Skip to content

Eulogy for My Elusive Father

September 17, 2018

My aunt and namesake called me on a Friday night with the news that my father was gone. Her voice cracked as she told me the news and I tried to process what she told me as I walked through Target with my husband. Doug was my father, but I had not seen him in over a decade and I had a hard time picturing his face, even though I know it looks like mine.

I was born in Oceanside, California. My parents met in high school and after a very brief courtship they married and moved across the country to California. After a very brief marriage, they divorced and my mother moved home to Michigan. My father moved back  a few years later and I saw him and his extended family on the weekends. But after a couple years of back and forth visits (and what I can only imagine to be vicious fighting with my mother) Doug made the decision to surrender his rights and allow me to be adopted by my mother’s second husband when I was seven.  I did not see my paternal family again until I was 21 years old.

Even with Doug and his family scrubbed from my life as a child, I remembered them and wondered about them. I remembered how he would take me to McDonald’s and to play with my cousins and how once I stubbed my toe and my cousin said it was nail polish and not blood so I would stop crying. I remembered singing “Time After Time” over and over and my dad joining in on the chorus. I wondered if they thought about me once I vanished and if they ever walked by my grandmother’s house, which was on the same block as my paternal grandfather’s, and wanted to ring the doorbell to see if I was there. My adopted father was young and boorish and even as a small child I couldn’t look at him without thinking that he was the one who took me away from my other family. It did not help that I was the spitting image of my father with my dark hair and eyes and easily tanned olive skin and I thought of him whenever I looked in the mirror. In contrast, my new siblings were all blue and green eyed and burned in the sunshine.

In middle school when we were all trying to come up with confessions and drama at a slumber party, I once announced very dramatically that I was adopted. And then I had to immediately follow up with “well, I’m half adopted” which lessened the punch. It wasn’t until college and access to the Internet that I tried to find him. I sent letters to addresses that I found on a people search website with copies of a picture. One day he called me and we arranged a visit.

I don’t know much about Doug but this is what I do know. If it wasn’t for him, I would not exist. He liked California and loved to surf. He was loved by his family and his other daughter, my sister Brittney. When he called me after 14 years apart, he told me that he was proud of me for going to college and that he was excited that I was a little hippie. I had to explain that the picture that I had sent was from Halloween and I wasn’t as hippie-ish as it appeared. He didn’t say anything bad about my mother, even though he could have and I would have understood. He thought he had done what was right when he signed over his rights. This is what I remember and this is what I hold in my heart.

Even though he was missing from much of my life, I thought about him and my paternal family often. My oldest son has my same dark complexion. Sometimes Brittney posts pictures and I have to do a double take to make sure it’s not me when I was younger. There are countless times that I’ve wondered if certain skills or talents or attributes came from his side of the family.

We were not in contact and yet I still grieve. He was a part of my life even if his actual presence was as elusive as a wisp of smoke, a shadow that lingered always just out of reach.  I am sorry that he made many of the choices he made, especially the one on his last day. I hope he’s at peace.

baby T and Doug


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: