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a daughter’s disclosure

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I have two fathers.

Some of you know that,
and some of you do not.
Some of my relatives know one,
but never heard of the other,
at least not that I know.

I have two fathers.

This challenging fact of my life
has been exhausting to carry quietly
and manage gracefully.

How this came to be is a complicated story
which I do not wish to share publicly
out of love and respect for all involved
and my own need for privacy.

But on this 4th of July,
I want to claim the freedom to say
that I have two fathers,
that one gave me his name
and the other his genes,
that both loved me imperfectly
but cared enough
to ask for second chances;
and I am very grateful
for what they did give me.

I have two fathers.

Why say so publicly?

Because I want to be free
from the oppressive grip of secrecy
and all the ways it has stifled my voice,
my heart, my energy.

Because one of my dads just passed away
and seeking to hold back
the sadness in my heart
has not felt good nor right.

I want to be free to acknowledge
who we were to each other,
and honor him, as his daughter,
for giving me the gift of life.
He has had a big place in my heart
long before I first met him
when I was nineteen.

Our journey was not easy.
We enjoyed each other greatly,
but lacked the skills and strength
to navigate the twists and turns,
and significant third parties
that impacted our story,
prompting us to bow out
of each other’s life a few times.

Two summers ago,
he wrote to me out of the blue,
after many years of silence,
offering the olive branch
I had stopped hoping for.

We entered our own version
of “truth and reconciliation,”
explored our differences,
forgave our limitations.

We had our sweetest Summer,
Fall and Winter that year,
before he became gravely ill,
and fell silent again.

I called him Phil,
but it always touched my heart
when he signed his letters
“Your American dad.”

I still have my French father,
the one I’ve always known as my dad,
the one I call “Papa” rather than Jean-Jacques,
the one who has loved me as his own since day one,
though we did not share a roof very long.
He too has tried to do his very best
to reclaim missed opportunities
and compost our painful past into a story
we could feel good about.

His nobility of heart,
his kindness and steadiness,
have been an inspiration to me,
and I wear his name proudly.

So, here it is,
that simple truth
I want to share openly:

I have
two fathers,
both precious to me.