A Question Answered
I'm staring at the letter in utter disbelief. After so many years this was the last thing I was expecting to get from Naomi: an answer to my questions, an incredibly ordinary story and a name... my father's name.
Just thinking about it is enough to throw me for a loop. When I was little that was the thing I wanted the most, the thing Naomi always said she couldn't give me because she didn't know herself. Deep down I had always suspected that she was lying about that but to have it confirmed is a bit of a shock... as is the mundane way in which this revelation came about.
It turns out that a couple of months ago my mother went out and got herself a new boyfriend. There is nothing new or particularly earth shattering about that, in fact probably the most shocking thing is that they have lasted a couple of months and my mom doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave. Anyway, I've never even met the man but apparently he is a psychologist and somehow he finally managed to convince her that I had a right to know, that I needed some sort of closure or something like that. I don't know how he did it, though from what I can gather he has had a significant influence on her. She sounds different --the letter talks about closure rather than letting the past go-- but that is not the point. The point is that she has finally decided that it was time for her to tell me the truth about my own birth.
After years of coming up with millions of different scenarios in my mind as to just what had happened --each one of them more unbelievable than the one before-- in the end it turns out that the story of how I came to be is an incredibly ordinary one... though it does have a bit of an exotic touch in terms of the location, after all, we are talking Naomi here.
I've always known that Naomi dropped out of school when she was fifteen and didn't get her high school diploma until I was four, when she realized that, as much as she hated it, she really did need that piece of paper. She was a restless child and she couldn't stand her family's traditional views. She wanted to experience the world first hand, not read about it in some book so she took off. Her curiosity about her own past and history took her to Israel and then, in what was either an incredibly brave or an incredibly stupid move, she set out to explore the Middle East. How a Jewish teenaged girl in the sixties, a couple of years after the Six Day War, decided to do that is something I've never been able to understand.
That was the part of the story I was familiar with, but there was obviously more to it than that, the parts Naomi had always left out of her old stories, like how a few months later she found herself in Egypt, fascinated by the history of the place. Of course, in typical Naomi fashion, she was far from content with guided tours and carefully organized museums. She wanted the thrill of discovery, she wanted to touch that history somehow so she volunteered to work in a dig. She got food and shelter and a chance to spend hours a day digging through tons of sand... and she met someone. It was one of the archeologists in charge of the place.
Sure, the man was married, he had a small son and both his wife and his child were at the dig but my mother wasn't about to let that stop her. Naomi wanted him and she always got what she wanted... besides, she wasn't looking for a relationship, not a long term one, so she didn't really think it mattered much.
The letter doesn't go into much detail as to how she finally got him, it just mentions something about an argument he had with his wife one night and the fact that Naomi was 'in the right place at the right time'. The next day she left the dig and never saw him again... in fact she didn't even think much about him until a few weeks later when she realized that her actions on that particular night had had some unexpected consequences.
According to Naomi she thought about going back when she found out she was pregnant, she thought about telling him the truth but in the end she couldn't bring herself to do it. Yes, she was willing to overlook the fact that he was a married man when it came to sleeping with him but she knew she didn't have a right to ruin his marriage so he never even knew that I existed.
Naomi made her peace with the fact that she was a single mother early on but that didn't necessarily mean that there weren't any problems and some of those had to do with the fact that I kept asking her about my father. That was something she had never really anticipated. She was young and she had assumed that an answer along the lines of 'I don't know' would always be enough for me but it wasnt... not by a longshot.
She says she wanted to tell me but she didn't know how, that at first I was too young to understand and then she didn't know how to tell me that she had lied to me in the first place. She didn't tell me because she was afraid of seeing the disappointment in my face, besides while she didn't want me to be haunted by my father's ghost, she knew that a ghost was all my father was ever going to be to me.
Even after I was born she kept an eye on his career and she was well aware of the fact that he had been killed in a freak accident in the early seventies. According to her letter that was one of the main reasons why she was so reluctant to tell me his name... a name that is now staring back at me from a piece of paper.
My father is dead, at least now I know that much, but that is not the end of the story... there's something else here in my mothers letter. He was a married man, a man who had a son, a son Naomi actually met, a son who was three when I was conceived. That means I have a brother, a big brother who doesn't know I exist and now the question is, should I contact him?
When I was growing up I wanted a big brother almost as much as I wanted a father... a brother who would keep the bullies away. It is true that I have a brother now in my sentinel and I'm fine with that but I am also curious. If it were up to me I would look him up, no question about that, but the problem is that I don't think he would really appreciate it... not seeing how Im a bastard.
That's the word that's been haunting me ever since I can remember. Sure, there are plenty of pretty euphemisms like natural or illegitimate or whatever, but in the end they all mean the same thing and while I would love to meet my brother, I know he probably won't want to meet me.
I have a lot to think about but I know that while I can always try and contact him later I'll never be able to uncontact him if I take that first step now. I know I don't have the right to hurt him by confronting him with the fact that I exist. For the time being I think I just have to be content with the fact that I have an answer to my questions. I know who my father was, I finally have a name to replace the question mark that has plagued me all my life, I even have a picture, an old photograph of Dr. Melburn Jackson taken in that dig so many years ago.