I indulged in one of the few tv shows I am fascinated by the other week*, Who Do You Think You Are?
It just really amazes me that people can go back through their family tree for generation upon generation and discover the minutia of ancestors lives. And yet this is where it gets difficult for me. You see watching the show also uncovers a bit of a sick affliction that I seem to have, because it is essentially picking at my own wounds opening up some very uncomfortable truths for me.
I can’t go back and trace my family line, when I was younger I thought that this was only because my grandmother was illegitimate. Such a big deal back then that her birth certificate was actually stamped ILLEGITIMATE, that’s right the registrar for births had a big shame stamp for people who were born out of wedlock. People were classy back in 1925.
I spent a bit of time prodding and digging family members to try to get information regarding my grandmothers family and to hunt out clues as to who her father might have been. Unfortunately my family are a whirlwind of interest on the surface, but largely apathetic when it comes to doing anything, so I mostly got I can’t be bothered with this and it’s too hard signals. There were some other weird signals I got, but I guess I can be a bit oblivious at times.
The point I’m trying to get to is that it still shocks me that it took 29 years and my grandmother’s death for me to find out that we had more in common than I’d expected.
The majority of my life I was led to believe that I knew who my father was and I didn’t. My parents were married for a substantial amount of time before I was born and I had a brother who was five years older than me, so while I never quite “fit” with my family it seemed strange to question why.
Some small part of me was always questioning the differences and spent an equal amount of time writing off those questions. I think this is why after an already rough year I came unhinged at finding out the truth. It wasn’t so much the information but the realisation that I had spent my life burying my own instincts and believing the lies of omission that I was fed.
One of my few early memories is asking who my dad was, which is a really odd thing to have asked, but I guess that was instinct, and being told the gas man. The man I thought was my dad was a gas fitter and supposedly the person who is my biological father was too. These mocking lies have continued after the truth was finally revealed, my parents both tow the line that I have no need to know about myself.
If I was adopted I would have legal access to information about the absent parts of me. The reality is that I am not and due to my mothers inability to accept that it is important for me to know more and for her to fully reveal the truth I will probably never really know who my father is.
Some days I think this is no big deal, I know who I am and a bit of genetic material isn’t so important. Other days I see how different I am from my family, made obvious by the fact that they clearly do not understand me. It makes me wonder, what do these other sections of my family look like? Are they anything like me, or am I an alien to them also?
Do they even know about me?
The genetic void is both vastly empty and utterly heavy.
Most days the best I can take from this is channeling it in to being a better parent, by making sure that my children know their history and the truth of what makes family.
Both genetically and emotionally.
I hope that being open and honest makes for a more balanced discovery of what has come together to make them who they are. And allows them to feel secure enough to let go of that history in order to truly find themselves.
*I originally started writing this the day after I last watched it,I just wasn’t sure where I was going with this.