This is a photograph of an oil painting of my mother, Carol, and my father, Sidney. According to my uncle (who sent this to me in last year’s big box o’ memorabilia), my mother had this painting commissioned for their wedding portrait.
This is one of the very few images that I have of my mother, and the ONLY image that I have of my father. It was a shocking revelation to see just HOW MUCH I look like my father. I mean, see?
My nose, my cheeks, my chin, the shape (and color? are his blue?) of my eyes… good grief, I’m his clone. My uncle says I have my mother’s eyebrows and eyelashes, skin, and hair texture (and I had her teeth, with those damned fang-like eyeteeth that needed to be braced into submission). My personality, though – according to my uncle, my upbringing, and my memories – is a mixture of my mother and my grandmother. My ability to cook, common sense, and just the way I “go about things”, Uncle Fred says, I get from my grandmother. My sarcastic sense of humor, optimism, and ability to dance I get from my mother.
We can argue “nurture vs. nature” all day long; I maintain we are a sum of our internal make-up and external influences. There’s a thought that I have buried in my head, though, that I can’t quite get out right. Something about the external qualities that my father’s DNA bestowed upon me, and the internal qualities that my mother’s DNA gave me. And how I’m really glad that it turned out that way, because (given the stories that I’ve heard about him) I’d much rather LOOK like my father, than THINK like him.
I don’t know the people in that painting. Not at all, not even a little bit. All I have are stories from my uncle and my sister, and very VERY faint memories of day-to-day life with my mother (who died when I was eight, and was in and out of the hospital for all of my life before that, so that I spent more time at my aunt’s and grandmother’s than I did at home). Since my parents got divorced when I was three, and my father had no visitation rights whatsoever, I don’t have any memories of him at all. As far as I understand it, he’s still living in my hometown in Maine. What circumstances prevented him from trying to contact me at all, either when we still lived in the same town, or since I’ve grown up and moved away, I don’t know. My sister (from my mother’s first marriage, but we never considered one another as “half”) says he’s married with children grown – I have half-siblings out there that I’ve never met. And while my sister says I’m very much better off for not having any kind of relationship with my father (and she, being ten years older than me, would know), I still wonder, sometimes. Really, I just wonder why he’s content to have it that way. Does he think that he’s better off, or does he think that I’m better off?
I just wonder. I wonder what it would be like to be someone’s daughter. I wonder what it would be like to call someone “Mum” or “Dad”. I wonder what it would be like to know those stories about myself that everyone else seems to know about themselves – first steps, first words, that time I cut my own hair, the first time I tried to ride a bike. Hell, I don’t even know what time of day I was born – it doesn’t say on my birth certificate. It’s a frustrating, half-orphan state, really. And it makes me sad, sometimes.
It also makes me unbelievably grateful for my grandmother, who raised me and (in my humble opinion) did a stupendous job. She was almost my whole family, and I miss her terribly.