I remember certain things from my childhood about my biological father. My father whom I saw today for the first time in many years. I have only seen him twice in my adult life since childhood, and today was the second time.
I remember the pasta. He was always making spaghetti. He loves spaghetti. Always has. He's as stereotypical of an Italian as they come. He speaks with such a thick Italian accent, you would have never known he has lived in this country for over thirty five years as he has.
His father was from Rome and his mother, from the Province of Modena. He lived in Rome for eleven years, from around the age ten to twenty years old. He began to travel and went all over. He began to work on a cruise ship at age twenty four and has lived in several countries. He first went to France when he began his travels to see family. His mother's sister lived there and has a daughter who still resides in France to this day. He lived in England for six months as a young man to learn English, and he lived in Switzerland for seven years because it was so much fun. He loved the skiing there. He lived in Switzerland intermittently during his work and travels on the cruise ship and would go back and forth from traveling, to returning home to Switzerland.
His first cruise took him to Alaska, Mexico, and the Caribbean. After that, he jumped ship and worked for the Caribbean cruise lines.
Standing at only 5'5, he has made his own wine but can no longer drink wine due to his gout. That sounds like such an archaic thing to have, but I guess it's not. To this day, he loves to make his own pasta from scratch and cooks decadent foods. While he says he can cook any food, he mainly cooks Italian. He also taught himself to paint and has painted numerous paintings that he used to sell.
This is the father whom I don't know. This is the father that I do not have etched in my memories.
See, I remember his pastas.
And I remember my beaten body as a child. I remember my crying. Lots of crying. I remember feeling afraid and alone. I remember hating his creepy wife. I remember our dog whom I loved named Freckles, a lovely golden retriever. I remember never going back to that house.
And then he was gone.
Years later, during a Father's day week after I had grown up and moved out of my house, I googled him. I googled my Italian biological father's name. And I found him. He had an art site filled with his paintings and also some super weird book his wife wrote about her life.
There was a number to contact, so I called. His weird wife answered, and I got the number to his restaurant. I pretended to call as if I was inquiring about a painting. I asked him if he had any children, and he said he did. A daughter, who was 20 (or 21?). I don't remember my age at the time. But he knew how old I was. I went to see him that same day and took my friend Jessie with me. I was as guarded as ever, and a bit surprised at what a dumpy old Italian man he was. His accent was thick. He didn't know how to relate to me. He asked if I would want to get a coke or ice-cream. I declined.
That was the last time I had seen him besides today. Lots of years have passed, and it was better this time. But regardless of that, a distance must be kept. I would rather him not know about my life as much as possible, but want to be available for important things like open heart surgery. That is what brought me back around to see him today. I was checking on him.
He is doing well, and I may check up to make sure everything is going well with his recovery, as I have been. But besides that, a distance must be kept.
See, while I don't hold resentment towards my Italian father, he has been gone all my life. For my family, what is safe and healthy, is distance. Because while I am not burdened at all from the past, I am also aware of it. And the more stories I could tell about what I remember about him, are not stories I can share here. I don't have resentment. Only distant memories of a childhood long since removed. He is my father, there is no denying that. He is the man with him I share my Roman Italian lineage and with whom I share my last name.
But he is not my dad. My dad is Guatemalan and has been there for me every day since I was six years old. We may not share blood, but he is the man I call dad. And he is the man Caleb will and does call grandpa.
When my father saw me today, he was sitting in his chair watching an old movie, a good sign actually for his recovery from his surgery. He was startled by my entrance and seemed emotional afterwards. He was emotional that I was there. I guess he was glad. He said to me over and over again how pretty I am. He just couldn't believe I was there or looked as I do, I guess. He just kept saying I was so pretty and later told me that I looked like him. He said I had his skin, eyes, and nose. I can't really deny that, but I also don't like it. It's weird to be so intimately related to someone whom you really don't know. To be the child of a man who was gone. To be the child of a man who didn't show up. Who didn't fight enough for you. And who to my distinct memories, heavily abused.
I'm not saying that's who he is now. He is 68, turning 69 in a few weeks. He holds on to his brand of spiritualism. He asked for my picture so he could paint me. I wasn't keen on the idea and told him painting me was greatly unnecessary, but I may send him a photo we took together today.
He was mainly concerned with my involvement with church and bibles, something I find hard to stomach. I don't like uninvolved people pushing that stuff on people. It really bothers me. I think people who know me, know my stance on Christ. But it is my choice and it is not something I like to have pushed on by a man like that in this position.
He also thought I was thirty years old now, and asked if I was anxious to get married. I thought he meant anxious as in "anxiety". I have no such thing. I desire that one day, absolutely. But I am not anxious about it. I realize he meant in asking if it is something I am really keen on doing, and it is, but in no way would I describe it as anxious.
All in all, it was good I visited today. I needed to see what was going on with his care and recovery. I offered little information about myself besides my work in international trade. He already knows I have a degree in Psychology. I'd rather him know little else.
This likely will not be the last time I see him. I will agree to meet at a future date in a neutral meeting location, like a city area at a restaurant. But he has to get better first.