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My Aunt Jean Glee and I have a common feature, one that nobody else in our family has. We both have a single deep dimple on our right cheek. This dimple pleases my grandmother because she sees it as a symbol of family unity. "Blood is thicker than water," she says. I don't know much about the viscosity of blood or water and don't really care…because I am a step.
My dad and I are a lot alike. Neither of us have a tolerance for human foibles and we both worship at the Temple of El Rushbo and Dr. Laura. We share that "Can-Do" spirit and he's the only one in my family who understood when, with two dependent children, I wanted to throw my career away to start a business. When friends meet my dad, they remark on how fun he is and how much I take after him. They say it must have been great growing up with such a terrific father. I wouldn't know – my mom didn't even meet him until I was in my early 20's.
My grandfather is probably the single biggest influence in my life. He and my grandmother practically raised me during the years my mom was sick. He taught me to be stoic in the face of disappointment and to listen to people I don't agree with. He taught me to be fair and honest and strong. Grandpa used to coach the ROTC rifle team and his shooters, who adored him, would often comment on how lucky I was to have him for a grandfather. I think so, too, because my grandmother didn't find and marry him until I was three years old.
These two biologically un-related, former strangers have been instrumental in shaping the way I think and react to things. That's why I don't understand adoptees who search so vehemently for their birth parents. Why can't they just be thankful that someone who loves them took them in? Why do they need to validate themselves by longing for the people who gave them away? I've read stories about adopted kids who reunited with their blood parents and/or siblings and have felt a sense or recognition or "coming home". I look at my blood father and grandfather and feel nothing. They don't register with me beyond a polite blip on the radar screen. My recognition comes from the grandfather who taught me to spit a watermelon seed. My "coming home" is sitting on the deck with the dad who spent two hours on the phone walking me through a water-heater repair.
Frankly, the best thing my birth father ever did for me was to abandon my Mom when I was an infant. I shudder to think how I might have turned out being raised by him instead of my grandfather, holding him as my male role model instead of my dad. Not that he's such a bad guy, but his irresponsible lifestyle led to his premature death last year. When I got the call from his brother that he had died, I felt nothing. My mother thought it was disgraceful the way I was so nonchalant about his death. But, although I spent a few holidays and summers with him as a teenager, I don't miss him because he wasn't a large part of my life.
So this Father's Day, I want to take the opportunity to say thanks to my real dad and real grandfather, with whom I've never shared a last name or common blood. "They" say that, when you become a step-adult, you shouldn't try to parent the kids or they may become resentful. "They" also say that your role is not of authority figure, but of adult friend. I'm certainly glad my dad and grandfather never listen to "Them"!
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