This morning I woke up thinking about my father.
I never knew him. But I know his name was Lucian.
About ten years ago a distant relative on my father’s side contacted me. I’d never heard of her, as I knew nothing about his side of the family.
She told me that she enjoyed dabbling in ancestry and thus, had discovered me. A second or third cousin possibly.
She asked if I wanted her to send me copies of photos of family members, as she hailed from my father’s side of the family.
I said yes. Sure, why not?
When the thick envelope arrived, I was a little hesitant to rip it open. Would it be hard or emotional, to see these faces I never met?
I let the thin copied photos fall out in clumps. That was what my paternal family consisted of. Clumps of faded photographs.
I saw that I had a half-brother my father had with a first wife. There were other relatives whose names I’d never heard spoken.
The photos I was most interested in were those of my father, that man who never featured in my life after my birth.
He was tall. In the photos, he seemed to angle and curve his frame over the women he stood next to as though protecting them.
Was it all for show, I wondered? Because he never seemed to stay in one place very long to be their protectors, from what I’d heard.
From the photos, I could tell he liked new cars and women. That was what I took away from those scattered photos on the table in front of me. And that my face carried remnants of his. There was a resemblance.
He had this smug smile, as though he was keeping a secret.
Both he and my mother may as well have played bit characters in the movie of my life, for all they contributed. They were just people I didn’t know and had no emotional attachment to.
But even if someone who should be vital to you was never there, that gaping hole figures largely in your life forevermore. In their absence, they left behind traces of what might have been. What they should have meant to me.
I went through the scraps of paper, pausing with those of my mother in them. Again, with him bent over her as though he was an umbrella shielding her from the world. But in the end, he was not her protector, I somehow knew.
I think that was part of his deception. The rest was probably just for the camera, this contrived persona who skipped in and out of people’s lives so easily.
The distant relative who’d sent me the photos wrote that everyone called him “Doc,” though she never knew why. A nickname. Why, I wondered? He was not a doctor.
The last place he lived just before he died in the sixties, I learned, was in a prison somewhere. I guess his deception had caught up to him at some point.
For him, in the end, there were no fancy cars with smiling women clinging to him. I think it was all just smoke and mirrors, the arm curved protectively over their shoulders.
All I really know about this person I resembled is that his name was Lucian. He was briefly there after I was born.
And then he was gone.