It's so weird to see a picture of my dad on Facebook. He is my father; my blood, and I know nothing about him. Well, not nothing. I know a few things, and I remember a few things or at least I think I do. But really what is memory and what is just my imagination? I have a very, very vague memory of him sitting next to me while I'm whining in the bathtub. I'm a world-class whiner to this day. Anyway, I was whining because I was hot and itchy, and I couldn't get to sleep in the middle of the night. He didn't know what to do with me so he put me in the tub. I don't know if it made me sleepy or not, but I remember him trying to stay awake, sitting on the edge of the tub, and watching me so that I wouldn't drown. I was supremely uncomfortable in my own skin, and it was not a good feeling. He tried to make me feel better. I couldn't have been more than five-years-old so can I really be remembering or is it just my mind conjuring an image of something that I think I remember? If I was five then he was only 23. He would be 73 now.
I was startled to see his picture on my computer screen. He has a half-smile on his face and he is sitting next to one of his grandchildren. It makes me wonder what he was thinking when the picture was snapped. Do I look like him? Maybe, a little bit. We have the same body type, I think. I'm Facebook friends with my half-brother, half-sister, my stepmom, a couple of cousins and a few other people in his family so it's not a surprise that I would see a picture of him but it still startled me. I like being Facebook friends with them. It has given me a small chance to get to know them a little bit. Also, it's interesting to find out how much I have in common with people I haven't seen in years.
He looks so much like my nana, his mom. I have vivid memories of her. Loving memories. She unsuccessfully tried to teach me how to sew, she made me take afternoon naps and she would make me chocolate pudding. I'm not talking about opening a snack pack. I'm talking about standing over a hot stove and actually "making" chocolate pudding. If I finished the entire bowl (and seriously who doesn't finish the bowl?) then I could see a picture in the bottom of the bowl. I don't remember what the picture was, but I remember that it was blue. I also remember that she loved all her sons fiercely; just like I love my sons.
My dad smoked cigarettes and drank RC cola. In my scant childhood memories of him he is always wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. I've also seen pictures of him wearing a uniform. He was badly injured in Vietnam due to an explosion. I don't know any details; although, I'm sure I was told about it more than once. I do have a murky memory of him lifting his t-shirt and showing me, and my brother, his scars. That happened much later when I was a teenager. My mom took him to court for child support when I was already in high school, and as part of the agreement we had to spend one weekend a month with him and his family in another town. I'm sure he enjoyed those weekends no more than I did. He was a stranger to me and I was to him. I remember I slept on the couch and resented every single second of it because I wanted to spend my weekends with my friends in my town. I was a teenager and I'm sure I was very unpleasant to be around. As soon as I got an after school job I stopped spending weekends with him. He was probably just as relieved as I was.
I legally changed my last name when I was 18. I was very passionate about it at the time. I didn't want my last name to be the same as my dad's last name. It was a revenge thing for me, and probably very petty on my part. I don't even remember what exactly made me do it, but I changed my last name to my stepdad's last name. I never got to be "Daddy's Girl" so that was my main motivation for doing what I did I'm sure. I know for a fact that it really hurt my nana and that was not my intent but of course it hurt her. A year later, I got married and my last name changed again. My dad did not walk me down the aisle when I got married. My stepdad did and he was no prize, but that's a different story.
I have no idea what my dad thought about my last name then or now. We never discussed it. We never discussed a lot of things. My nana tried to get us to talk to each other, but that didn't work either. She called me when I was a grown woman, with children of my own, to tell me that my dad had kidney cancer and the prognosis was not good. She urged me to call him while he was in the hospital and I remember having to really force myself to pick up the phone and do it. I didn't know what to say to him and he didn't know what to say to me and it wasn't a very long conversation.
He is still alive and I'm glad. He still has scars. I have my own scars, but don't we all? I don't need to talk to him. What would I say? What would he say? I do sometimes wonder about the things we might have in common. Is he cynical? Is he funny? Does he like to read? Does he like chocolate pudding? Does he ever think about me? I don't know and in the end what does it matter. He exists and because of that I exist and my children exist and someday their children will exist and on and on and on and that does make me feel better.