Friday, June 18, 2010

My Three Fathers..Part One


My main childhood memory of the man who provided half my genetic code is not his face at all.  It is his electrician's belt.  After searching though about 825 images, I was very disappointed to find Google doesn't seem to have my memory accurately depicted in their database.  The closest it got was still not what was captured in my mind's eye.  I remember it being dark brown leather with a thick leather belt strap and covered in pockets, slick and shiny from use, full of tools of his trade.  He's not wearing it in my's just laying on the floor after being discarded from the day's use.  

Interestingly enough the word that comes to mind is "utilitarian".  I wanted to be sure that word means to Webster what it means in my mind, so I looked it up.  One definition is basically "fitting some purpose/designed for use/worth to some end".  That mostly fits what I had in mind.  But as I dug further into the word, I found the definition of utilitarianism..."a doctrine that the useful is the good... the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically : a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

Ironically, that definition fits what I have come to understand of my biological father better than what I originally had in mind.  The determination of what constitutes "right conduct" should be based on the usefulness of its consequences.  The aim of action should be "the largest possible balance of ...the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

If you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have said the part of that definition that represented him was "the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain"--his pleasure over his pain.  Twenty years ago I didn't have children of my own.

My parents divorced when I was about five.  (If you read the series of posts I wrote for my mom, now you can see why I said life changed a lot for me that year of my life.)  My mom moved out of state; my brother and I moved with her.  When she remarried, she gave us the choice of who we wanted to live with.  I choose to stay with her.  I didn't really know my biological father.  He worked a lot....out of state.  Between the time of the divorce and her remarriage, only a few mental images were added to the one of the tool belt...only a couple of which were actually happy memories of him.

I saw him only once after my choice was made, until 17 years more had passed.  During that time the man my mother married, the man I called "Daddy" for most of my life, adopted me.  In order for him to do biological father had to relinquish his paternal rights. 

At the time I believed this to be a matter of "the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain"--his pleasure over his pain.

I reconnected with him as an adult, well after I had two children of my own.  He explained the decision to allow the word "step" to be removed from the relationship with my "Daddy".  He believed it to be a matter of "the largest possible balance of ...the greatest happiness of the greatest number."  He tearfully recounted to me the night he signed the papers.  In his mind I had moved on just as my mother had.  This man I had called Daddy for most of my life at that point had replaced him.  He was certain that by signing over his legal rights, the pain it caused him would be overshadowed by the happiness it would surely give me, my mother and my Daddy.

For most of my life I believed my biological father had little concern for me, little concern for my happiness.  I believed the decision he made was for reasons I won't mention here, but certainly not with an unselfish heart.  I have come to believe, correctly or not, this sacrifice was made as an act of love for me.

Happy Father's Day...Dad.  I love you.


  1. this brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing

  2. Oh, Dana. What a gifted, moving writer you are. This was just so lovely, and heartbreaking. I love this journey you're taking us on.