In my home we are all fatherless children.
My own father died on June 13, 1997, the Friday before Father’s Day. Yes, on Friday the 13th. But honestly it felt more like Thursday because we’d been with him all day and it was around 1 am that he died. That Sunday, Father’s Day, was really tough. I remember watching the teenage girl next door being picked up for the day by her playboy father and wanting to send her a message to appreciate him while she can – you never know when he might be gone.
Krystal has a birth father, of course, but we do not know who he is. She considers my ex her father, but he is not. Not legally. Since he does not live nearby he is not part of our regular life, and his contact over the past year in particular has been spotty. When he does visit he’s fully “here”, but he doesn’t call for long stretches and just when I think maybe he’s fading away, the phone will ring. Or he’ll have a birthday (2 weeks ago) and I’ll give in and let Krystal call him, which is something I do not encourage.
Belle has an unknown birth father too, but also a foster father who raised her until I adopted her at just over 2 years old. We have pictures of him and she has some memory of him, most of which are probably kept alive because of those pictures. I also have email contact with her foster family, which has petered out quite a bit after a flurry in the beginning, and some weirdness in the middle. The nugget that is relevant here is that about two years ago I got an email from the adult daughter that the father had cancer, and this past February she sent an email that he had died in January. I have not told Belle this.
At school this time of year there is always a Father’s Day project for the kids to work on. Belle’s school is very familar with our family make-up, and last year the Father’s Day gift she made was for me. She has also made things for Krystal whenever they make parent gifts – one for me, and one for her, when other kids are making one for each parent. Yesterday she came home with a wrapped gift, and since it is wrapped in tissue paper I can see through it. It is a bookmark (she told me that) with “#1 Dad” on it. I asked her who she wanted to give it to. I fully expected her to say my ex – he is visiting this weekend and Belle calls him “Daddy”, which I think she thinks is his name, even though she understands that he is not her dad. But she said she wanted to give it to Baba, and would I put it in a package and send it to China?
I said I would.
What I think I will really do is put it away.
What I don’t know what, or when, to do is tell her that Baba has died. Is this something I should have done when I learned of it? Or given the unlikelihood of seeing her foster family again is it better for her to maintain happy memories? Although I can’t imagine keeping this from her until she’s an adult, and what will happen when she finds out I’ve known for so long? I think I have my answer – I need to tell her soon.
And what I feel a teensy bit jealous about is that even though I am doing the job of mom and dad in raising my kids, someone else is getting the attention on Father’s Day. Despite the fact we are all fatherless children.
** Cue the harps and violins – I know I am whining about nothing! Really! But I’m thinking about it so here it is.