Emotional boundaries can be tough to define. On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there. On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.
Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool. Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability. Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons. The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others. The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.
Boundaries are a necessity, though. Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity. I do not happen to believe it is. I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.
“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.
“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.
“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.
“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,” means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.
Arguments and disagreements are understandable. Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first. One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.
Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent. The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another. If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.
By James C. Glica-Hernandez
December 8, 2012
On the occasion of my granddaughter’s wedding
The heartbeat in my ear begins
Nearly imperceptibly in its inception.
My breathing more puffing and halting.
The miniature lake that develops
In the inner corner of my eye surprises me.
My years pass suddenly, shocking me.
I gaze upon a resplendent young woman,
A graduate from high school. A bride.
My heart recalls her grandmother described this way.
I recognize in her face her mother and father.
Perhaps her grandfather’s skin color appears.
My inability to tell time or date throws me.
Who are this woman’s ancestors?
Twelve congregated elders claim her as theirs.
My mind rumbles, “How is it possible that I am one of these?”
Our granddaughter is married today and
I joined her to her husband as their minister.
My spirit reels with joy and temporal confusion.
Time lies when I look in the mirror.
I am too young to be a grandfather of a married woman.
My realization is that I am the one lying today.
I was the first man to hold my delicate Littlebits.
I danced with her at her wedding today.
My truth is that she is old enough and I am old enough.
Here are my raw results from the Ancestry.com DNA test I took recently:
Eastern European 35%
Native North American 24%
Native South American 10%
Southern European 7%
To my family, some of this may come as a huge surprise. I know it did to me. Various stories are rampant in our family about our heritage. These results add both clarity and questions to our process.
The verbal histories and documents for my birth father’s family are very clear. From my third great-grandparents, each responsible for 3.13% of my genes, generations of my paternal grandfather’s family are from Michoacan, Mexico. Many more generations of my paternal grandmother’s family are from Aguascalientes, Mexico. These individuals date back nine generations from me, some into the mid-1700s, which would account for one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) from each of my ancestors at the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent level. We know the towns and villages. We know the names. We know the dates.
In my birth mother’s family, though, we have always learned that we are not Mexican. We are Native American. Period. End of story, if my grandfather’s stories are accurate. The challenge is that the groups with which we should identify ourselves are not so clear since each of my maternal grandfather’s siblings told a slightly different story. Apache, Yaqui, Blackfoot, Ohlone, and so on. Having not been reared in this family, being adopted at birth, I had to learn all of these stories after most of my ancestors were gone, and be able to decipher them the best way I knew how. Eventually, though, I came to a dead end with no document-supported, objective answers that affirmed any of the stories without question with regard to our Native American history.
Several years after discovering even what questions to ask, I heard from a cousin of mine, Catherine, who has been a vital part of our journey to discover our family history, that a researcher in Santa Barbara was asking for DNA samples for people believed to be, in anthropology-speak, Costanoan indigenous people, or those whose ancestry came from the West Coast of California. We didn’t know whether we were from this macro group or not, but we had found our people in the San Jose, California region for more than 150 years. We do not have information about where some of them were born. With this information, I offered our direct-line genealogy and a DNA sample. That was several years ago and still I have not heard anything. All I know is that my DNA currently resides in Germany with researchers who are trying to make sense of my gene pool.
Let me continue this discussion by giving some perspective to percentages in every person’s family lines. The following table shows what percentage and fraction of my genetic material each person in that generation must claim:
Parents 50% 1/2
Grandparents 25% 1/4
Great-grandparents 12.5% 1/8
Great-great-grandparents 6.25% 1/16
If more than one of my progenitors shared an ethnic history, and in our case, some even shared family history, then the overall percentages of ethnicity would be skewered, which they are.
Late last year, I heard that Ancestry.com, an organization to which I’ve belonged since 2004, began sending out notices that a DNA test would be offered. This wasn’t one of the “Y” chromosome tests for one’s paternity information, or a mitochondrial DNA test for matrilineal information. No, this was an autosomal DNA test where they evaluate a person’s entire genome at more than 700,000 sites, or markers, in the individual’s full 23 chromosomes. This was the whole picture taken from all of my genetic material. I couldn’t pass it up. I added my name to the waiting list. Several weeks ago, my name came up.
I paid my fees, and within a few days, my test arrived. I spit in the vial and sent it out that next day. That was about three week ago. Yesterday, my test results came back in. Several things happened when I received that notice: I had some information confirmed, received some new information, and realized that my DNA may be in Germany a long, long time.
The confirmation I received is that my genetic history is about 1/3 indigenous to the Western Hemisphere; 24% from Central and North America, and 10% from South America. The data did not specify from which side of my family these numbers came. Although I was not aware that any part of my family originated in South America, it does not surprise me that some part came from there because my father’s family lived so far south in Mexico.
The most startling bit of information I received was that more than 1/3 of my genetic material originated from Eastern Europe, which includes countries from as far south as Greece to as far north as Estonia. One fact that made me smile is that my ethnicity is likely similar in part to my adoptive father’s, whose Polish heritage I have always claimed as my own, if only culturally.
As a strange aside, this information inspired me to to remember my late friend, Miriam, who often said to me, “I just know you are part Gypsy!” Contrary to what some who know me well may believe, she was not referring to the alluring musical theater character of the same name. She was referring to the Romani people. She had no reason to believe that I was part Gypsy; however, more regularly than I’ve seen with most others I know, she often made amazing leaps of intuitive gymnastics. Could there be a grain of truth in what she believed about me? She said this on numerous occasions, most often just before she died. The circumstantial evidence is there. The Romani people speak a language that many anthropologists and linguists believe originated on the Indian subcontinent. When people look at me, including individuals from that region,they most often ask me if I am East Indian. Not Mexican. Not Italian. Not North African. Not Middle Eastern. Indian. Could others see in my face what our family has had no knowledge? Could my genetic history confirm their observations by the fact that 35% of my ethnic pool originates in Eastern Europe, the same place the Romani people have lived since no earlier than the 11th Century? Of course, this is simply a fantastical hypothesis; or is it?
The part that is most confusing to me is that I have no idea from whom such a large proportion of my Eastern European genetic heritage could have stemmed. The only segment of my family that originated from anywhere remotely near there is the Sicilian branch of my family. As far as I know, not one person can be traced to Eastern Europe, let alone more than one-third of my ethnic heritage.
The most expected part of my genetic information is the 7% identified as having come from Southern European parentage. With families in Mexico often having Spanish ancestry, and a Sicilian Italian ancestor, this made sense. The one question that arose is that with one grandfather who I believed to be full Italian, this number should have been at least 12.5%.
One small surprise was the 6% defined as genes that originated from the British Isles. That means that one of my great-great grandparents was likely English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. The only problem is that I believe that I have information on all 16 great-great grandparents. Is this an indication of a secret that no one knew before?
The most difficult challenge that I had with the results of this test is a category called, “Uncertain.” This classification is for genes that have markers that generally indicate they derived from a certain area, but they do not meet the “extremely high standards” that Ancestry.com claims it has. Until they can be verified, these markers shall remain in this quizzical category. Could this be where the specific markers for small bands of Native Americas exist that at this point cannot be authoritatively assured? Could these be African or Asian aboriginal people that have so few people tested that there is no way to verify the data? Which of my ancestors are represented by this number?
The number itself is problematic. When I checked others’ levels of “Uncertain,” I saw numbers as low as 6% to as high as 16%. Why did I not see anyone with my level of “Uncertain,” which was 18%? This is nearly 1/5 of my genes, representing more than one great-grandparent’s genetic history.
As with any research project, often the researcher is left with more questions than answers. Such is the case with my DNA results. In this case, though, this is all so very personal. The good news is that I now know that fully 1/3 of my heritage developed from the Native American people stretching from North America to South America. On the other side of my family coin, I now have to figure out from where we originated because our information is clearly nowhere near complete.
Stay tuned for more information as we delve farther into our genetic past.
Tonight, for the first time, I wandered through the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com to find my dad and mom among the many names and addresses listed in North Tonawanda, NY, and Santa Clara, CA, respectively. There they were, 19 and 17 years old.
I felt a great sadness wash over me as I realized that the day my grandparents answered the interviewers’ questions, no one knew what was ahead. As I read their names, I knew what came next for each one on the list. Before the next census, my father would enter the military, beginning his career as a pharmacist. My mother would only have two more years with her mother before Nana died of cancer. Their lives would change dramatically.
There was a little part of me that wanted to whisper, “Listen to your parents, Mom and Dad. Learn from them as much as you can. Love them as though tomorrow wouldn’t come.” That is, of course, impossible. They had to learn from their lives the same way we all do. There is nothing I can do to help them see what they would miss. Even with my own children and grandchildren, there is so little I can do to forewarn them about the little things… perhaps even the big things… they will miss if they don’t pay close attention.
Each time I go to the well of familial information, I come out with another layer of ignorance washed away. I am changed. Today is no different. I look back, as I try to do less these days, and lament those lost moments; moments I don’t even know were lost. My heart is heavy as I remember them. 99% of my direct lineage are gone now. I see names dating back into the 1800s, 1700s, 1600s, and beyond. Names who never imagined me. Faces I will never see. Yet, they are my people. All of them. They contributed to my life in ways they could not imagine as they went through their days. They could not have possibly known me; yet, I am blessed to see them, at least a little part of them, in my genealogical journey. So, for that, I am deeply and eternally grateful.
“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1241 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861
This year saw the passing of yet another of our family, my beloved mother-in-law, Eva. The part for which I am grateful, though, is that she made her exit on her own terms. Although we miss her mightily, we know that her strength of spirit continues to support us. I suppose this has been the theme of this year – Choices.
In life, if we have any regrets, they are borne from choosing that which was not inspired in our hearts, but that for which we felt obligated even though it went against our internal sense of the world. I know that is true for me. Although I have let any regrets pass into history, I still remember that process so that when I am faced with a choice, I make it according to my best sense of things.
This year has been abundant with joy because I have remembered my truest self in the process of choosing, even when the choices were difficult. I have loved more honestly, allowed others to love me more fully, and invited those into my life that I know are important. Others have gone by the wayside who were not meant to remain. That is the nature of the world, I suppose, even if it brings some sadness with it.
The events and people who have populated this year have shown how truly awesome life can be. My husband, children, grandchildren, colleagues, and friends have all offered their special gifts of love and support. For these gifts, I am most grateful.
My company, Sacramento Vocal Music, has grown exponentially through the efforts of my new administrative assistant, Eva Sarry, and for her presence, guidance, and consistent wisdom, I am so very thankful.
The dozens of precious students who take lessons and attend classes are like jewels to me. Each moment I spend with them is a guaranteed smile on my face. Watching their choices to grow throughout the year, and their performance at our last recital, have lifted my heart beyond reason.
I have been blessed to participate in no fewer than nine performances this year. With each one, a new cadre of talented, intelligent, and truly wonderful people entered my life. These people add their wealth of texture and color to the rich tapestry of creativity that has been woven by those with whom I have already worked over the years. To work in a field that one truly loves is a rare and valuable environment in which to find oneself. I happen to be fortunate enough to be one of those people.
So, to everyone throughout the year who have given so much, I offer my most heartfelt and humble gratitude. May your holidays be one for the memory books. May the abundance in your life grow in every way to levels you never before imagined. For those who have lost loved ones or found yourselves with unexpected challenges during the year, may your memories help you find comfort during this difficult time.
God bless you all and thank you. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
All yesterday afternoon, I smelled something that had the aroma of a dead mouse. Considering we live a quarter mile from an expanse of fields, it is common for us to hear and even see mice scampering in our house and around our yard. Sometimes, our traps catch them. We then follow our noses to the carcasses, and we have to take them outside to the garbage. This time, however, was different.
The smell permeated the house and I could not pinpoint the source of the malodorous stench. At about 9:30 PM, watching television, something suddenly said, “Go check the stove.” Without thinking I got up, and there on the far right face of the stove was one knob turned slightly to the left. The gas had been on all afternoon in a house with two smokers. Thankfully, we don’t smoke in the house. Thankfully, we regularly keep the doors open to get cross-ventilation and to let Diego, our dog, wander in and out. Thankfully, there was not enough gas escaping through the patio door to cause an explosion when we lit a cigarette on the lanai. Thankfully, we hadn’t closed up the house for bed yet to go to sleep. Thankfully, the three of us didn’t die last night.
What inspired me to check the stove? Not one time during the day had I even considered that what I smelled was gas. David had stopped smelling it completely, which is scary enough to think about. The truth is that if I had not gotten up to check in the kitchen, we could have just as easily closed the patio and bedroom doors to the outside, turned off the lights, and slept with the gas filling our house all night long. We have great neighbors, so I know that when they hadn’t heard or seen us for a couple of days, they would have called the police. Likely, had the cell phone or home phone rung, they wouldn’t have had a question as to where we were; our house may have gone up like a nuclear explosion. David, Diego, and I would have been nothing but a memory.
As often happens to many of us, there was a wee voice that whispered in my ear that pushed the alarm button and sent me to the right place to avoid tragedy. Many parents can relate the experience of “knowing something is wrong with my child.” The experiences have no basis in knowledge, though. They are our intuitive leaps that keep us connected to our loved ones. Perhaps, they are the voices of those who have left our planet who act as our guardian angels protecting us, whispering to us to keep us safe. In this case, it feels like my mother guided me to get out of my comfortable bed to find the source of danger. Her voice alone would get me to do what I did not want to otherwise do.
Some may say that I am being melodramatic in the “what if” contemplation of yesterday’s alternative events. They may be right; however, we read about events just like this in the news. Could this morning have been very different for our family and friends?
The voices we hear, whether we believe that they are our family members from beyond the grave, our astute intuition, or simply our active imagination, are often the source of life-changing opportunities to alter the future. This was just such an example. Once again, I have an opportunity to express my gratitude for another day of loving and living, and that my family continues to be well. I have learned over the years to listen to that small voice and yesterday was a testament to that fact. Without reckoning the reasonability of my actions, I got up to check the stove, and my family is now alive to tell the story.
Once, 30 years ago, my former wife was sleeping in the living room with my children, taking a nap in the middle of a hot day with the air conditioning running. I arrived home from work to an horrific smell in the house. For some reason, I immediately recognized the smell as gas. I went to the kitchen, turned off the stove, and revived my wife and children. They had likely passed out from the gas since my ex-wife has no sense of smell. They awoke feeling “weird.” Within a few weeks, we had completely changed over to all electric appliances.
I believe everything is for a reason, even if it is simply the reason we give it. The purpose I see in this event reminds me that I am still connected with those I love who have gone before me to find their place in the larger Universal order. I recall that I must remain focused on my journey here to serve those who need me. Finally, I must live in gratitude to God for my life, always looking forward, because without warning, it could all just end.
As I begin this blog, my granddaughter has been 18 for an entire day. It seems unlikely that a person 52 could have a legal adult for a grandchild, but those, like me, who started early having a family understand what this day means. I am caught between my chronological age, of being a middle-aged, relatively healthy man, still working in the prime of my life; and that of a grandfather, watching his beloved eldest birth-grandchild graduate high school and go off to college. Most people my age have watched their children, not their grandchildren, go through this phase fairly recently. My own children graduated high school in the mid-to late-1990s.
In my family of birth, my situation is not at all unusual. My maternal grandmother met Mary, her great-great grandchild when she was only 70. Five generations that I, too, will probably see. As it is, in my lifetime, I’ve seen seven generations of my family from my great-great grandfather Lawrence, born in 1881, who was alive when I was born, to my grandchildren.
This is truly a momentous day for Mary, reaching adulthood, healthy, intelligent, educated, and talented. The journey of her life is now in her hands. It was a tough beginning. She was eight weeks premature and almost died. But she is a fighter! Now, here she is ready to take life on her own terms. If she chose to move to Mali to study the culture, Peru to meet her extended family, or Wisconsin to eat cheese, she could. After five children, I wholly understand what that means. It’s not easy, because to me, she remains my Mary Littlebits; but, maybe not as much as I thought she would be by this point. I respect my granddaughter enough to know she can handle the choices ahead of her.
She calls me Dziadzia, just like her mother called my father, and I called my grandfather. The Polish word means Grandpa. I love hearing her call me Dziadz. Few words sound as sweet to me. Perhaps especially from my first grandbaby. I suspect I’m becoming a bit more sentimental as my grandchildren grow up. After all, there are 10 of them. I have a few more times to go. My youngest grandchild is a year old. I’ve never met her before, but in 17 years, I’ll be 69, the same age as my birth father is right now. By that time, Mary will probably have had a child. Who knows?
Now that I have rambled on about my cherished Mary, I will go to sleep, and dream of her happy future.
Happy birthday, dear Mary! Your Dziadzia loves you!
An old man sat on a park bench. His face had crevices like an old melon. His eyes, as blue as a child’s marble, turned toward the ground in contemplation. Every so often, the man would sigh with the weight of his thoughts. As he sat quietly, an old woman dressed in a cloth coat, sensible shoes, and a black purse, casually sat on the bench next to him. In her hand, she held a bag from a deli with what appeared to be a sandwich in it.
“Good afternoon. I hope I’m not interrupting you by sitting here,” the lady said quite amiably.
“Not at all,” said the man. “I was just thinking about everything I gave up for my children, and now, they don’t call very often, or visit me as regularly as I’d like.”
The lady smiled because she knew the man was not looking at her, and she would not have wanted to hurt his feelings by laughing.
“Are you unhappy that you had children?” she asked.
“No,” said the man, surprised by the odd and forward question. “I just thought that they would have appreciated what I had done for them. I had no idea they would allow me to be so lonely, knowing my dreams had been cast aside to make sure they had everything they needed to succeed.”
“Have they succeeded?” queried the lady, genuinely interested in the man’s answer.
“They have.” The man brightened a bit. He went on to tell the lady of his children’s successes, and how they overcame their challenges with wisdom and strength.
“And, what did you sacrifice to make sure they could have a good life?” asked the lady.
“I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I wanted to win a pennant and know that I had helped my team win the big one.” The man was both excited and wistful in his memory.
“Do you suppose that although you didn’t play baseball, you still got your dream? You children are your team, you are their coach, and they keeping winning in their endeavors, even after you stepped back as an active, daily coach.” The lady started to open her chicken and tomato half-sandwich wrapped in white butcher paper. The silence between them that followed, underscored by the crinkly paper, was strangely comforting to both of the elderly visitors to the bench as they mulled over their conversation.
As she silently offered half her sandwich to the old man, the lady nearly whispered, “The only dreams you forfeited were the ones you invented. The ones that you were meant to live seem to have come true, even though you didn’t realize it at the time.”
The man looked at her as he declined the sandwich, angry that this stranger would be arrogant enough to talk about his life when she didn’t even know him.
“And,” the old lady dared to continue, “you multiplied the dreams lived by your children by doing so.”
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the man’s craggy face softened. His brows unfurrowed, and his frown was neutralized by his realization that he had, indeed, lived his dreams.
The lady stood up, threw away the wrapper for the sandwich. When she was done organizing her coat and purse, she purposefully turned toward the old man. She drew in a deep breath and spoke confidently, “Dear sir, you have lived the dream that many don’t get to experience. You’ve seen your children grow into adulthood and be happy. Even though your children don’t call or visit as often as you prefer, it is because they are living the lives they were meant to live. Perhaps now is the time to coach little league, or write about the sports you’ve followed for so many years.”
The man smiled, embarrassed that he had spent part of his precious life feeling sorry for himself.
“Thank you, ma’am.” The man hesitated as if he were about to say something else. “Just… thank you.”
As the lady walked away, the cell phone that the old man’s son had given him rang. “Hello, Dad,” he heard his son say.
I am one of the luckiest people I know. I have the blessing of having two fathers. By that, I don’t mean two men who reared me together, or a father and a step-father. I have two fathers. My father of birth and my father of upbringing.
My birth father, Robert, was very young when he and my mother, Bette, found out they were going to have a child. As difficult a choice as it was, they gave me up for adoption. At that point, my soon-to-be-adoptive parents, Floyd and Teresa chose me as their own.
My Dad, Floyd, was a good man with abundant strengths and challenges to equal them. He loved my brother and me to the very depths of his soul. He was, I know, very much like his own father. A loving, strict, and generous man. He taught me how to live in this world by respecting others, valuing what I have, and maintaining my lifelong learning. He showed me what an amazingly attentive grandfather looked like, too, just like my own dziadzia, Stanley, did with me. My life is what it is in large part because of the work and sacrifices my father chose to offer to give me a life of stability and hope. More than that, he taught me the importance of being honorable, charitable, and committed to one’s family. I have missed him immeasurably since he died so tragically in 1999. “Hi, Jimmy, it’s Dad.” What I wouldn’t give to hear those words just one more time on the telephone. The last time I saw my father was on Father’s Day the year he died. This day is especially poignant for me for this reason.
My Dad, Bob, gave me life in 1959. I am, of course, grateful for this life. More importantly, however, he has given me so much more since reuniting with me in 1987. When I found my birth family, I was well aware of the horror stories many adoptees had about finding their families of birth only to be rejected immediately and wholly. I didn’t have to live through that process. Mine was full of welcoming, and inquisitive and supportive arms throughout these last 24 years. Although my birth mother, Bette, died at 50 only two years after I found her, my father, Bob, has remained a stalwart and participatory link to my genetic past. He has taught me more about myself than I ever imagined I had yet to learn. I discovered that even though I learned how to cope with life from Floyd and Teresa, Bob and Bette gave me my hardwiring. How I initially respond to the world is their gift. My intuition, my reasonability, my directness, and my caution, are components of the gifts I’ve gotten from them.
One of the things I don’t think my Dad, Bob, realizes is that our first meeting engaged my heart with him in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed before. After finding my birth family around Thanksgiving of 1987, my father was given my telephone number. He called me immediately and we spoke for quite a while. Within a few weeks, Dad came to see me in Sacramento from the Midwest where he was living. Although I was by birth his eldest son, there were other brothers who called him Dad. In the beginning, I called him Bob. The fact that he came to Sacramento to see me and meet my children, meant the world to me.
Dad said something very telling early on. He said, “You know, I knew you would find me.” I asked how he knew that. He said, “Because that’s what I would do.” Of course, I would do what he would have done in this important aspect because, after all, I am his son. He affirmed for me in that moment that he recognized that I was his son; not in the grab-a-glove-and-let’s-throw-the-ball-around way, but as someone who shared his genetic history. I know things about my own children simply because they are my children. This is something that before 1987 I had only known from one end of the equation. For the first time, I understood this concept from the other side as well.
My birth father and I have spent nearly a quarter century chatting between Missouri and California about our children, grandchildren, family history, life, illness, and death. Many years ago, I used to say I have a birth father and I have a real father. I can’t say that so much anymore. Both of my fathers have made me into the man I am today, and on this Father’s Day, I want to say thank you to both of them for the gifts they brought into my life. I am forever grateful for your loving strength, wisdom, and attentiveness.
As your proud son, I honor both of you, my fathers, Floyd and Robert.