Good grief! Where do I start with this one?
I wondered very early on why Mike lived with his mother and grandmother, but I didn’t want to ask. I didn’t know if his Mom and Dad were divorced, if his Dad died, or what the story was. I knew that he was an only child (more on this later…) but I had no idea of the circumstances surrounding it.
My life has been very sheltered in some ways. I came from a family with a Mom and a Dad and I had a sister. Mostly every one of my friends growing up (actually, all my friends growing up) came from the same type of family, give or take a brother, sister, or both.
I was very uneducated with the whole concept of only children and single parents. I found it very fascinating yet sad all at the same time. More and more Mike had been teaching me so much about life, about love and about myself. Our relationship was moving to deeper and deeper levels all the time. I quickly learned that I could ask him anything. No holds barred. The question couldn’t be too personal and he wouldn’t stop until he was satisfied that I understood or I had no follow-up questions to ask. We talked a lot – about everything; topics so obscure you could never imagine. He was so smart, so well-spoken, so compassionate, so funny, so unique.
I can’t even remember how the topic of his Dad came up. Did I mention it, did he, or did his mother? I have no idea. I do know that I can never remember being so sad, but yet so proud all at the same time as I sat and listened to Mikey’s story.
His Mom and Dad were never married. The first thing that crossed my mind was that his Mom was raped. Thankfully, this was not the case. She had been dating his father for a while and she became pregnant. His father told her that he didn’t love her but he would marry her “just to give the baby a proper name”. Needless to say, they didn’t marry and Mike’s Mom had no problem with giving him her last name and didn’t need a husband in order to have a “properly named” child. I learned later that she never wanted a husband, but she did always want a child. She may have dated a few times after Michael was born, but never seriously and she never married. She had all that she ever wanted in life. A child.
Being an unwed mother back in the late 60’s was definitely not looked upon favorably. She lost her job when she became pregnant and many members of her family attempted to shun her. This was short-lived, however. Soon after Michael was born she got a job at another hospital, doing the same work and stayed there until the day she retired 4 years ago. Her family rallied around her and Michael was raised in a loving home with nothing but support. Mike’s Mom continued to live with her mother until the day she died in 1996. When she returned to work after giving birth to Mike it was his grandmother that was there with him day in and day out as his mother worked. Mike’s grandfather was killed overseas in WW II even before his mother was born. It had always been “Nannie” as the head of the household. She raised Mike’s Mom and Aunt and now she was instrumental with the raising of her grandson.
Mike’s Mom didn’t receive any help from his Dad (who lived a mere 10 minutes away from Mike his entire life). His father, I believe attempted to take his Mom to court to “get” Mike, but nothing ever came of it. She raised him, without any help from his father from day one. His father’s family was another story. They all acknowledged Mike as part of the family and his father’s parents’ hearts broke that their son would not take responsibility for their grandson. His dad had several brothers and sisters who all viewed Mike as their nephew and Mike’s Mom was determined to allow Mike to get to know his father’s family as best she could.
Mike knew of the situation between his Mom and Dad from a very early age. His Mom had nothing to hide and Mike was brought up to know the circumstances between the two of them in no way reflected on him. He had nothing to do with it and he was no less of a person because he didn’t have a father in his life. He was surrounded by the people who loved him, and that made him the boy he was.
His father wasn’t completely out of his life. He could be seen on several occasions parked close by in his car watching Michael play outside in the yard. Understandably, this would be quite unnerving for Mike’s mother and grandmother. But in their opinion, this allowed him to see what a wonderful boy he was missing out on as a son. They constantly instilled in Michael that his father was the one missing out – not Mike.
When Mike became a young man he found out that he has two siblings – a half brother and a half sister. His brother is 2 years older than him and he has a sister two WEEKS younger than him. He had no idea who they are but he does know that growing up, they lived in the general area. He was always nervous to ask a girl from his school out on a date if he didn’t know her parents were her biological parents. Could you imagine asking a girl out on a date, falling in love and wanting to marry only to find out she is your sister? It was a chance he was never willing to take. To this day he has no idea who they are, if they are still around the area or if they know about him (all three of them have different mothers but the same father).
Over the years, as Mike grew so did his chance meetings with his father. Being totally, blatantly ignored became second nature to him. He would see his father in the mall only to be disregarded. I can’t imagine how that must have felt. His father did eventually marry and Mike had the chance to meet his wife at his grandfather’s funeral. Like I said, Michael remained close to his father’s family throughout the course of his life, so it was no surprise that he was present during his grandfather’s wake and funeral. Mike and his cousin alternated standing at the head of his grandfather’s coffin throughout the viewing and at one point his father’s wife asked who this young man was. She had no idea Michael existed. She came over and spoke to Mike, introduced herself and appeared eager to get to know him.
It was shortly after this that Mike and I started dating. Just after we became engaged I was involved in a pageant which involved three evenings of various competitions which were taking place at a local hotel. During the times that I was competing Mike would wait for me downstairs in the lounge. Imagine the surprise he received one evening at seeing his father enter the lounge. Mike struggled with what to do. He decided to go up and say hello. Upon doing so his father looked at him and said, “What do you want? You’re nothing but a bast***.” Without as much as drawing a breath, Mike responded. “If I’m a bast***, that’s nobody’s doing but your own. Have a great evening!”
I was floored. I couldn’t believe this man could be so low, so inhumane, so mean. I was crushed for Mike, but I was so proud of him at the same time. I couldn’t imagine my worst enemy saying that to me, let alone my own father. I have no idea what gave Michael the strength to say what he said back to his father that night, but after that something seemed to change.
I worked at a local mall and every so often I would see Mike’s father and his wife walking up and down the mall. She knew who I was and would always stop to speak. At first, “Daddy-dearest” just kept walking. I was able to get to know his wife somewhat and enjoyed speaking with her. She was a very nice lady and told me that she tried on several occasions to get Mike’s father to attempt a relationship with his son. She wanted to know all about our wedding plans and was so excited that we were being married. Eventually, when I would see them in the mall, he would stop and speak with me. Nothing very taxing, just pleasantries. I almost felt guilty talking to him. Why would he talk to me? I was nothing to him. Yes, I was marrying his son, but shouldn’t it be his son that he was speaking to? I didn’t want to be rude and axe any chance that someday the two of them might have a meaningful conversation, so I tried as best I could to get to know this man who would soon be my “father-in-law”.
There ended up being a few times that Mike would be around while they were at the mall. They could say hello to each other and exchange comments about the weather and work and small things like that. Was this a start?
Mike’s Mom had a wedding shower for me and of course, Mike’s grandmother, Aunts and cousins were all invited. His father’s wife got wind of the situation and I believe she called Mike’s Mom and asked if it would be alright if she attended. I was asked what I thought and truly I didn’t care. I wouldn’t have “invited” her, but if she called and asked if she could attend, who am I to say no? It was nice to see her there with the other members of Mike’s family. Was she trying to undo some of the wrong done by Mike’s father? Who knows. She certainly didn’t have any obligation to Michael whatsoever, but she was part of the family and Michael, his Mom, their family and I would do her no injustice. She would be treated as family and it was obvious that she was trying more than she had to to form some type of relationship with us.
Then it was time to make the decision that we had all been thinking about but no one had really verbalized to this point: do we give this man an invitation to the wedding? A man who missed out on first steps, first dates, high school dances, graduation and so so much more during the course of Mike’s life. Do we really want to invite him to the most important day of Mike’s life? His wedding day? We talked and talked and talked. We asked Mike’s Mom for her opinion and asked my parents for their’s. Ultimately it was our decision , and more specifically it was Mike’s decision. I would do whatever would make Mike happiest. It didn’t matter to me either way. I had my views and I made them known. I didn’t think that Mike’s father deserved to be there – for any reason. Why would we include him on this day – of all days, when he couldn’t be bothered spending any other day with him since the day he was born? Michael felt the same way. There was not a wedding invitation addressed to the Father of the Groom.
Did not being invited to the wedding stop Mike’s father from attending? How did their relationship progress, or did it? There is still so much to tell.
Until next time…