A baptismal class prompted this blog
I was at a baptismal class last night at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood. I’m going to be my nephew’s godmother. The hosts of the class had us stand and introduce ourselves and talk about the baby we were representing. Most of the attendees there were parents who were there to prepare for the baptism of their children. It made me think of babies, families and of course, fathers.
My mom is the oldest of six girls. No boys. The two oldest were born out of wedlock. Different fathers for both my mom and my Aunt Ellie. My mom didn’t meet her father until she was 20 years old. My Aunt Ellie didn’t meet her father at all. The four youngest girls did grow up with their father. But the relationship seems strained. He was able to provide for them but he was not emotionally present. My aunts have gone through hard times but they have never shared their troubles with their father. They have never asked for advice about love or raising children.
I didn’t meet my father until I was 27. It was a weird experience. I was in Honduras but I had not planned to look for him. But since I was there…I thought, what I have I got to lose? Plus I kept thinking about walking around the plaza in San Pedro Sula and what if I passed my father on the street and didn’t know he was my father. Just passed him by…my FATHER. The person who provided half the parts needed for my existence. I couldn’t leave the country without at least trying to see him. I found him but no relationship developed. I looked so much like him. But we were so different. Complete opposites. I never trusted him. Never felt safe with him. Shouldn’t fathers do that for you? Shouldn’t they make you feel special? I thought I was going to feel something! But nothing came. I mistakenly thought I would have closure. I would suddenly know how to deal with men because I found my father. He could teach me what I’d been missing. How do I relate with your species Dad? How can I reach out and not be intimidated? But it was too late for him to teach me anything. The opportunity was gone.
He had tried searching for me after my mother left him but had given up after a few years. Upon meeting him, I quickly learned he was a womanizer. My mother was with me when we met and he was more interested in starting another affair with her than in getting to know me. I found out he’d had other children out of wedlock and he had not raised any of them. I also had an older sister but he didn’t have a good relationship with her either. I couldn’t at the time (and even now) stop thinking about the lives scattered throughout San Pedro Sula and surrounding villages that could be related to me…my siblings. Brothers perhaps? I think so. At least that’s what I remember he said. He had two boys with a woman from Puerto Cortez. He didn’t raise any of them. He wasn’t part of their lives and didn’t seem to care. It was normal.
I remember feeling like I was an intrusion, an unwelcome wrench in the life his then wife thought he should be having. She seemed worried about my existence. Perhaps she thought I wanted money? She never verbally made this concern known but I felt it. My Dad immediately started making plans about how our relationship should develop. He was going to change his will and give me his name (in fact he did change my last name to his in Honduras without my permission several years later) and when and for how long I would stay and visit the next time I stopped by. He also seemed a bit too interested in my immigration status in the US. Are you a resident or citizen? “You know you can immigrate family, don’t you? I used to live in New Orleans….I wouldn’t mind living in the US.” Although happy to see me (I think he cried when he saw me) he was also interested in what I represented. A sure way to getting citizenship in the US. He was my father but he wanted something from me.
Visiting Honduras for the first time fulfilled my need to belong to a place, a community and a culture but it left me empty in other ways. I wanted to belong to SOMEONE…a father, a family, a history. Unfortunately, I did not fulfill this need by meeting my father.