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.
Sunday was our official book launch for our novel Galahad’s Fool. Perfect venue: Main Stage West, the small theatre in downtown Sebastopol where we produced The Tempest, Drake’s Drum and King Lear. We read from the book, performed a couple of puppet sketches (since the book is about a puppeteer), answered questions, and then laid on salmon cups and prosecco. Enormously satisfying.
And now there’s the huge tsunami of anxiety: what now?
I’ve never been subject to genuine depression. I’ve seen it at close hand, and I’ve known the tweets of it, but for me, it’s been more like a condiment spread over daily reality, imparting a flavor to my work, but never of sufficient thickness to blunt my neurotic obsession with the next project and the next and the next. We both believe intensely in our projects—or if we lose faith we explore it till we find the right channel—but the actual getting it out to the public arena, gaining the audience for the play or the readership of the book, that’s in itself an art that we have yet to master. I can write a slam-dunk press release, but I’m about twenty years behind finding what sells here & now. To date we’ve had four superlative pre-pub reviews of the book and wonderful personal responses—and sold 41 copies.
Launching into a new art form at age 76 & 78—well, there’s the craft itself, and then there’s the peer subculture, the marketing methods, the genre identities, the smell factor—everything that influences the moment when someone sees our blurb and decides to spend fifteen bucks for a print version or $2.99 for the e-book and, most important, to sacrifice the time to enter our collective head.
Thus far, the promotion has involved a vast amount of work, and it may pay off, though I feel at times that I’d have to commit a major felony to attract interest. And work continues on edits of two more novels, Chemo and Blind Walls, and the start of the third draft of Masks, so the decision’s been made to run this marathon many times, till we have to do it on walkers. I guess the lesson-in-life that we keep learning over and over is this: it never gets easier, never ever. My mom thought maybe I could be a barber, and Elizabeth started pre-med, but we wound up choosing this.
Truth. Why does it matter? Maybe part of it is that when we communicate with each other, we need a level playing field. What you say and what I hear should be at least approximately the same thing. We all fib sometimes, and probably everyone has told a whopper at least once. But when you look things up in official records, you expect that what you find will be factual. Nowadays there’s reason to suspect that what’s bandied and blared by pundits and spokespersons might be less than grounded, but a marriage license or birth record or death certificate is assumed to be factual.
This is yet another shoe dropping in my search saga. I searched for decades for a mama named Mary Fuller, because the Brooklyn birth index for 1940 listed me as Elizabeth Fuller, and my mother’s name on the adoption decree was Mary Fuller.
There never was a Mary Fuller. My mother’s name was Elizabeth Day. Coincidentally, the New York attorney who arranged the adoption was named Joseph Day Lee.
Once an adoption is finalized, the original birth certificate is sealed (in most states), and is forever hidden unless a court order is obtained. But in my case, somebody went the extra mile of filing false information, and had the power to do that in official governmental records.
I’m way less concerned about who bent the truth than I am that it was possible and accepted. They say we’re now in a post-truth world. I say it’s been a long time coming.