Category Archives: Family

Rolling Double’s

Every weekend I try to figure out what I’m going to do with my free time. Normally I end up in a comfortable chair, sipping a glass of tea and reading a book. So exciting I know. Every once in a great while, I may go out. This is rare, as I tend to prefer to stay at home. I may be a tad antisocial, but who isn’t?

A few weekends ago, while I was visiting family in Missouri, an older cousin called and asked if I would be interested in participating in a role-playing game. Now, I use to love to role-play using created characters in the DC Universe, but I hadn’t done it in a while and was feeling a little apprehensive. After some extra prodding I relented and he sent me a list of HeroClix that he had. He planned on DMing the game and I could choose whatever character from the list I wanted.

The night of the game, I packed up a bag of fresh-baked goodies and we headed for my aunts. The table was filled with character sheets, dice and HeroClix just waiting to be played with. We sat around and talked about our chosen characters for a while, ate and then got down to business.

She uses throwing “diamonds” as her main weapon.

Let me tell you, it was a blast. I had forgotten how much fun it is to role-play! Especially when you get to be an awesome superhero! Sadly we played with Marvel instead of DC HeroClix, but I held my Marvel hating tongue.

How many can you name??

I chose Diamondback as my totally amazing character. I knew relatively nothing about the character going in, so I read her bio on Comicvine. She dated Captain America for a while, so I was happy picturing Chris Evans on my arm for an evening.

She wasn’t actually KO’d

The night went well, we played for several hours and I was sad when it was over. We tried to make plans to play again while I was still in Missouri, but his wife came back from Scotland (and she’s no fun) so it wasn’t possible.

I would highly suggest trying out role-playing if you never have. I have recently been playing Magic the Gathering again and I forgot how much fun table top gaming can be!

You really don’t want to mess with these two!

Question(s): Do you role-play? How do you get others involved?

Kittens Are Cute

Yesterday, an adorable kitten found it’s way to my parent’s house. I pretty much fell in love with it and I am hoping it stays around! I gave it food/water/shelter in hopes that it will become part of our family. My dad was less than pleased, but I think he will come around.

I would love to find it a good home or even help it find it’s way back home, but it’s always difficult placing stray cats.

20110921-072341.jpg

Found: The Perfect Sunday

Last weekend, I found the elusive “Perfect Sunday.” It occurred when I was visiting the Lake of the Ozarks with family. Most of my Sunday’s back home in California consist of fitting all the errands I couldn’t find time for in the week, into a single day. They are normally not relaxing and they definitely do not prepare me for the work-week ahead of me. This particular Sunday, however, was quite different.

I woke up around 8:30 a.m., and was actually able to stay in bed until 9:30 a.m. The bed was warm and the breeze from the open window kept the room at a perfect temperature. Around 9:45 a.m., I made my way downstairs and there was tea brewing, lox, tartines and fruit. All I had to do was fill my plate. I made tartines w/ schmear (lox/capers/chive cream cheese), had a cup of proper tea and mounded a bowl with delicious fruit. After grabbing my Nook and setting up camp by the fire pit, I spent at least an hour reading by the fire. I didn’t even notice my family was gone until about 20 minutes in and even so, I just continued to relish my time.

After breakfast, I went for a quick run (only 2 miles) since I didn’t really know my way around and then soaked in the massive tub for a bit. By the time I had finished my bath, my family had returned from their errands and had set about cleaning up breakfast. I dressed in something warm (it was really chilly) and joined them downstairs. Instead of television or video games, my mother broke out the board games. We played a game I had never heard of called “Farkle.” Needless to say, I won. That is, until my father had a ridiculous “hand” and rolled four consecutive times for a grand total of 2,600 points. He edged me out by 200 points and danced around the table for a good 5 minutes. When we tired of Farkle, I suggested Catch Phrase and the game lasted at least an hours. My mother and I versus my brother and my dad. It took my mother a bit to get in a groove, but once she did we were unstoppable. The two of us easily won and my mother said that meant we got to pick whatever movies we wanted.

While I went through our DVD’s, my mother made hot chocolate and Nutella crackers. I ended up choosing, The Apartment and my mother picked Miracle. Even though I’m not a fan of sports films, it was nice to spend time with my family. We casually talked with each other throughout the movie and hearing my family talk about my uncle really helped. For the first time I felt like I was really able to grieve and my family was there to comfort me.

When the movies ended, it was late into the afternoon and we needed to head home. Even though I didn’t have to work the next day, my family did. We packed everything into the car (including one very rambunctious miniature pinscher). On the drive home I listened to music and read. My brother fell asleep with the dog on his lap and my mother graded papers. The car ride was silent, except when we stopped for ice cream at this tiny stand by the road. They had this delicious salted butterscotch sundae and I was in heaven all the way home.

Pulling into the driveway of my parents house, I felt relaxed and oddly contented. Though I had dreaded spending a weekend stuck at the Lake of the Ozarks with my family, it turned out it was exactly what I needed. The entire weekend went famously and I have to admit that I was a little sad to leave.

I know that we will be leaving for New Jersey soon and the weight of the situation will hit me when I actually see my uncles family. My hope for them is that they can still have what I had this weekend, even without my uncle. What I don’t want to happen is that their family disintegrates because of the stress that comes with his passing. I hope that they can find comfort in each other and understand that the bonds they share with each other are unlike anything else.

Lake View

This isn’t going to turn into a photography blog. I’m not a great photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I took a few shots at the Lake of the Ozarks the weekend I visited with family. I will post them over the next few days and then I will get back to my regularly scheduled posting.

This is the view from the side deck of the house. The clouds were really amazing!

Quick Pic

Just a quick photo that I took. It rained pretty much every day, but there was a break in the weather on Saturday. I was able to snap this picture from our dock. I thought the iPhone did a pretty good job!

20110918-120541.jpg

This May Be Uncomfortable to Read

It was uncomfortable for me to write, but I felt the need to move past a subject that was regarded by my parents as “taboo.” Growing up, we were never allowed to speak about it. We were restricted from discussing it with friends, family members outside of our immediate circle and even significant others. The fact that none of my family (save one brother) know that this blog exists, is the only reason I can even begin to consider writing this post. It has taken me 10 years, at least three blogs and countless hours of fighting with myself to put “pen to paper” in regards to the subject of money.

I would rather discuss sexual conquests, bodily functions and past indiscretions than talk about money. My parents made broaching the subject around the dinner table forbidden and went so far as to declare it “off limits” in the company of others. It was the one topic we could not pick and the single most awful word we could utter. To this day I believe that my parents would rather us discuss sexual acts at length, than bring up our finances.

My parents went to great lengths to hide their wealth. Traveling to Europe/Asia became “visiting family on the East coast.” Large purchases were hidden and spread between multiple properties. When people asked about our life in Poland we were told not to talk about the people who had worked for us. It became some sort of Anonymity Game, one that forced us to lie and hide our lives from those we trusted.  I grew up terrified that I would let slip something that would get back to my parents and I would quickly change the subject if anyone asked about something remotely related.

I have always wondered why my parents were so uncomfortable with the subject. I tried to discuss it with my father when I was in college, but he told me that it wasn’t something he wanted to discuss with me when I was older. After I completed my residency, I asked him again and this time he told me that he was too busy. The way he was unable talk about our finances made me feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Sitting around a table with my friends from medical school, they would freely discuss their student loans. They even went so far as to mention the raw figures and how they planned to pay them off. Not a single one of them was finishing medical school without debt. Except me. I had not been forced to pay a penny for my education. It wasn’t because of scholarships or some mysterious benefactor, it was because my parents had simply taken out their checkbooks. When my turn came, I offered a quick, “To hell student loans!” which garnered laughter instead of more questions. With their attention diverted, I went back to contemplating how they were so comfortable discussing their financial situations. I envied them and I wanted to take part in the discussion, but I didn’t want to seem privileged.

When I was 14, my parents forced me to get a job over the summer. Not a job with a family member in an air-conditioned office, but a job where I actually worked. It was miserable and I hated it, but each time I was paid my parents would ferret the money away in an account they had set up for me. This continued throughout high school and only stopped when I applied to medical school.

The year I turned 16, my parents gave me the keys to my first car. All of my friends expected that I would be given whatever car I wanted and I have to admit that I was kind of hoping that was the case. Instead, when they opened the garage door, there sat a beat up 1987 Camaro. I don’t know why, but I was ecstatic about my car. When I drove it to school the first day after break, my friends were more surprised than I was. They asked me why parents hadn’t just purchased me a new car. I would respond, sounding like a clone of my parents, “Because I don’t need a new car for my first car, I need to learn how to drive.”

After coming back from a trip to Europe over the summer of my junior year, I was telling my best friend about all the places we went. My mother overhead me and called me downstairs. She told me that I wasn’t suppose to tell people what we had done. By this point I was fed-up with the situation and I told her that no one believed me when I said we just went to New Jersey. She told me that I shouldn’t act so privileged and that it was time for my friend to go home.

What it boils down to is that I have never wanted to be viewed as privileged, but I also want to be able to talk about my experiences. I have always felt there is such a stigma toward children from families who are considered wealthy. We are often stereotyped as lazy, arrogant and, more often than not, unintelligent. We are constantly told that we “just don’t understand” because we were raised differently. We are made to feel bad about enjoying what has been given to us, that which our parents have worked so hard for. It makes for awkward, uncomfortable social situations and I would usually just try to avoid them all together.

Writing this post was extremely uncomfortable. What should have only taken an hour to type, ended up taking several hours. I was constantly deleting anecdotes and rephrasing things because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I feel like I should write a post apologizing for having money and begging forgiveness from those who are not as fortunate as I. The thought of posting this made me anxious and I considered deleting it entirely. I didn’t even allow myself to go onto the kind of detail I wanted, due to some sort of psychological barrier my parents installed when I was younger. The only reason I am able to click the “Publish” button is because I know that the internet offers some anonymity.

So I guess that, in some respects, I am still playing the Anonymity Game with myself.

Oh Brother(s)

My family has always been important to me. They have supported me throughout the majority of my life and I always knew that I could count on them if I needed help. That isn’t to say that they were always physically there, as I spent the majority of my childhood raised by my niania, Aija and my older brothers. My mother traveled for most of childhood and was only home 3-4 weeks out of the year. I grew up around my Aija, my grandmother and my two older brothers. My brothers, Sven and Jakob, were from my mother’s first marriage. Their father had died soon after Jakob was born and my mother had been forced to raise them herself. Like me, they had a nanny (niania) who was with them every day since my mother could not be.

Sven and Jakob were very close to each other, they were only two years apart and similar in a lot of ways. When I was born, they treated me like a younger brother and I provided them with hours of entertainment. My brothers loved to torment me and I am still surprised I survived my childhood.

Around the time I was 4-5 my mother began to take frequent trips to the US. She had met a fellow attorney on one of her trips and they soon began a long distance relationship. After a year of “dating” they flew to Italy, married and when I was seven they had my youngest brother. When Nikolas was born, they decided that it was time to move my older brothers to New York City so that the boys could grow up together. At the time, I was in Vienna so that I could attend the Wiener Staatsoper Ballettschule and when I went home during a break; my grandmother informed me that my brothers were now in America. I was fairly upset at the idea of being the only member of my family left in Europe except for family in Kraków and Świnoujście, whom I rarely saw. I went back to Vienna, upset and missing my family.

I lived in Vienna/Łódź until I was 11, at which point my mother moved me to the US as well. Even though I had missed my family, the thought of leaving Europe was terrifying. My mother had decided that it would be best for me to not know that I would be moving and for the weeks leading up to my flight my grandmother was very sullen. The day of my departure, my mother picked me up at school (which was very rare). I was so excited to see my mom that I didn’t even realize we weren’t headed back to the house until we arrived at the airport. When I saw the airport, I excitedly asked my grandmother, “Are we visiting family in Krakow?!” It was at this point that my grandmother burst into tears and I realized something was wrong. Our driver unloaded luggage from the car and we began to head inside. I kept asking my grandmother what was going on, but she just kept shaking her head and shushing me. By the time we boarded our flight I was terrified and visibly upset. My mother had still not told me where we were going and my head was swimming with possible destinations.

The flight from Łódź landed in London and it was then that my mother told me I was moving, permanently, to the US. I cried for the first few hours of the flight and then fell asleep halfway to NYC. My mother woke me up right before we landed and told me that I was going to see my brothers (my youngest brother for the first time).

Seeing my older brothers was amazing. I realized how much I missed them when they were asking about my flight and our grandmother. From that point on, they were the two most important people in the world to me. With my parents traveling, my grandmother still in Poland and my inability to communicate with my youngest brother, they were the only people I could actually converse with. They began to teach me basic English phrases and we went to see English films together. They showed me around NYC, walked me to school every day and taught me where to get “American” food. The three of us became very close and remained that way until we moved to Missouri a few years later.

The move to Missouri was really the catalyst for a lot of change. It was the point that I realized I had been raised differently, that my language was a huge barrier and that my family wasn’t typical. The move to Missouri happened after my father was offered a job in Kansas City and my mother had decided to quit her job. Missouri was a huge change for all of us, as we had always lived in urban areas. We moved over summer break and my mother enrolled us all in the same school district. We spent the summer getting acclimated to the humidity and I thought the heat might kill me before school even started. My older brothers became quite popular with the Midwestern girls. Both of them were much taller than the rest of the boys at school and they still retained enough of an accent that girls found it “exotic.” Being several years older than I was, they became more interested in having girlfriends then helping their younger sister. My mother, seeing that I was being left behind by my siblings, enrolled me in summer ESL courses. I became obsessed with learning English and by the time school started I was far enough ahead to begin taking courses.

Both Sven and Jakob were adored by the majority of the school. Teachers loved their tenacity, every coach wanted them to go out for their sport and they had amassed quite a following of their peers. I was known as “Sven/Jakob’s sister,” but I also attributed this to their inability to pronounce my first name. My relationship with my older brothers, especially Sven, began to become strained and we spent less time together as they prepared for college.

The year before Sven’s graduation, he began to distance himself from our family as a whole. He spent the majority of his free-time with his friends and only came home when my parents forced him. He began to dabble in drugs and alcohol, eventually requiring my parents to send him away for the summer. Jakob was less interested in partying, but the loss of his older brother caused him to withdraw and he turned to music. Over the summer he used the majority of his savings to buy audio equipment and records. He began producing his own songs and writing music on his guitar. When Sven returned from his “vacation to Arizona” (which is what my parents told everyone) he and Jakob immediately bonded over his new hobby.

When Sven graduated he left for the University of Colorado to study aerospace engineering and only came back home for major family events. After Sven graduated, Jakob and I became close once more. I was terrified about Jakob graduating and leaving home so I tried to get him to apply to schools in Missouri. Despite my best efforts, he ultimately decided to go to Duke so that he could apply to law school there. With both of my older brothers gone I was left to fend for myself as my youngest brother was too little for me to spent time with. It was difficult for me and I missed by brothers terribly. I begged my mother to let me visit them, but she would never let me go and I resented her for it. I kept in contact with my brothers and every once in a while one of them would venture back to Missouri. When I left for college, both of them returned home and helped me set up my dorm room. This was to be the last time I saw Sven, but I didn’t know it at the time and I wish I would have spent more time with him.

After I was moved in, Sven left to head back to Colorado. He had fought with my parents almost the entire time he was home and told them he wouldn’t be coming back to visit them any time soon. I assumed he was just being dramatic, but he never came back to Missouri and in early 2006 he called to tell me that he would be moving to Japan in September. I was devastated to have him move so far away. Apparently he has wanted to work with JAXA for a while, but couldn’t until his contract was up. At the end of 2006, Sven moved to Tokyo and then began working with JAXA in mid-2007. A few years ago he got married and now has two children. None of us were invited to the wedding and we have yet to meet any of his family. I have not seen him since the day I was moved into my dorm, but I’m hoping that he will visit in a few months.

When Jakob graduated from Duke, he moved to Colorado to live with Sven and anglicized his first name (Jacob).  He then purchased a house and the two lived together for a while until Sven decided to move to Japan. Jakob still lives in Colorado and I get to see him once every year or so. He has yet to distance himself from the family the way Sven has and since converting to Buddhism he has been better about communicating with my parents.

My brothers will always be important to me. They were my first playmates, the two family members I talked to almost every day and an integral part of my support system as I was growing up. Both of my brothers helped raise me and I can attribute a lot of personality traits to them. I do wish that they were more involved in the family and that they didn’t feel the need to distance themselves from us. I keep hoping that they will come around at some point so that I will be able to hug them and tell them, “Thank you for all that you did for me.”

Whole living

Religion is a touchy subject. Some people are fervent about their faith, sometimes to the point of being militaristic. My parents never forced us into any religion or told us that one particular faith was more “right” than another. When we were younger they would take us to a variety of religious services or ask friends of theirs to take us. I can remember going to a Hindu temple, which was quite the experience. The inside of the temple was covered in art work which was gorgeous, vivid and full of life. Everyone I met at the temple was incredibly friendly and I ended up going back several more times. I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience I had there, but I still felt like too much of an outsider to go on a regular basis.

After the Hindu services, I was taken to Catholic Mass a few weeks later. I had gone with several friends from school and my mother had graciously bowed out of attending this particular service. I didn’t mind the sermon and the people were nice enough to me. At the end of the service, however, when everyone went up to the altar to take Communion, I was told that I had to stay seated. I was left in the pew and, being 6-7 I was upset that everyone else got a snack and not me. I went home to tell my mother I didn’t want to be a Catholic. Even though I had specifically told my mother I disliked the Catholic services, she took me to a Roman Catholic Church a week later. She had explained to me that, just like Judaism, Catholicism was divided into different “groups.” I fell asleep during Mass and my mother was forced to carry me out. Thus ended my brief exploration of Catholicism, both in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Having gone to Catholic and Hindu services, my mother farmed me out to Pentecostals, Christian Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and various Protestant friends around the city. Each time I returned home, I told my mother I just wanted to go with my grandmother to the synagogue, but my mother told me that I could not make that decision until I was older. When we moved to the States, I was told to go to Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, RLDS/LDS, Episcopal and even Unitarian services. The only religion I wasn’t able to go to services for was Islam and that wasn’t from lack of trying on my mother’s part. Then we moved to Missouri and everything changed.

When I was sixteen, my mother had told me that, “Since you can drive now, you are allowed to choose whatever religion you want.” I had told her that I wanted to continue going to the synagogue with my grandmother and she let me go. She had done the same with my older brothers and was in the process of chauffeuring my younger brother around as well. My two older brothers decided to attend Lutheran services, as they had enjoyed the community in NYC.

Growing up in Missouri, I was surrounded by a lot of Catholics and Baptists. I didn’t particularly mind either of those groups, but they seemed to think that Judaism was about two steps away from Satanism. Throughout school, when a new student would come into our ranks, they would always make sure to introduce like, “This is RO and she’s Jewish.” Apparently my identifier was “Jew” and I was constantly reminded of the fact that I was the only Jewish kid in school.

It hadn’t always been like that. When I was growing up in Poland I had visited the same synagogue my grandparents went to on numerous occasions. I knew a lot of other Jewish kids and was friends with quite a few of them until I moved. Even the majority of the Catholic kids in Lodz didn’t care that we were Jewish and would socialize with us outside of school. It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I realized I was in the minority.

After we had moved to Missouri, my mother renounced Judaism, began going to a Christian church with my younger brother and threw away any decorations that dealt with Jewish holidays. For the remainder of our time in the Midwest, she made sure to distance herself from Judaism. The kids I went to school with would constantly ask, “Why aren’t you a Christian like the rest of your family?” I never quite knew how to answer that question. It wasn’t because I thought they were wrong, I didn’t even think I was particularly right. What it boiled down to was my level of comfort and I felt the most comfortable going to the synagogue with my grandmother.

As the years continued, I became less annoyed by the “Jew” label. I had begun to realize that I drew some sort of pride from being the “only Jewish kid” and I felt more exotic in a way. It had been difficult enough trying to fit in, as not speaking English made befriending other kids quite a task. I had consistently invited close friends to the synagogue and many asked if they could come back. Throughout high school, I maintained a fairly close relationship with Judaism. I went to services, participated in cultural activities and even presented during community meetings. I enjoyed the feeling of being with people who did not consider the term Jew a negative thing.

When I went away to college, I stopped attending services with my grandmother. I began to question Judaism and ultimately decided to leave the congregation. It was hard on my grandmother; she was the one remaining member of our family who still practiced Judaism. She had been so proud of me, her one practicing grandchild and I crushed that pride so selfishly. To this day I only go to the synagogue when my grandmother begs me to go and I don’t really follow any of the central tenets of Judaism. I don’t eat pork, but more so because I’m a vegetarian. That is about the only thing I took away from Judaism and my time spent in the synagogue.

It does make me a little sad. I was given the opportunity to choose, what should have been, a very important part of my life. In a way, I feel like I have failed myself by not allowing me to maintain a sense of balance in my life. Everyone always says that you should find balance in mind, body, spirit and yet I don’t feel like my spirit is well-balanced at all. Perhaps I will continue to grow in every aspect of my life, the spiritual aspect as well. When that time comes, I will try to remain open to the idea of allowing myself to stray from the very scientific path I have been following for years now. There will hopefully come a time when my beliefs are challenged and I have to make decisions that are outside of my comfort zone. As of this very moment, I don’t feel well equipped to deal with any sort of spiritual change, but I am hoping to change that. The more I realize that religion and spirituality don’t necessarily mean the same thing, the more I will be able to open myself up to the possibility of trying to balance myself spiritually. Until then, I must continue to question and strive to find balance within the life I have built for myself.

A Conversation with my Mother

On a break from work today I called my mother to see how she was doing. Normally I wouldn’t post something like this, but this conversation was a gold mine of hilarity.

Regarding my brother watching the house for a week….

Me: Hey Mom, how are you? I heard you were going on a week-long retreat with dad on Friday.
Mom: I am, but your brother is watching the house so I will be a nervous wreck all weekend.
Me: Why? He’s 23 now. I think he can take care of the house for a week.
Mom: The last time he was left by himself he caused a flue fire, flooded the laundry room and got into a car accident.
Me: He was also still in high school.
Mom: Mentally he still is in high school

On how California has “changed” me…

Mom: Your cousin said you were in a detox program?! Are you doing drugs?
Me: It’s a cleanse, just something to help purify your body. I’m not doing drugs, though some times I wish I was.
Mom: Well I think moving to California has really changed you. Since you’ve been living out there you don’t come home as often, you have a blog or whatever and you are going to detox. I just don’t want you to become some New Age freegan*.
Me: I’m not going to detox, mother. It’s not like I’m visiting a center, it is just something I’m doing to feel better.
Mom: What about this blog?
Me: What about it? It’s nice for me to have an outlet to write about my life since it can be rather stressful.
Mom: I see. You better not put anything about our family on this blog of yours, I don’t want to end up all over the internet.

My mothers thoughts on my new house…

Me: I’m still planning on moving in the first week of July.
Mom: I still can’t believe you bought a house because it has an elevator.
Me: No, I didn’t want the elevator. I loved everything about the house except the elevator.
Mom: You should just take the elevator out..
Me: That would be really expensive and I don’t think I want to go through that with the construction crews either.
Mom: Well, don’t let the elevator make you lazy.

Her thoughts on my diet…

Me: It was nice to see my cousin, we had fun while she was here. I was able to talk to her about some of the issues she has been dealing with as well.
Mom: She told me that while she was there you didn’t bake any cookies, buy ice cream, cook any meals with meat and you didn’t prepare any pierogi!
Me: Well I was on my detox diet mom, plus I try not to eat like that.
Mom: You don’t want to be too skinny, Polish boys don’t like skinny girls. They are used to hearty Slavic girls!

I love my mother. She is endlessly entertaining and I wish I got to visit her more often.

*I have no idea where my mother learned about freeganism, but I find it hilarious that she believes California might turn me into one.

Ojciec

Sunday was Father’s Day and it has always been a strange holiday for me. When I was younger I would celebrate it with my father, but ever-present in my thoughts was my biological father with whom I had never spoken with until October 2005.

It was such a surreal experience and one that I would prefer to never have to repeat. I had heard stories about my biological father from my mother who often told me how much I looked like him.  She had met my father at a synagogue in Łódź a year after her first husband passed away from cancer. Whenever we discuss my biological father, my mother is always sure to add in the disclaimer, “I was still dealing with the loss of Arvid and feeling very vulnerable.” It was, I have been told, a whirlwind romance and they were both crazy about each other. A year into the relationship, my mother found out she was pregnant and went to my father. From what I have been told, accusations were made and he told her that he was not ready to get married. My mother was distraught and begged him to reconsider, but one weekend he moved away from Łódź. They didn’t speak for 3 years and during that time my mother raised all of us as a single mother, until she met my (current) father.

In 2005, my mother asked me if I would like to meet my biological father. I was still living in Missouri and didn’t know if I was ready to sit across from the man who had hurt my mother so horribly. I initially declined his invitation, but after a few conversations with my mother I emailed him to set up a meeting.

We met at a small restaurant off campus and I recognized him right away. He was tall, slender and looked like me. My stomach ached the moment I saw him and I thought about walking out right then. I was incredibly nervous about speaking with him, but I mustered up the courage and proceeded to the table he had reserved for us. The walk to the table felt like it took a decade and he stood up to hug me. I was completely terrified by him wanting a hug, so I quickly sat down before he could embrace me. Sitting across from him, he was no more my father than the person sitting at the table nearest to us. I looked at him and realized that even though we were complete strangers, I would forever be connected to him no matter how hard I tried to distance myself. He was the first to speak and he was only able to force out a heavily accented, “Hello.”

When the waiter appeared, I had never been so excited to see someone in my life. I quickly ordered a drink and appetizers, but immediately regretted ordering anything that would prolong our meeting. After my father had ordered, we sat quietly at the table until our drinks came. Liquid courage washed over me and I finally asked, “Why did you leave my mother when you found out she was pregnant?” I knew that he had been expecting the question at some point, but I think he was

"I would like one glass of liquid courage and knife to cut through the awkwardness please"

flustered by the fact that it was the first question I wanted answered. He explained that he wasn’t ready to be a father, the idea of having to raise a child was terrifying to him and he assumed I would be better off without him. I told him that I would normally have understood that, if only he had not gotten married 6 months later (with a child soon after). I asked him if it was just the thought of being my father that scared him.  He was pretty open about the fact that he hadn’t even been ready to be a father to his boys, but that he was married and knew he had an obligation. He had, apparently, felt no obligation to be a father to me.

When the main course arrived, I begin to feel this sort of resentment for the man sitting across for me. Here he was, wanting to see me after so many years and yet he had not found it in him to care before this very meeting. I ate my soup, giving him the occasional nod when he asked a question. When we got to the fact that I was almost through with medical school, he reached across the table, placed my hand in his and said, “What a remarkable young woman you are!”
I don’t know why, but in that instant I hated him so much. I withdrew my hand to my lap and sat up. I stared at him with cold eyes and responded, “I am who I am because of the love and support my mother and father provided me. It was nothing that you did, you had no part in the way I turned out.” At first he just studied my face and I assumed it was because he was trying to figure out how to respond. Then he gave a bit of a smirk and said, “Genetics play a huge role in the way a child turns out, I’m sure they taught you that in medical school.” His smugness was off-putting and I wanted to leave so badly, but I thought that if I walked away he would win. I had wanted to come to this meeting to show him how much I didn’t need him and to finally resolve the issues I had from not knowing my biological father. I had wanted him to see that, without him I had accomplished so much. In truth, I had wanted to hurt him.

I look back on that meeting now and it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. We ended the lunch by exchanging numbers, but I never called him and he never contacted me. I found out later through my mother that he had two sons and was living in Paris with his family. Knowing that I have two half brothers whom I will probably never meet has always been a little odd to me. I found out their full names so that I could recognize them if I was ever introduced to them, but the idea that I am related to them still bewilders me.

Every year since I met my biological father, I tend to think about him around fathers day. I wonder what my life would have been like if he had decided to raise me. Would we have moved to the States? Where would I have gone to college and would I have pursued a different degree? Would I have loved him like I love my father now? What would our relationship be like? Would we have anything in common besides our physical attributes? Obviously these questions will always remain unanswered, but I have to think that I am ok with that as I have a wonderful father who raised me like I was his own.

Happy (belated) Fathers Day.