Monday, October 27, 2008

Biological Fathers Cause Cancer

My mother was three months old when my her "stepfather" came into her life. To say stepfather is a misnomer. My mother always considered him to be her father. She did not know any differently. He was the only father figure in her life.

She did know that he wasn't her biological father. She and her older brother had a different last name than the rest of the family. My grandmother and grandfather eventually had one child together.

Though my mother has never said, I understand that he was the golden child. My mom's older brother? The spitting image of my grandmother's first husband and a daily reminder of that failed marriage. My mother? The inconvenient middle child.

Both my mother and her older brother have terrible migraines. Terrible. The kind that leave them weeping between fits of vomiting. That keep them in bed behind closed shutters whimpering at any sound, cowering from any pinpoint of light.

There were likely many factors to which I am not privy, but my mother and her older brother sought out their biological father. They knew his whereabouts, and they knew that he was in ill health. I imagine they sought him out for closure. They sought him out for an answer to the crippling migraines from which they suffered.

All of this was kept secret from my grandmother. She had an absolute hatred of her former spouse. I am not saying she was not entitled to hate him, but her hatred should have had nothing to do with her children and their need for answers.

My mom's father understood the need for their search. While he may not have given his overt blessing, he understood their desire and did not oppose contact.

My grandmother, on the other hand, found out. To say she flipped her shit would be an understatement.

Shortly after these events occurred, my grandfather developed cancer. Lung cancer. He was an avid pipe smoker and had smoked since adolescence.

My grandmother blamed my mom. So did her younger brother and his entire family.

They told us that the stress of my mom finding and talking with her biological father had caused his cancer.

My grandfather died a horrible and painful death. Up to the day he died, and for many years afterwards, my grandmother and the rest of the family maintained that my mother and her older brother were to blame.

It was her fault that her father developed cancer.

It was her fault that her father was dead.

She had killed her father because she was so selfish.

It has taken many years for these wounds to heal. Stony silence has been replaced with laughter. Family gatherings are jovial with lot of hugs and kisses and good-natured teasing.

But I remember.

I look at my cousin who is now a registered nurse. Every time she talks about her husband visiting his "real dad," I want to ask her in front of everyone if she still believes cancer is caused by visiting ones biological father.

I want to slap her smarmy little face.

But I don't.

I laugh and smile and hug in return.

I try to ignore the screaming in my heart.


K-Mom said...

That's harsh, man. I used to work in hospice and you wouldn't believe all the crap that rears it's ugly head when the death of a loved one is imminent.

I think it's a testiment to how strong your mother is to be able to forgive such an injustice.

I also think that, like you, I would probably go along so as not to stir up the past, but I'd be sorely tempted to put Visine* in my cousin's iced tea at the next family reunion.

*Visine gives you a wicked case of the runs.

Kat said...

That is some fucked up shit. And also, you are a good person, because I would totally ask her if she still thinks that. I would not be able to help myself.

Great tip on the Visine, too, in case I ever need that.

Patois said...

Damn, I couldn't do the hug. Just couldn't. What strength you have to be willing to keep the peace.

SSG said...

man, I think I would be letting it all out. i hate hypocrisy. Your grandmother made a choice to hate her daughter, what did your grandfather think? I met my biological father for the first time a couple of years ago. No-one accused me of trying to hurt anyone. I guess I was lucky.

A Free Man said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one with crazies in the family tree.

RiverPoet said...

Oh, that just sucks! Truly! It never ceases to amaze me how people can trump up the most ridiculous crap to explain away that which cannot be explained.

You are a better person than I. Just be sure you're not giving away too much of yourself to keep the peace. It probably wouldn't do any good to bring it up, but if it's just under the surface for you, it can't be healthy.

Love ya! D

Joe said...

What an uplifting story. ;-)

I've read about and heard about people that have to blame SOMEONE for a tragedy. Hopefully your mom and uncle were old enough to realize that it had everything to do with smoking and nothing to do with them. Doesn't stop it from hurting though.

Gypsy said...

Ugh. Just ugh.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Dude. Seriously? What a petty bunch. You're handling it better than I ever could.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@K-Mom: Part of me thinks she is strong. Part of me thinks she is so desperate for love and attention from her family that she will continue to throw herself under the bus for the sake of "family peace."

@Kat: I haven't asked her that because we were so young. I think I must have been twelve when he died? Though the comments my cousin made came later, so much time has passed it seems a bit fruitless.

@Patois: I really try to focus on the good and laughter while I am there. It is mainly at home and in the dark when I start obsessing. :)

@SSG: And that is why I hate my grandmother. In life, and in death. I hope my grandfather kicked her ass when she crossed over.

@AFreeMan: Yeah, I'm sure I don't have the monopoly on craziness. They sure do try hard, though.

@RiverPoet: It helps that they live in MN and I rarely see them in person. :)

@Joe: My mom is scarred for life on this one, and it comes out in subtle ways. I will have to post about my grandmother's stroke. Remind me to to it.

@Gypsy: You said it.

@CMGD: It helps to be many, many miles away.

Red Flashlight said...

Wow - we could be related. You're a braver woman than I, my friend. I took the road of letting it all hang out, ssg style. I spoke truth to power and they never forgave me for it. It's been 20 years. The benefit is that the really toxic relatives now fear and avoid me. The downside is I don't have authentic, enjoyable family relationships with the rest. You had the wisdom to find the middle path - enjoy it! Especially the laughs.