Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Where do I come from? Nature vs. Nurture
As much as I put my life out on the Internet by having a blog, I rarely blog about things that are very personal to me. I worry about hurting feelings, and I know that everything you put on the Internet can come back and bite you in the ass later. The thing is though, that this is MY story and I'm going to own it, feelings be damned.
My mother and father divorced when I was a baby. I think she left him when I was around six months old. Their relationship was volatile, abusive and crappy all around. They shouldn't have been married to start with, and I wonder frequently if they fed off of each other's addictions and bad habits. I don't remember it, but my brother who is 2.5 years older than I am, does. I remember seeing my biological father (let's just go for BF for brevity) only once when I was a child. My mom re-married when I was three. I call him my Dad and I give him all props for raising me and helping me become the person I am today.
Every little girl has a dream that someone will take her away from her mundane existence and turn her into a pretty princess. Yeah, it's what Disney thrives on. Since I was raised on Disney, I always harbored these unrealistic hopes that my BF had actually gotten his life together, was married and that I would have a sister. Yes, I wanted a sister damnit! I had the brother and he was a pain in the ass. My mother was never coy about the fact that my biological father was abusive to her, never attempted to have anything to do with us, and had "issues." I knew him through a singular picture that I saw once or twice as a child, and knew next to nothing about his family but I always wondered.
When I was sixteen, I begged my aunt and grandmother to let me meet my BF. I was sixteen, my home life was screwy, I was spending the summer out east where he lived and I wanted to know where I came from. I knew I looked like my mother, not him, but there is that thing that every adopted child must go through. This quirk--did I inherit it? Can he roll his tongue? I can't (and apparently neither can he). Does he have musical talents? I have insanely good pitch and my mother is tone deaf. What part of me came from him? I think if you grow up with your biological parents, you miss these little things. I saw my grandmother recently, after about a year, and I saw how her nose has a sharper triangular end like my mothers, but it has been blunted through the generations. Now the end of my nose is more rounded. I see that she moves her body like my mother, makes the same faces like my mother and you wonder about the nature vs. nurture.
My aunt and grandmother helped facilitate my meeting my biological father that summer. This is something my mother will never forgive them for. I'm still not sure how much of that dislike and distrust was already simmering under the surface of their 'relationship' and that this was just a handy excuse for her to cut off communication. I refuse to feel guilty or apologize for meeting him. It was my time, I was able to make that decision and it should have been mine years before.
My aunt took me to meet him at a Barnes and Noble. I recognized him, not only from that picture, but because my brother does look so much like him, but life has been kinder to my brother. BF was sporting a semi-mullet, and looked like the 80's never let go of him. He smokes and it killed his teeth, he has scars on the back of his hands from putting cigarettes out on them. Life...hasn't been kind to the guy. His accent is thick, and he was kind to me. We drove around, he took me into Boston one day, and for that summer he was very engaged. He mentioned how he thought of me every year on my birthday...and then had the day wrong. Like I said...good intention, but the execution? Off. I think that he really did want this opportunity to know us, and he does regret that he hadn't been a part of our life. But, he also suffers from ADHD and depression which make it hard for him to cope with his own survival let alone attempting to carry on some sort of relationship with his kids who live hundreds of miles away.
Over the summer I was able to meet my aunts and uncle, my grandmother and cousins. When I saw my Aunt Linda, for the first time since I was a toddler, I recognized her. I could have picked her out of a crowd as being related to me. It was odd. I didn't get that with anyone else but her, and immediately liked her. I don't regret that summer in part because my grandmother died a couple of days before Christmas that year and if I hadn't met her then, I never would have. My brother actually ended up going out to live with BF, but eventually came back home after some inevitable breakdown/blow up on BF's part.
Fast forward to now. My brother has kept in touch with BF, but since I met him, and satiated my curiosity, didn't feel a burning desire to continue contact. I had a life to live and college to attend. I've sent him a few emails, but he doesn't respond much because he doesn't have much access to Internet. The other night I was laying in bed, listening to my husband read On a Pale Horse, and I got a text message...from him. My brother gave him my phone number. It didn't give me some adrenaline rush, it didn't annoy me, I felt almost nothing. I owe this man nothing, and have gotten more or less that in response. I however have kept in touch with his sister Linda, and for Christmas she sent me pictures of when I was a toddler. That...that meant more to me than anything else. Since I lived with my grandmother during this time, I didn't even know there were pictures of me. Linda, I really like. Perhaps because she has a settled life, a wonderful son and a steady job. My BF is what I fear my brother turning into. A brilliant artist without the social skills to do something with it. A wonderful brain but crippling depression that makes reaching his potential almost impossible, and a life I fear he has greatly wasted.
I thank my biological father for his ear for music and my Dad for teaching me how to play instruments and giving me an environment for learning them in. I thank my BF for creating me and knowing that he didn't have what it took to be a dad. I thank my Dad for being that man for me and my brother. My desire to know my BF has never been about my Dad not being good enough. It's always been about a need to know where I came from, and a desire to better understand myself and my motivations. I've been so lucky in my life, and so blessed. Yes, I suffer from some of the same things that my BF and mother suffer from but since the environment that I grew up in was so radically different, I never turned to alcohol and drugs as a means to escape. I turned to books, and college.