Monday, August 3, 2015

In Surname Only

I am the product of a less than perfect union.  My biological parents were ill-conceived in their matrimony, a high school/early 20s couple that had broken up and gotten back together more times than they could count.  They decided that wedding rings would fix that; it didn't.  No sooner had they married then they found out I was on the way.  I was not good news.  Unplanned and barely surviving as a couple the last thing they needed was the added stressor of a baby; not to mention my mother's pregnancy with me was pretty horrific.  This whirlwind romance was brief and ended rather dramatically when my father walked out of my first birthday party and never came back.  A story I can say I wish I never had been told.  Nothing quite like trying to get over that rejection.

Since then the relationship, if you can even call it that, with my biological father has been strained.  As a young child you could see, even I could see, he tried, but around when I turned 11, he gave up.  A confirmed bachelor, he never remarried.  Got close once, but he broke up with her.  It's a shame really.  If he had ever remarried, I'd like to believe his new wife would have motivated him to maintain a relationship with me, his only child.  But he didn't, and fairytales and unicorns are just figments of my imagination and it's difficult to motivate someone to do something they just don't want to do.  My father is probably somewhere on the Autism spectrum.  It took me until about 4 years ago to realize this.  I'm not sure it would have made a difference knowing his social awkwardness and lack of ability or desire to communicate had nothing to do with me but the damage had been done by then.  20 years of feeling personally rejected is difficult to undo.  He grew up in a time when Autism had no name and if you wanted to isolate yourself from other people that was accepted.  No one asked any questions.

My mom had remarried by the time I was 3.  I grew up calling him Dad.  Because he is my dad.  He's the grandfather to my children now.  He was the one who intimidated my boyfriends when I was a teen and the person who picked me up from band practice.  He saw me off to college and helped me pick up the pieces after my divorce.  My father?  Absent, for every single one of those moments.  I don't say that to invoke pity.  I had someone there for me.  I was cared for, often very well cared for, but I have come to a realization.

I attended a family gathering for my biological father's family last night.  I realized, his inaction has had far wider reaching effects than simply our relationship.  I feel completely disconnected from his entire family.  I don't know them.  I don't particularly like them.  I don't identify with them.  I'm a "Green" in surname only, my familial identity lies in my mother's and step-father's families.  They are the ones who molded me, where I feel like my gifts/hinderances/personality traits come from.  Generationally this effect will continue, my children will identify with the Taylor (my step-father's surname) and Barnes (my mother's) clans, the Greens are unknown to them.

This isn't a diatribe about the effects of divorce.  I would have grown up far worse if my parents had remained married.  Living in the same house as personal rejection would have been far more difficult than having to deal with it on holidays and summer vacations.  Being known is important and there's nothing quite like feeling like a stranger in a room full of people that share half your DNA.

I feel empathy for my Green family really.  They have no idea what to do with me, anymore then I do with them.  They have difficulty expanding their quiet, polite, unassuming personalities to relate with someone like me.  It's not their fault really, they never really had to, why should they now?   Sometimes an epiphany is granted and I realize that it's time to close the door.  Not out of bitterness or pain or regret but because there's nothing there for me anymore and the only thing propping that door open is misguided feelings of guilt.  Closing it is freedom for both them and me.

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