I have jumped with both feet into my gene pool and the ripples are spreading. Mother-Father-Siblings-Aunts-Uncles-Cousins. Steps away from the Mom/Dad ground zero to ripple over grand aunts and uncles, over cousins x removed, over friends, lovers, co-workers, and acquaintances, mostly on my father’s side. I try to tread carefully among the inhabitants of the small towns to protect my mother’s privacy until such time as she declares the need for secrecy is over, but I am eager and sometimes obsessive and it doesn’t seem like that big of a puzzle for the curious to solve. I harbor a knot of anxiety over this but I can’t make myself stop searching for whatever remnants of my father exist. I fear that they are disintegrating all the time and when I find them they will be like the ash of a newspaper that will crumble in my hands before I am able to make out more than a word or two.
I have also found decades-old conflicts and heartaches that ripple forward from their points of origin to become landmines or obstacles for me to overcome. A box of pictures is precious, irreplaceable knowledge and connection to me, but reduced to being a hostage in a power struggle between others. Their conflict is almost meaningless for me so I delicately try to negotiate with both sides, hoping against hope that I can tease my precious treasure free and leave them to find other weapons.
I no longer have any perspective on how I am likely to be perceived. I reached out to a 2nd cousin 1x removed because we had been linked via DNA, and despite that it took some convincing to assure her that I was legit. She was the first one to demand proof and her suspicion almost discouraged me – and also made me unexpectedly indignant. I still feel a little awkward with her, mostly because her suspicion caused me to stop and review myself and in so doing I discovered that a part of me feels ashamed of myself for being so pushy, for asking to be acknowledged with little more than my own word for proof, for asking people to share their memories and their pictures when I have nothing to offer in return except a relationship with me should they want that. And why should they? Especially when my ripples touch people who are very distantly related or even almost entirely disconnected from my father’s memory now.
Warring with the shame and anxiety is anger and indignity… this is my father I’m asking about and I have every right to at least pictures of him if not memories. Especially since to pretty much everyone else, such things have little or no value. And I know now that he wanted to find me and had tried several times. The wanting to find me changed the course of his life, because he refused to have children with his wife because of me. When he was alive the government and society stood between us, and now it’s just time and indifference and a little bit of suspicion. So I will continue to make those phone calls and send those emails, hoping against hope that someday I might have more than two pictures of him. That’s all I have now, two pictures. One from high school and one from the late 70s that his ex-wife shared with me. I continue to reassure myself that it is OK to want more.