Saturday, January 30, 2010

Looking for Myself in Another Man's Face

I can count on one hand the times I remember being in the same room as my father. Unfortunately, the most intimate part of those meetings consisted of a few awkward minutes on a bench, in a hallway outside of a courtroom. Child support (or rather the failure to pay it) is a great way of bringing a family together, if only for an hour or two and in the presence of a judge and a couple of lawyers.

I was born out of wedlock. Well, that's only part of it. The part you're supposed to tell people to avoid uncomfortable questions or bringing the conversation to a halt. Most importantly, to avoid them passing judgment on the person who gave all she had to protect and nurture you and whose amazing spirit made you the person you are today (warts and all). I was the product of an extra-marital affair.

I imagine it is because of this that my mother didn't have any photos of my father. As time passed, and I no longer saw my father in court, his face became more and more blurred in my memory. So much so, that even though my mother always said I resembled him, I feared I would simply not recognize him if we were to find ourselves in the same room one day. She never spoke poorly of him. In fact, she always told me that if I wanted to spend time with him or have him in my life, in any way, I could. She even encouraged it. But when your encounters with your father have been as limited and of a less than positive nature, or your thoughts of him consist of mostly wondering why he doesn't have any interest in you... you're just don't feel comfortable enough to attempt a connection.

The internet is an amazing thing. Though I never met any of my relatives on my father's side it has made it possible for me to connect with many other Gascots. Some have found me through my website, but most have reached out through Facebook. Most have been distant cousins. The closest (to my knowledge) until recently was the wife of one of my brothers. Some have seemed happy to communicate with me at first, but when I share my place in the family tree, or my true feelings about my father (which are in actuality not negative, I simply refuse to romanticize him), they seem to stop writing.

Over the past two weeks I have been emailing back and forth with a first cousin (daughter of one of my father's sisters). She seems like a truly wonderful person. She said, like my mother so many times before, that I resemble my father. I explained that I have no detailed recollection of his face and that though I seek no reunions, I would love the chance to see his face. I suppose this was my way of asking if she had any photos she could share with me without asking bluntly for one. I can't say I understand this sudden desire to see his face. Maybe I realize that though he had nothing to do with shaping the person I am today, he had at least half to do with the fact that I sit here typing this at all.

A few hours ago I received a photo of him (and his brothers and sisters) from my cousin. I never anticipated what it might feel like, looking for myself in another man's face. Or having my fear of not recognizing my own father confirmed. It is all very strange, but I am extremely grateful. Though virtually a stranger, my cousin has given me a gift no one else has ever been able to (or offered to). I still don't know what to make of it all, but I hope I will get more photos of him. For now, I think I will keep staring at that face, searching for that resemblance everyone always told me about.

4 comments:

Amy said...

John,

I think we all need to remember that no one is 100% good or bad, we are just human. My mother divorced my real dad when she was pregnant with me. I've seen him once. As with you, my mother never had a negative thing to say about him.

Enjoy the family you find that can be enjoyed. I don't blame you for not romanticizing it. You are so full of love and beauty because of your mom, and I hope you connect with the family that is observant and apreciative enough to see it!

Martha Marshall said...

John, I am moved by your bravery in telling this to the world. Some people don't care to know, and others are drawn to fitting the puzzle pieces together. I'm glad you've found someone who can help you connect with your father in whatever way that you can.

John G. said...

Thank you both. :hugs:

C. Robin Janning said...

John,

So many of us have "complicated" family stories. You have shared your story with so much grace that I felt very emotional by your cousin's gift. I hope you find joy at some point in searching not just his face, but those of his brothers and sisters as well.

Robin