realized she never had to worry about him finding us again. As for me,my father’s death benefited me in that I applied for Social Security and received about 100.00 a month for around a year since I was still a minor then. When the man asked my mother if she was certain he was the father and had she been married, I got angry. He was an older, chubby, gruff sort of man who looked judgementally at us, but I got my due.
I feel bad that Dad did more for me in death than the miserable soul did in life. I think for whatever sins he committed, he must have paid the price. The evidence is in the fact he died in a motel room. His real beloved, Liquor, consumed his life, but she was a jealous mistress and made him choose her over his children.