As if today couldn't get any better.
The wee ones and I had a marvelous time skipping school and making the most of our summer day, whizzing around a balmy August brew like love-mad beetles then huddling inside during our timely and tempestuous afternoon storm (skipped the movie but we didn't need it anyway). My suggestion of chili-mac vetoed by a 3-1 margin. "Order a pizza, daddy," pepperoni & black olive (munchkins loves em' some black olives) and a free box of brownie bits; my vegan earth-firster eldest daughter picked the meat off her slices. When the mountain shadows laid out our dark bedroll, the girls settled in for the twixty-dozenth viewing of The Princess Diaries while little man bashed characters on the screen with a Batman figurine.
Daddy poured himself a few drams of brandy and opened his book, kicked his feet up and waited for the inevitable wilting of the sprouts. Yes, this is my usual stream-of-consciousness nonsense (*international hand gesture signifying jerking off*) and no, it's not without direction.
This is a story I've never told, ever, not even once. Not for sense of shame or regret but because all stories need an ending and until tonight, this story was an amorphous mess. There was nothing to tell in a larger sense because it was essentially pointless.
Back in the day of my Mister Strummin' & Stompin' studman pose (jerkoff twit that I was), I went through women like guitar picks, used em' and losed em', tossing one down when it felt wrong and picking up another one as it suited me. It's not like I was dishonest about it but neither was I nice about it because hey, we all have a contract to sign and sometimes the rider is a bitch. I didn't write the rules, I sure as shit didn't enforce them (unless you owed me money, motherfucker), and I wasn't too concerned at how they were applied just as long as my dick didn't get nicked. Yes, I was a self-centered prick but I had the rationale to justify my prickiness.
In the midst of that, someone* got pregnant. Not that I cared one whit ("What do you expect ME to do about that?!?") but for basic CYA I cast aspersions, pointed fingers (not my own, of course), and indulged in my own meth-a-matics to prove it was not MY sperm that had split a zygote. When I got the call that previous conquest-n was in labor, my reaction was I wasn't there, I was insubsantial (and probably on the business end of a bong) so therefore - what was your point?
Years passed. I dropped the band gig and went back to college, cut my hair and became a Republican (juuuuuuust kidding!!!). As I was nearing the end of my second degree, I got a call from you-made-me-pregnant lady saying that "our daughter" was about to be adopted and I needed to sign over my parental rights in order to seal the deal. Considering mom was living in a meth den with toothless stooges and I was an oh-so-superior scientist with Stanford in my sites, I decided what the shit. I'll give a daddyless little girl a better life then move on with my own Platonic perfection.
There was a meeting of all involved parties in some DHS warren for everything to get stamped, notarized, and knuckled under. I met the adoptive parents and saw they were infinitely superior to me (at that point in my life); I met mom and she was as pretty as I'd remembered her; I met my dubious daughter and although she was completely apathetic to me (regarding me as if I was petrified gum under a table top), I saw myself.
As I watched Nicole dance and sing and put blocks together, I realized she was mine or at the very least, yes, I had sired her.
Later in the day, I took a trip up to see the spread the potential adoptive parents had, an estate in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the country. I was impressed. More than that, they struck me as good people who honestly wanted a child to love and nurture and pass on all the advantages that had blessed them. As soon as I got back, I signed. Even if she wasn't mine (as I continued to convince myself), the kid deserved that kind of life, a life that few of us can have.
In the years that followed, my certainty that what I saw in that beautiful little girl haunted me. At odd times, stoned to the gourd, I'd break out a picture of her and hand it to a friend and every time - EVERY TIME - they'd say, "Oh - is this your daughter?" I didn't even have to prompt them; they saw the resemblance right away. Whatever lies I told myself about her got shredded between the fine blades of my friend's perception and my own intuition that her mom had been telling the truth from the gitgo. The older I got, the more my heart made sense, that I indeed had a daughter out there despite what my shitpail head had been saying from ding one.
The louder my heart chattered, the more fantasies I had. A little girl walking back into my life, showing up at my door and announcing, "I'm pretty sure you're my dad." Me wondering how I'd react and what I'd say to justify my supreme ass holiness or how I'd weasel out of my intellectual fuck-you-all that had whitewashed my smarmy disregard for her and her mom.
I dreaded that moment, feared it hard. Yet, despite the fear, I continued to entertain that instance when she'd finally call me out and insist, "You are him, that man who made me."
Tonight was that moment, that moment when all I had imagined had become real. I had just turned out the lights when my mom called. "Do you remember your daughter from years ago? Well, she called me and asked me for your number. She's 16 now and a sweet girl, a level-headed girl. And she's about to call you." It felt as though the sleeping bag I had been walking around in had been suddenly unzipped. I was naked and cold.
Five minutes later, another call came. Not enough time for me to prepare my kids for "Hey! You have an older sister and this is how it works!"
No matter, my daughter got on the phone and blew me away. Told me all about the things she's into, what she's about, who she is, where she's going, what she's done, where she's come from, why she's calling now and how, all her life, she's wanted to talk to me. I wept. Talking about her, about me, about us, I held back the choking voice that comes with tears of joy. I'd played this moment over in my mind so many times and now, the dream comes true.
Here's my daughter:
I'm past words, beyond reason; there is nothing I can say. These pictures show me my folly, the girl I did not raise, the woman she is becoming, that knowing that she is incredible and special and brilliant and beautiful but also knowing that for whatever she is becoming, she only has my genes. My loving hand remains a mere footnote in the biography that is who she will be.
Nicole and I talked for a long time and then I passed the phone to her new-found brother and sister. Lilly assured her that yes, she was happy to learn she had an older, teenaged sister but the mother-hen-of-the-brood mantle was not being passed; Zeke assured her that he was glad that a new boss had walked into town.
This is a story that is just emerging. As I said earlier, I've never mentioned this because there was no story to tell. All of a sudden, the stories scream to be told. If there was ever an exciting time to be a reader on this blog, you just walked into the Citizen Kane moment. Rosebud is just a sled but there's so much more to be said.
*Julie - Nicole's mom - is an incredible woman. There's no intent to diminish her but the narrative, unfortunately, requires that I tell the story in a way that at worst minimizes her and at best, objectifies her. I could not find away around that without sacrificing the telling of this tale.
Julie has endured far worse than me and has risen far higher than me. If in the service of presenting this story I've diminished her at all, I apologize with all my heart. She is a much better person than I can ever hope to be.