Apr 20, 2010
Hey readers--If you click my blog-title above, you're led 12-year-old girl's search for her father. As I sifted through her intelligent, rough prose I wondered if given the power of the Internet I might have done the same thing at the myopic age of 12.
I was 12 when I gathered the courage to ask Mom about my dad. We were eating at The Brown Derby, a Horse-inspired-steak place. As I remember, she had been fighting with her boyfriend Fred, and so we were "escaping." These one-on-one moments were rare--I devoured them, trusted in her once more, found space to talk to her again. As we settled into our meal, I said, tell me about my dad, please. She shrugged her shoulders, squinted her eyes across the vast restaurant. Servers tied up in polyester uniforms moved from table to table with purpose and cocktails and checks. What did she squint for? I realize now that whenever Mom’s about to confess, she looks around to identify witnesses or spies. Maybe because she was the proverbial “bad kid,” always telling the truth at the wrong time, to the wrong person.
She settled back into her food, slurped a spoonful of twirled noodles, wiped at the red sauce on her chin with the back of her hand. She even smiled. As if no time had passed she said: He was actually nice. A nice guy. And he loved you right away. Just like me.
I looked down at my plate. I smiled. My standard response to friends who lamented my lack of a father had always been: You can’t miss what you never had. Which is true. But finding out that there was another human being out there who had loved me was like discovering a secret stash of money in some off-shore account. It provided instant security.
She went on to tell me his name. Later I scribbled down Tommy Ward on yellow-legal pad paper, and stored his name inside an old jewelry box. I shoved further questions about his life aside, and focused on the parent I did have (she was a handful). And so I never attempted to look him up. Nor did I write letters to the newspaper asking if anyone knew his whereabouts. But had the Internet been around...who knows? But honestly, his absence rarely saddened me. With relief I can say that I never felt like the 12 year-old-girl who wrote, "He left my mother and myself when I was just a new born, and ever since then I have been burdened with this unknown present of him.". Unlike this young woman, I wasn't "burdened" by my father's absence. I never longed to escape Mom (at least not until later) so I wasn't looking for another home, another family. And I hope my blog celebrates this as much as it does anything else.
As a parting note, I recently finished "Anywhere But Here" by Mona Simpson. Her novel, if you haven't yet read it, is about a manic-single-Mom who takes her kid to Hollywood in hopes of fame and fortune. The daughter character goes to the best public school, but they share an efficiency apartment without furniture. The mom is young, charming, and searching for lucky breaks all over the place, meanwhile she drags her daughter around from one unstable home to another. The daughter's upbringing was anything but secure, yet Simpson's adolescent character says this: "Strangers always love my mother. And even if you hate her, can't stand her, even if she's ruining your life, there's something about her, some romance, some power. She's absolutely herself. No matter how hard you try, you'll never get to her. And when she dies, the world will be flat, too simple, reasonable, fair."
Best, A. E.