I wish I had an answer to that question, because the nature of my patriarchal lineage is somewhat of a mystery and not by my own choice. My biological father (hereafter known as father #1) left us when I was 1 year old and so, for the most part, I was unaware of him in my life until he showed up out of the blue one day when I was 10.
He was a curious figure, revealed so suddenly and unexpected, and I did what little me pretty much always did and that’s to observe, suck it all in and try to sort it out later in a way that caused me the least amount of distress. I still use that method today, albeit begrudgingly, but by now it’s an adulthood reflex.
Anyway, there he stood as my mother introduced me to him and I hardly knew what to say. Who is this guy who looks vaguely like me and why is he standing here and ‘can’t I just go outside and play’? But no, play is not an option when dad (dad?) is putting in an appearance. You never know when he’s going to bolt so you have to do the time.
I began playing the drums when I was 8, just like him, and he took some interest in my drum set that was stricken with a broken snare drum head. The ghost of my father handed me $10 and told me to go get the snare head replaced and, soon after, he was gone. Gone like the apparition that he was to me my entire life. Gone like a cool breeze that hits you in the face and then moves on randomly.
Not too long after; my mother, me and a friend were driving in a busy urban area when my mother casually pointed out that the man weaving back and forth on the sidewalk was my father. And again the breeze washed over me, as it turned out, for the last time and all I had to show for it was the afterimage of his drunken backside swaying from side to side like wind-blown clothes hanging from a line.
Much later on my mother let me know that he had surprised her as much as me by asking her if she’d consider reconciliation and getting back together. Imagine that, letting bygones be bygones, bury the hatchet, all’s well that ends well and other such nonsense after taking a prolonged powder.
Geez, even at 10 I thought it was ridiculous for a person to just pop up and suggest something like that with barely a nod to the missing past 9 years! I came away with the unchallenged opinion that my father was a lame-ass and that’s not necessarily the kind of thing that you want a child to be thinking about a parent.
Over the years, and even into my 50’s, I’d wrestled with the idea of seeking him out, even though he tried to mask his whereabouts (as he did to his other children by different marriages), but never followed through even though we nailed down his location. I was both compelled and afraid to confront him for many reasons and, finally, his recent death released me from the decision making process.
I have anecdotal evidence, via my mother, that he, indeed, helped to create me and my brief visual at least gave me a form to work with but, in my tangible world, he remains the same haunting presence that I spotted when I was 10 and I now know for certain that there are such things as ghosts.