It’s my birthday today. 47. Birthdays are always the hardest day of the year to be disowned. It’s the day I am most likely to have a pity party. It also used to be the day I would most likely Google my father’s name to see how he was.
Why celebrate a birthday when my father did not celebrate me as his daughter? That’s the pity part. And then there is just the clear marking of time. Yet another year of hoping and waiting and nothing. Another year he did not respond. With his passing, I don’t have to hope any more.
But then there is my brother and sister too. As serendipity would have it, I won’t be home in New Jersey for my birthday. I will be away for work in Florida, just a few minutes from my brother’s home. So I emailed him, suggesting we meet. I called to be sure my email didn’t get lost. He never responds. I sort of understand-- he just can’t go there. That’s the thing with a father who disowns a child. The ripples of damage go on forever.
After 20 years, why do I even bother? Why do I reach out to these people who at worst hate me or at best just can’t cope with the trauma that is our family? Is hate really so much easier than love? And therein lies my answer. Yes, I still love them. Even though what they have done--are still doing--is cruel and wrong.
It would be easier I think to cut them out of my heart. That would be my Dad’s coping technique. There’s so much love and beauty in my present family. Yesterday, my daughter and I went on a Bridges run with our church. It’s a service to bring food, and tooth brushes, and sweaters to homeless or almost-homeless people in New Jersey. We had been baking homemade chocolate chip cookies for Bridges for a couple years now, but we never had a chance to go on a run to deliver them ourselves. Our hope was that the cookies, soft and gooey the way we make them, would bring just a little bit of TLC to people down on their luck. A smile perhaps. I had heard they do, but never saw for myself. I am so proud of my children. They each bake two batches, 100 cookies eac. Even my son, who was 11 when we started, will bake on his own if I am away for work. I don’t need to remind him. He knows it matters. So my daughter and I brought the cookies yesterday morning. It was ten degrees out. We gave the children in the line some extras, wishing that they didn’t need to be there at all. It was heartbreaking when we ran out of gloves.
My daughter saw a woman pushing her cart and her bag down the street. She didn’t come over to the Bridges truck. Maybe not knowing what it was, Maybe not wanting the hand out. I don’t know. My daughter grabbed two bags of sandwiches (the cookies were long gone) and caught up to her. These are the grandchildren my father never met. He never responded to their birth announcements. So I think about the type of people my children are. I watched my daughter reach out to a stranger in need. These are the gestures that remind me: no matter how worthless my father’s disowning me makes me feel, I am not worthless. None of us are.