Thursday, September 10, 2009

Putting the Pieces Together

It has been a busy two weeks since my last entry. No sooner did I get through the end of the month rush at work before I had to jump back into the rush of another month with a short turnaround time for getting everything done.

In the interval, I had a great weekend of camping with the family and spent some time thinking about and trying to find out more about something an aunt told me about my father when she was here for a visit a month ado. Before I share what she said, a little background.

My mother and father separated when I was five - a long, long time ago (there were cars, but I'm not sure about color television.) - and divorced soon after. The way it has always played out in my mind is that one day he was there, the next he was gone. When I say gone, I mean gone completely - no visits on the weekends, no calls, no letters, nothing. It was as if he had never existed.

During the intervening years, through my mother's bad relationships and an even worse second marriage, I wondered what had happened to my father and what had happened to cause him to simply disappear. No one seemed to know, or at least no one was talking.

The only answer I ever got on the subject from my mother was that my father "couldn't handle the responsibility of a family." While I'm sure she did not mean it this way, inside I took that to mean it was my fault for the end of their marriage. I never included my sister in that blame equation; I suppose at some level I concluded that she was a second attempt to get it right. If I had turned out right or perhaps had never been born they would have stayed together and life would have been different.

I won't bore you with what my therapist has to say about this. Suffice to say that this episode of my childhood and the way I interpreted it caused all kinds of problems for me in terms of interpersonal relationships, emotional commitments, and simply living. Because the separation was so complete and so permanent, all of the pieces seemed to fit together to support the conclusion that I was somehow to blame for my parents' divorce.

That is because my mother's explanation was the only story I had - until a little more than a month ago. That was when an aunt came to town and gave me the initial piece of a new story, one that took me out of the blame equation, one that held the promise of a rational explanation - finally - if I could get some more details.

At that time, she told me that my mother had thrown my father out for some unnamed transgression and that he had possibly ended up in prison. Prison would have explained why he never came to visit and could have explained no letters and no telephone calls - for a time. But what could he have done to cause my mother not to want him around us ever again. I needed more information.

After talking about this revelation with my therapist, she encouraged me to contact my aunt to see if I could get more details about what had happened. So I e-mailed my aunt. E-mail seemed safer than a phone call in case my aunt couldn't or wouldn't say more. It also allowed me to be crystal clear in what I was asking for, and it allowed me to take emotion out of it, especially the potential for an angry outburst if no other information was available or forthcoming.

I sent the e-mail. And I waited. After eight days with no answer, my therapist encouraged me to call my aunt to see whether she had gotten my e-mail. Because of computer problems, she hadn't. So I waited some more. Another eight days passed. Finally, Wednesday morning before work, I checked my e-mail again, and there was the response I had been waiting for. I read it through and thought to myself, it all fits.

It seems my father had been guilty of infidelity, only with a criminal twist. The "other woman" turned out not to have been a woman after all but an underage girl. According to my aunt, it wasn't the first time, either. So my mother kicked him out and, as my aunt says, because she was afraid he might hurt one of us, my mother didn't want my father coming around.

After all these years, I now have a different story with different pieces, and they all seem to add up. They seem to explain the sudden breaking of contact and the subsequent years of silence on the part of my father. But deep inside, I still seem to need a bit more.

Perhaps it's the doubting Thomas in me or perhaps it's the spirit of the reporter I used to be, but there is part of me that now wants to know for sure whether he went to prison and for what. My aunt has taken the new story as far as she can. Now it is time for me to take it and flesh it out and perhaps craft the happy ending I never really thought was possible. Until now.