It’s Father’s Day. I’m thinking of two fathers: the Known Father and the Imagined Father. I honor them both, and love them both, in different ways. Those who follow our blog know that just before Mother’s Day, I learned about my birth-mother, and since then I have met her son, my brother. (“Half-brother” is technically correct, but “brother” is closer to the heart.) The decisive Ancestry test is still in process on my father’s side, but given the DNA match with a half-nephew, I can already be sure where I came from, and I am learning to know my Imagined Father.
I was obsessive about finding my Imagined Mother and spent forty years in the search. For me, it was always about my mother, about finding that link to the past that I could only see reflected in my own daughter. Of course I knew a father had to be involved, but that was a fact, not a feeling. It was as if cells in my body remembered being held warm in a womb, and that after the tumult of childbirth, my mother had given me my name, Elizabeth, and then had said good-bye. A mother is nine months; a father is perhaps only a few minutes.
My Known Father was a beautiful man, and he did his best for me, but his total heart-felt bond was with the woman who became his wife. He gave me precious gifts. I was allowed and encouraged to learn to use all the tools in his wood-working hobby shop. I was allowed, even as a small child, to roam free and explore all the rural countryside around our Indiana house. When my musical precocity suggested that I should be allowed, in my early teens, to take the train by myself to Chicago to continue piano lessons, he overruled my mother’s instinct to say no. Those were amazing gifts.
But he couldn’t allow himself to see the damage wrought by alcohol and abuse. They just didn’t fit the portrait of the woman he loved with all his heart, and in the long run, he stood with her, and not with me. He couldn’t do both. I wish it hadn’t been so, but I can’t blame him. I loved him, and I love his memory.
And my Imagined Father? I have no idea if he ever knew I existed, but for sure I knew he didn’t continue a relationship with his lover. He found another mate, as my mother did, and had three children, all of whom are still living. If fate is kind, I will meet them in August when I return to Milwaukee. I have already been corresponding with his grandson, my nephew.
From my mother I inherited good looks, a lively spirit, a musical ability, and a gift for languages. I have yet to find my dark side reflected in her, and I may find it in my father. It has been a difficult gift to carry, but that darkness has made me what I am. I look forward to discovering his other gifts. Thank you, Imagined Father, and thank you, Known Father, I love you both.
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Books and Media by
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Forthcoming, Available for Pre-Order:
a novel of puppets & renewal
50 Years in the Making
A Memoir of the Creative Life
35 Snapshots for the Stage
A Novel of Dystopian Optimism
From Inanna to Frankenstein