A couple of years ago I received calls from two of my half-brothers telling me that this man had died. I have wondered often how I would feel about that moment when it came. The moment has passed and I’m still wondering about what to feel. You see, I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to feel anything about this man’s passing.
I’m sad to hear about anyone’s passing, and at the same time, I’m always a little envious. Sad because of the hole that is left in that person’s loved ones, and envious because of the great adventure that the release from this mortal coil launches. This man was my biological father, but I wasn’t one of his loved ones.
He and my mother was very young when they became parents. Too young to know better. Mom told me that she wanted a baby because all her older friends were having babies. Arlie, that was the dead man’s name, told me that they were just two stupid kids. That, my friends, was how I came to be; the product of a fit of stupid envy.
The only name I could use for this man was Arlie. It was made very clear to me that I had a father and it wasn’t Arlie. The man who I called my Dad was the man who took me in and raised me. That man will always be my father.
For whatever reason, Arlie choose to stay away from me and my brother. He and my mother separated when I was two years old and they both moved on to new spouses and lives. Mom had two more children and Arlie had three. I guess he really didn’t want me as part of his life, and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I made the effort to find this mystery man.
Found him I did, and this began long series of attempts to impose myself onto him and his new family’s lives. I know that I made it very difficult for all involved including Mom, Dad and everyone else around me. I was determined to find answers that either they wouldn’t or couldn’t give.
Over time we would drift in and out of contact, but it was always my efforts that would re-establish the links. Arlie divorced his second wife and after a while remarried. I don’t know about Mom’s and Arlie’s marriage, but I do know that both of the women he married after my mother were wonderfully loving people who I learned a lot from.
The last really long interaction I had with Arlie was when he allowed me to move in with him and his third wife while I returned to college. I lived with them for almost a year and a half, and they were very generous and open. After that time, we lost contact again, and over the remaining twenty years of his life I only saw them a handful of times. I was the one who reached out each time.
I do believe that in his own way he loved me, and he truly believed that staying out of my life was the best thing for me. I don’t how much of that is true, but I do know that I’m sorry that I’ll never see him again. So, I guess I do know now how I feel about his passing. I’ll miss you, Arlie.
Goodbye, Arlie. Godspeed.