Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where It Came From

I have two fathers: one who raised me, and one who I didn't get to know till later in life. The first provided an example for me as I grew up; the latter provided half of my genetic material.

My father, the one who raised me and adopted me, was usually a man of few words. He could be intense, but he was rarely angry. He taught me how to fix things, mainly by showing how it was done. I don't recall many of his words, but I will always recall his actions. I'm sure that I must have picked up some of his mannerisms and behaviors, but -- that being said -- I didn't see myself in him, nor in the rest of the family that I grew up with. My mom and my siblings, for instance, are some of the most talkative and social people that I know, so much so that it used to drive me a bit nutty.

As taciturn as my father was, he didn't mind the company of others, and -- believe me -- our house was bursting with activity and people. What felt like chaos to me didn't faze him at all. My impression was that he enjoyed large gatherings, and he seemed to do well in highly social situations. He was involved with our family, laughing often and readily; he was easy-going. Though he was less talkative, he wasn't withdrawn, as if he needed to recuperate (unless, of course, I count his cigarette breaks).

My mom called him "quiet", a term I eventually came to know well. She said it as if apologizing for him and for me all at once. "You're quiet, just like your dad," she told me. "You must have gotten it from him. Even though he doesn't say much, you should know that your dad loves you." I liked his quietness, but -- as much as I wanted to -- I didn't feel a connection with him because of it. I think what I took in most from my father's mannerisms was not his quietness but his calm demeanor.

My other father, the biological one, I met about fifteen years ago, when I had already been an adult for quite a while. I didn't know he was my biological father at the time, but it made sense when I did find out (after the DNA tests). Not because we look the same, but -- oddly -- because we act the same, very much so in some ways. It was a very strange thing for me to discover, considering I spent most of my life without knowing him or being influenced by him. I was astonished at how big a role genetic material could play. As long as I've known him, he's been on his own, and he seems to thrive that way.

One day I asked my biological father what he would have taught me had he been around when I was younger. I could have used his guidance, I told him, especially when it came to being introverted. His response shook me, leaving me empty, as only truth can. He said he'd have taught me nothing, and that we each have to figure things out alone. I knew he was right, but it still felt cold. Becoming who we are is a solo project, I guess, introvert or not.

Still, I don't think we start with a blank slate. We start with what's given to us. From my biological father, I've gained the tendency to dive deep and to fall within; to find enjoyment in solitude, nature, and independence. From my adopted father, I've gained peacefulness, the ability to relax and to laugh, even if quietly; to be open to the chaos of social environments, as uncomfortable as they may seem.

This is what I started with, and I'm thankful for it.