Café Discovery: The Unfather (Revised)

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

It’s Father’s Day, a day which tends to distress me greatly.  


O.E. fæder, from P.Gmc. *fader (cf. O.N. faðir, Ger. vater), from PIE *p@ter (cf. Sanskit pitar−, Gk. pater, L. pater, O.Pers. pita, O.Ir. athir “father”), presumably from baby-speak sound like pa. The classic example of Grimm’s Law, where PIE “p−” becomes Gmc. “f−.”  Spelling with −th− (16c.) reflects widespread phonetic shift in M.E. that turned −der to −ther in many words; spelling caught up to pronunciation in 1500s (cf. burden, murder).  Fatherland (1623) is a loan-translation of Ger. Vaterland, itself a loan-translation of L. patria (terra), lit. “father’s land.”  Father’s Day dates back to 1910 in Spokane, Wash., but was not widespread until 1943, in imitation of Mother’s Day.

Online Etymology Dictionary

I mostly want to go hide somewhere, so I’ll probably try to get lost in something.  Maybe create some graphics.  Or watch some food shows on the telly.

A few years ago I wrote the following, which flashes back to an even earlier post in another SpaceTime.  Think of it as a way for me not to have to write something new.

The Unfather

Once upon a time in the City by the Bay, up where the longhairs roamed, a guy (from all outward appearances) was once again rejected from a place of belonging and tried to end it all…again.  Fortunately for our story, he was too stoned to figure out that if he needed something sharp to slit his wrists, all he needed to do was break a window.  If 20/20 hindsight had any power, he’d have been dead long ago.  But he’s not…

What does one do when one is so excruciatingly depressed about not finding a way to fit in even with goddamned hippie freaks?  Our protagonist ended up at the I/Thou Coffee Shop, next door to the Straight Theater, playing chess.  And winning.  One could keep playing if one kept winning, even if one didn’t have enough wherewithal to purchase anything.  During the course of the the run, a young woman sat down to watch.  She asked if he were a virgin.  He lied and said, “No.”  She offered our hero a place to sleep.  She took his viginity.  Or rather, he willingly gave it.

On such events are history hung.  There would be no story if he had told the truth.

Mucho drugs later and events involving stealing cigarettes for a living (not me, her), we ended up in Joplin, MO, in her parents’ house with her pregnant.  And me trapped by the ethos of my past.  I had a responsibility.

So here I was trying to be a father when I was still really hazy about why I had to be a man, looking at at least eighteen years.  Of course, I had some role models to try to emulate.  They would be my own alcoholic racist of an old man who never once said he was proud of me or his father, who called his wife Woman (It wasn’t until after I transitioned and returned to Oregon for a visit that I learned my grandmother’s original name).  Or television characters from Father Knows Best, Donna Reed and Ozzie and Harriet.  I guess I tried to navigate everything as best I could.  I did the full 18 and a few more out of fear and ignorance about what to do next.

And I raised a damn fine child.  Here’s something I wrote about her back in 1996, on the OWLS email list for lesbians over 40 (I’m one of the founding members).

My daughter is a lesbian, something I think I had an inkling of when she was in about 4th grade.  I’ve been positive about it since junior high, at least.  I tried to be there for her if she ever wanted to talk but knowing that it was something only she could decide whether or not to tell me.  Actually, Jen never did tell me.  She told her mother and I got it from her.  Maybe Jen knew that I already knew.

High school was hard for her.  She had a lesbian friend in junior high whose mother was also lesbian and used to hang around over there a lot.  But then we moved to Arkansas and it became a lot harder for her.  She made some friends in drama class (that the teacher is a lesbian is a poorly kept secret) but she seemed to have trouble fitting in with the people here.

She eventually went to Lincoln to visit some friends who went from UCA to University of Nebraska for grad school.  While there, she met Julie, her partner, and they have now been together over seven years.  Last year they bought a house.  It was Julie who got me on the net at subscribed to the Sappho list.  She works as a bookbinder at the UNL library.

I can’t tell you how pleased I have been that Jen has found someone she loves and somewhere she fits.  She has friends there…she’s known as an excellent dungeon mistress amongst her friends (get your minds out of the gutter 🙂  I’m talking Dungeon’s and Dragons…hehe).  At the Brandon Teena Vigil, I met one of her friends, a professor at UNL, who told me that Jen has been a very vocal supporter of transsexual people in the community in Lincoln.  I can’t tell you how proud this made me feel.  And Julie is doing grad work in Women’s Studies looking at the transgenderism of Willa Cather and its influence on her writing (Willa Cather attended UNL dressed as a male, calling herself William Cather).

I’ve visited them several times now and I think Jen is really happy with her life.  As my .sig file says, that’s really all that is important.  It’s certainly what is most important to me.

We decided long ago that “father” probably wasn’t the appropriate term for my relationship with Jen.  I am her parent.

Jen will be 39 this August.  She and Julie now live in Santa Cruz, where Julie works and studies at UC-Santa Cruz and Jen works at a Kinko’s.  We get together whenever I am in the Bay Area.  I’m Julie’s parent-out-law.

But there isn’t any Parent-out-law Day and I have to suffer through this one, during which it will be displayed 6 to 10 times every hour, exactly how I should have been a father to my child, when all I really wanted was to be her mother.


Addendum:  My daughter will be 40 this year.  My daughter came out again last year.  She ended her relationship with Julie after 18 and a half years and now is engaged to marry a guy she met online and she seems really happy, which is great news.  🙂

She has moved to Rome, NY and is planning a Las Vegas marriage next summer.  And we are planning to be there.  

One thing seems to be true:  life is not certain.


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    • Robyn on June 21, 2009 at 21:04

    Clicking on the images will yield large versions.

    • Alma on June 21, 2009 at 23:31

    friends in Israel yesterday and they said they got rid of Mother and Fathers Days, and made a Family Day instead.  One of them had her first child the year that happened and she felt she got ripped off.  The card and candy companies hate it, but it seems more fair to me.

  1. Geez, you don’t have to hide.  Or cringe.  Or feel anything but that this is simply a day that no longer applies to you (and never really did).

    Your daughter sounds happy.  It sounds like you and she have a good relationship, maybe a great one.  So clearly you did, and continue to do, something right.  Your daughter gets a lot of the credit for how she turned out, but dammit, so do you.

    It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about Father’s Day too — not for the same reasons as you, but with the same kind of… I dunno.  Weird disconnection.  Well, not so weird if you know the backstory.  Father’s Day is a non-holiday for me, and has been since I was about 14 years old.  For me, this day simply does not exist except as just another Sunday in June.  And I’m fine with that.  

    But these damn corporate-sponsored holidays just aggravate the hell out of me.  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day… argh.  I’d like to see them all just wither up and blow away.  Those of us who already have good, or great, relationships to celebrate would probably celebrate them just because we feel like it, no matter what “Day” it is.  And those of us who don’t have good relationships, or who don’t have relationships at all, are spared having to be forcibly reminded of what they’re lacking.  So fuck it.  

  2. Maybe it should be a day called “Raisers” Day, for those who raise their children with soul & love.

    I have had the best of both worlds in that regard, as Something the Dog Said said.

    I`ve been both mother & father to my daughter, since she was not yet three years old when her mother died.

    The bigotry, snide looks, outright hypocrisy of some people, the legal position of who has the “look” of an acceptable parent probably made me a better one.(I hope)

    I had never considered the thoughts you might have, but the fact that you have a daughter that you have a relationship with, speaks plenty as to who you are to yourself & to her. Have a great day. You are your own unique card & candy company, as those who celebrate individuality are.

    btw, Nice graphic art work.

    I`m partial to the blue ones.

    As you say, “life is not certain”.

    But no one gets out of here alive.

    • rb137 on June 22, 2009 at 07:33

    What you’ve done is deeper than that. Do not allow this day to make you feel out of place. I rather like The Dog’s idea that you claim both Mother’s and Father’s Day. or pick a Sunday half way between.

    Best wishes to your daughter and her new life. May she live long and be happy.  🙂

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