Significant others – I’ve had a few. I’m what talk show hosts call a serial monogamist. When you don’t have a father, I guess you seek to identify who he might have been via love relationships. We all have patterns of attraction, social and scientific, and mine has always been a bit of a mystery.
The photos of my father show a big, gregarious Italian, obviously the life of the party, with a confident swagger, a guitar and a cigarette dangling carelessly from his meaty lips. More photos capture my parents, frozen in the seventies, mouths open mid-laugh, surrounded by friends, bottles of Chianti and Siamese cats. Mama was so pretty. Papa was so foreign.
“Your father knew a little about a lot,” my mother told me. She thought he was an asshole.
My grandfather thought worse. A man who abandoned his responsibilities was intolerable to Poppa. Funny then that faded Polaroids show my father and grandfather, arms round each other laughing, maybe even singing. The grandfather I knew tended to hum Oh Danny Boy, not burst into passionate theatrics with earthy Italians.
“Everyone loved Ricky,” said Aunty Bev. She didn’t hold grudges, but did think he was mad to have left me.
I never heard his voice. I have nothing of my own to attribute to him. Weird that that man in the photos, obviously hung over from last night’s party, is my father. Was. Is? He’s dead now.
What I want from a man is to know every thought. Every murmur of their soul. But with each passing year my lover becomes stranger and stranger. With so many unknowables, life is a process of shelving what’s unimportant, and relaxing the importance of other things. The “who am I” question can’t be answered by a family tree. And there is huge freedom in that.