A stranger left me a voice mail a few months back that went a little something like this: "Hey, FRANCES [yelly capitalization mine], it's Billy, give me a call back when you get a chance."
Well not a "stranger" per se. Billy, in fact, is my father's name.
For those of you who don't know my name is Helena, not Frances. Frances is my mother the lesbian. The woman who after playing footsie with heterosexuality, bisexuality and then full on lesbianism, decided to have a kid with her on-again-off again (see footsie) boyfriend of 10 years. A man who for all biological intents and purposes is my dad.
But he's also a stranger. We met once in the early half of 1981. Back when my existence was marked in months, not years.
My dad is like a recurring dream you try to remember the next morning but just can't no matter who long you lay completely still, hoping for the clear images to bubbling back to the surface. Sort of like a Magic Eight ball. If I had one I'd ask it, "Should I call this mofo back?"
Do I sound hostile? That's new. I swear.
For the majority of the 31 years I've stalked the planet, Billy's absence has only just slightly affected my outlook on life. OK more than slightly. But instead of those girls who have daddy issues and who then explicably fall victim to promiscuity or teenaged rage or drugs, I went the opposite route. My self esteem, thankfully, has never been tied to what a no-count butthole the man my mom chose for me is.
But strangely enough, now that I'm all grown up I've reverted to immovable immaturity when it comes to that other half of my DNA.
In January, I met my paternal grandmother for the second time in my life. She's lived in the same house for five decades. That's right. The family I don't know have been a memorized address away for like ever.
Anyway, when my mom and I walked through her screen door I was involuntarily cool. I could tell she didn't know whether to hug me or shake my hand, so I went for the handshake. What an asshole move! I thought in my head as my body led me to the pink velvet chair furthest from her. I let my mom do all the talking. They both remembered Christmas 1990 when I supposedly gave my dad's mom a "gift basket" and a handmade card. She glanced my ways with hopeful old lady eyes, "You were so tiny. Do you remember that?"
"No." What is wrong with me?
It was only after she started lightly bashing my dad that things started to melt between us. She hadn't seen him in months, despite the fact that she'd been sick. And she'd left messages. For some reason I felt, I don't know, comforted by that fact. That there wasn't this endless well of love and affection my father'd been doling out to everyone else but me.
Before we left, my grandmother asked if I'd seen a picture of Billy before. I told her I only had an old late 70s photo he sent my mom when he was in the navy. She said she only had old photos too (another thing we had in common) but she wanted to show them to me nonetheless. He was handsome.
Between then and now, I got that ridiculous voice mail. That was the first time I've heard my father's voice. My throat tightened and my eyes narrowed. All I could think was, "For real, homie?" When I asked Frances about it, she pretended like it was no biggie, "Oh yeah, Billy did call me." Apparently he's been feeling contrite. He wanted to meet with me but by the time he'd gotten the cojones to call, I was already back in Washington.
"It's just so awkward," he told my mother. "She probably hates me."
Well no, I don't. But I'm not hype about him either.
It's hard to truly miss or even deeply emotionally internalize what you've never had, especially if you've got a mom who, perhaps overcompensating for the choices she made, worked overtime. The phrase, "I'm the mother and the father" is a misnomer but it's not entirely off the mark.
Recently boyfriend asked what the downside of giving my father a call would be. Thus far my dad's only been a passing shadow over my otherwise awesome future. I imagine weddings, births, holidays with something slightly missing. But then it passes and I remember how lucky I am. Basically he isn't real.
Actually meeting him or having a conversation with him would, in my mind, solidify the fact that I'm a 31-year-old woman who's never met her father. How ridiculous does that sound? More ridiculous than being a 61-year-old man who's never met his ONLY child? I don't know.
In the immortal genius of Clash, I'm wondering "Should I stay or should I go?" Should I stay on the safe side of the fatherless or go over to the potentially dangerous side of the badly fathered? For now all signs point to "I have no clue" but without a Magic Eight Ball to make the difficult decisions for me, I'm shaking you all down for answers, opinions or any hybrid thereof.