Baby, you look just like your Daddy!
I recently saw this adolescent girl in a video, she was encouraged by an adult to talk publicly about her late father. Her father who was murdered before she was even born. This youth discussed how her father’s young death inspired her to succeed in her life’s pursuits. This video resonated with me because all week I had been planning to write about the father’s side of my biological family. On October 3rd 1994, my biological father died by suicide. This and everything I know about my father comes to me through his sister, my aunt. I began conversations with my paternal aunt this past October.
“Baby, you look just like your Daddy!” she exclaimed. This is one of the first things my aunt said to me in our video chat. Now as I write this she is sending me pictures of her pineapple upside down cake. Probably wishing she could share it with me.
There was an afternoon several months ago that I gave in to the grief of both losing my father to his untimely death and also the grief of never having the opportunity to know him.
A song comes on my music player. A song about going home to the house one grew up in, and one has subsequently moved away from. One’s childhood home is now inhabited by strangers who might be nice enough to let you walk in and see your old room for a time.
This is a song I had heard before my biological family reunion. Hearing the song once again, post biological family reunion, brought picture images to my mind of my father. I do have pictures of my father that my aunt and sister have provided for me. So the daydream I had that afternoon, was a visualization of looking up to him, being in a house (our nonexistent home) and then as fast as it came the daydream shattered.
I was brought to my knees, by some force I cannot explain. I was now sprawled out in a strange sitting position, in my walk through closet, crying into my hands the emotion I was feeling. I was crying for never getting to know him. I was crying for the pain and anguish the latter years of my father’s life were filled with. I was crying because I felt a certain sadness, for my sister and for his siblings, for the manner in which they lost him.
But, until my search for biological family, I somehow was always very disconnected mentally from the father’s side of my adoption. If I had to guess at a reason why, I think it would probably be because the agency non-identifying information I had made the father sound unimportant, as in out of the picture. Whereas it gave details about my mother’s hobbies and her health and reminded me that she was remorseful about having to decide upon adoption once again. I believe this paperwork impressed upon a young child that certain details were not important, which is absolutely unfair and not true.
Around six year’s old I found out through some Rolling Stone article that Steven Tyler, of the band Aerosmith, was the same age as my father, and Liv Tyler, his daughter and actress, the same age of one of my sisters. This is when I filled in the blanks of my adoption story in relation to a father. I figured that Steven was my father, and Liv my long lost sister; He must have been too busy touring with Aerosmith to deal with a second daughter. I thought that I resembled him some and I liked his music, so this was good enough for me. The idea of having a rockstar biological father was void filling and exciting. And, at six years of age, it made decent sense.
Yet, in actuality, the details about my biological father’s life were far more complicated. I would not have understood them at age six or seven years old. My biological father was a sweet soul, who met difficult circumstances. His sister, his first born daughter, and his granddaughter are connected with me now. His sister has detailed his life briefly for me. I do not press my aunt or sister for details about my father much, I know it could be a reminder of difficult times, a reminder of their loss. There is a lot of emotional pain surrounding the latter portion of his life and the end of his life.
My father died by suicide six months after his mother’s passing. My father had struggled in life starting in late high school, my aunt says he had a tender heart. He was dating a young girl in high school who died in a car accident on homecoming night. My aunt says he had declined going that night to avoid the drugs he knew were going to be a part of the evening. Before the accident he was totally drug free and did not drink, but after losing his sweetheart he was lost in sorrow and tried numbing the pain with alcohol and drugs. He never recovered from becoming addicted and a year before he committed suicide he contracted Hepatitis and was severely ill. My aunt says she tries to remember her brother as he was before he started to struggle with depression and drugs.
My mother being plagued by schizophrenia, I am very uncertain that she knew entirely where she was and what she was doing much during the eighties when I was conceived and born. I am sure there were times she was aware and appeared together to others onlooking because she was properly medicated. Still, I do not think she really knew the details of how she got pregnant because she was likely having hallucinations and delusions coming and going. It does not surprise me that she assumed it was with a different father, the same as the other siblings on my mother’s side. This is why it took AncestryDNA to uncover the details. I have multiple siblings still who do not know that I am not their full sibling, whose whereabouts are unknown to me.
I have been video chatting and texting my paternal aunt, sister, and niece for the past ten months. We plan to meet in person soon. It is difficult to arrange since we are states away from each other. However, the amazing capabilities of modern technology have allowed us to get to know one another quite well in the comfort of our own homes. I have been able to read my niece a children’s book via video chat as she sat there and listened intently, looking at the pictures through her tablet screen. My niece is a bundle of joy I truly never expected, considering I did not know about her mother until my AncestryDNA search.
I will not pretend that it does not weigh heavy on me at times the plight of both my biological father and my biological mother. I can say this though, I am ever so grateful for their progeny and for the rewarding ways in which I have found commonalities with them. I am thankful for my relationship with my father’s sister and to hear anything about their childhood especially from her. To watch my niece grow up in the years to come is a great gift that I could never have imagined. Life has some really unusual twists and turns, I am so in love with the father’s side of my biological family. Although we have not met yet in the flesh, I truly love them and feel a special closeness to them possibly because of our similarities and the tough topics we have traversed over these past ten months of knowing each other.
My niece just relayed through her mother, “I love you aunt Meag, you’re my best aunt in the whole world.” I am reminded of a poem from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
My niece is the joy from our sorrow, she is our delight!