Several years ago, Mom gave me the small “baby diary” she’d kept during the first year after I was born. She started it in July 1976, when I was 10 weeks old. It’s really a fascinating look into my Mom’s life as a single 21-year-old mother in the 1970s.
July 14, 1976:
Today Bonnie and I went to see the lawyer. I know it will be hard for you to understand why your father doesn’t want to admit you are his. I hope it can have a happy ending for all of us.
Well, we took you to have your picture taken. And you heard a squeeky toy for the first time. And you smiled real big for the man. Mommy was glad you smiled.
Your Uncle Donnie held you and you talked to him. He played a harmonica, but you didn’t like it.
(It’s a small book. That filled up the whole page for July 14.)
Actually, now that I’m older than he was at the time, I can understand. I don’t agree with his reaction to the situation, but I do understand. He was 25, messing around with his 20-year-old girlfriend. He wasn’t looking for any of this. When he found out, it was probably easier to deny all responsibility. Although I don’t know if I can understand his offering to pay to have me aborted. (Sorry, abortion rights activists, but I am pro-life by default. No matter what I might have said when I was 15, I truly am glad to be alive.)
It’s been interesting growing up fatherless. I don’t think I was scarred by it — of course, I really don’t have a basis of comparison. I learned at some point in my youth when it was OK to talk about my parentage, and when I should just let people draw their own conclusions about how I came to live with my Mom and my grandmother. As I got older and more open with people, and as single parenting became less of a stigma, I began telling more people in more situations. Now I’m to the point where I can discuss my bastard nature with co-workers who are younger than me — and who, surprisingly enough, share very similar stories of their own unusual parentage.
I’ve never met my father face-to-face. It would be interesting, if awkward, to have a discussion with him about that stretch of time in 1975 and 1976 when he so vehemently denied being my father. I’m just curious if he really believes that he isn’t the one. I wonder if he ever thought about it, years later.
On a lighter note, I look forward to reading this while I blog about my own (still unconceived) child’s first year of life. Or maybe I’ll get a little diary and write a few words in my own hand after she goes to sleep at night. I know I’m enjoying reading Mom’s (and Memaw’s, sometimes) handwritten thoughts, thirty years after the fact.
Update, 9:40pm: Continuing to read through the diary. Some of these entries are making me all misty. Dammit. 😉