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Preparing to dig in

March 22, 2011

Although the weekend was all spring all the time, today we are due for another wintery mix.  This is it, the long goodbye.  The next phase here in Pennsylvania is usually the sweltering summer heat, which lasts (with tiny moments of autumn thrown in at the end there) until the first snow.  There’s a j0ke about Pennsylvania and four seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction.  They forgot Heat-Stroke, which is July and August, and Probable Flooding, which is June through September, honestly.

Ah, but time does go by, doesn’t it?  In eight days my little Poodah will be one which, you know, hardly seems possible.  It hardly seems real, sometimes, that I have a husband and two children and that I am living the life of an adult.  A spoiled adult, really, because, you see, I do not have to get dressed and go to work, scrambling.  Now I live a life of restrained leisure, and I never freak out about my own schedule.

Now, if I could just teach myself to be as understanding toward my husband’s demanding schedule.  For another entry.

Yes, things are a little simpler here, but still so complicated.  There is something about me, inside, that desires a certain complication here and there, and maybe I just create drama, or maybe it follows me.  Anyway, at any given moment,  now that I’m an adult, you see, I’m faced with a certain responsibility that I like to refer to as dealing with my shit.

I’ll just spare you all this mystery and cut to the chase.

I never met my father.  My mother left him when I was still a baby, and told him to bugger off.  From my perspective, that was a pretty easy decision for him because, these last thirty years, he has never tried, not once that I know of, to contact me in any way.

You know, growing up, despite nearly nightly dreams about my father and the incessant urge to lie to my school friends about my circumstances and his whereabouts*, I thought that it didn’t bother me.  My mom and I had the sort of close more friends than mother and daughter relationship that my friends envied, and so I thought, what am I missing, really?  Awkward visits with some deadbeat who treated my mom like crap and whom my grandparents have labeled GIANT LOSER?  Thanks, but no thanks. (*One of the best ones was in 5th grade when I told my Jewish best friend that my father was a lawyer named Joe Diamond who lived in New York.   My friend, Jill, said “Oh, Diamond, that’s a Jewish name” with a note of skepticism and, just like that, the jig was up and I developed a reputation for lying, something that I didn’t shake for quite some time.  Of course, it was exacerbated by the fact that I was a liar, constantly making up background for myself that simply did not exist.)

Even as an adult, I’ve managed to mostly sweep my feelings about him under the rug.  There are a few standout moments, mostly shrouded in humiliation, like when my mother called security at Hollins, convinced that, after 18 years, now that I was alone at college, I was in grave danger, and my father would try to steal me away.  Or the way I shamelessly threw myself at a certain college professor, a father-figure substitute that I hadn’t really noticed I’d been chasing for quite some time.  But, for the most part, I don’t talk about it because I don’t think about it.

But, it manifests itself in different ways.  Sometimes, I feel myself actually getting jealous of my children.  Really.  And, if I feel even slightly irrelevant to my husband, I freak.  And then there is the anger, the useless kind that rises up in me at the weirdest times.  All of this together is starting to become pretty noticable, like, maybe I really need to deal with this.

And then, out of the blue, almost two years ago, I received a letter.  A letter from my father’s baby sister.  The first contact of any kind that I have had from that side of my family.  Ever.

And, suddenly, I’m seeing photos of my cousins and my paternal grandmother.  And tears flow, regularly.  And questions and feelings surface that I haven’t dealt with in forever.  And my mom feels very insecure and worried and angry.  And I feel pressure to be someone, to make something happen, to get to know her.

And I just shut down.  I couldn’t handle it.  Despite her regular check-ins and friendly emails riddled with emoticons, I feel as though I cannot go on.  There’s a big part of me who wants to know more about her and about my family.  But there is this obstacle, this hurdle.  Do I really want to know why my father hasn’t contacted me?  Like, ever?  Is he in jail?  Is he dead?  Or does he honestly not care at all that I live and breathe, and have done so, every day of my life, with no dad?

This is hard to write.  I do not want to deal with this.  I want to hear that he died, tragically, right after my mother left him, and, of course, that’s why I never heard from him and that’s why I won’t ever hear from him.  Any other information about him- I’m just not sure I could take.

But snippets from my aunt (oh god, my AUNT) lead me to believe he’s alive and well.  It’s obvious that she doesn’t want to talk about him- she actually said “I’m afraid if I tell you about your dad, you won’t want to talk to me anymore” whatever the eff THAT MEANS!- and I appreciate her situation.  When my mom left my dad, my Aunt Jolynn was 12.  She’s not responsible for whatever happened between them.  Hell, she doesn’t even know.  From her perspective, my mom leaving was a very unpleasant shock that she’s been trying to understand for 30 years.

So, although Jolynn has been patient, she’s been persistent.  She really wants to get to know me, eventually meet and introduce me to her parents, my grandparents.  She believes, strongly, in family, and she once loved my mother, like an older sister.  And, I guess in a lot of ways, I feel like I owe her.  I mean, she sure held on to hope for a long time, waiting until she thought I was surely ready to be contacted.  And it’s definitely not her fault, any of it, but especially that I have yet to truly confront my feelings on this topic.

So, that’s what I’m doing this summer.  I’m raising kids and a garden and getting to know my long-lost aunt.  I’m VERY concerned about what will come out of this.  I’m very concerned.

I’m writing her a long letter, today, and laying it all out. I want to get all of the father-info out of the way so that Jolynn and I can get to know each other and so that she can be released from the burden of conveying information about him.

I hope she’s open to that.  I hope I’m open to this.

*****

But the day to day takes over, as it should.  Cooking, cleaning, raising seedlings, washing, playing, singing, chasing.  I’ve put myself on a three day rotation of hard work, light work, and rest to prepare my body for the rigors of gardening.  So far, I’ve managed to get quite a lot done in my yard and around my house.  Today is my first day at the garden, prepping it for tilling, which should happen on Sunday.  I have to admit, I am unaccustomed to hard physical labor.  In fact, the last time I worked hard everyday was in Americorps in 2003!  Needless to say, it’s going to take me at least a few weeks to really prepare for this endeavor, but I am determined.  In fact, I’m ecstatic.  A few hours of hard work in the hot sun, every day, alone, is just what I need.  And how.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. niacovoni permalink
    March 22, 2011 1:15 PM

    your insightfulness is profound…

    • Syreeta permalink
      March 22, 2011 9:03 PM

      Spent some time dwelling, recently…

  2. March 22, 2011 5:35 PM

    I think you’re amazing, and I think it’s honestly cool that you’re forging ahead with this new family member of sorts. The fact that she reached out to YOU speaks volumes — there’s probably a layer of guilt under that motivation; it sounds as if she feels weirdly culpable for the actions of her brother and wants to somehow atone. You *are* her niece, even if she doesn’t know how amazing you are in real life, you know? It’s a pretty special relationship. I think she’d be really impressed by how mature, sane, and strong you turned out.

    You’re proof positive that one’s environment counts way more than genetics in shaping a person — even though you know how much I love your Mama. 🙂 Dads are wonderful, and I adore mine even when he’s driving me nuts, but there have been times in my life when I’ve palpably longed for a mother like yours. Count me among those envious friends. I know you probably already do.

    *sigh* I remember that freshman year situation with your mom and security and that terrible phone call. That was so scary. And as for that professor, YOU have NO reason to feel any shame or embarrassment whatsoever, if you ask this (super protective and probably too judgmental) girl.

    One last thing: have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet? It’s IMPERATIVE that you read it before you really get dirty in that garden. You will adore it up, down, and sideways, I SWEAR.

    • Syreeta permalink
      March 22, 2011 9:00 PM

      I’m getting that book at the library TOMORROW. And as for everything else you said, well, I’m so glad I’ve had you in my corner for this long. XO

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