If you’ve ever been in the unfortunate position of having an absentee father for most of your life, you’ll know how interesting it is to finally catch up with him when you are an adult: not only are your perceptions different from your expectations, but so are his.
As documented on the page The Miller Saga: Family Reunion, I got to meet with my dad only once. That day could probably be considered the turning point in my life.
Up until then, I had been an orphan, adrift in life, wondering how I fitted in with everyone else. Sure, I had been adopted by Mom’s second husband, Rus, but I knew I was still considered the “outsider”. I was especially sensitive to the fact that I couldn’t and wouldn’t pattern my adult behaviour on Rus’ lifestyle and actions. He was just too different from me.
Over time, I thought I would find my own way, but having no discernible father-figure to model myself on meant that I really didn’t have a clue. Really.
I needed an anchor of some kind: a visible, real blood-and-guts person to make it work. That is why I set out to find my real father when Mom sent me THE Letter.
When James Ewart Miller stepped off the bus from Sudbury that fateful evening in Barrie, Ontario, I recognized him immediately. How? Is it instinctive? Do we know things, even without a conscious awareness of the fact? I suspect so.
As he said later, he purposely hadn’t exchanged any visual clues beforehand with me, because he wanted to see for himself whether he would recognize me. He needn’t have been concerned, because his first words to me were,“You look just like your mother.” (And that’s not a problem for me, because I was always aware of the fact that my features were modelled on hers.)
What makes this fascinating for me is that Mom used to say that I was just like my dad, even before she told me who he was. In THE Letter she documented some of those similarities: playing music on the piano by ear; writing poetry; translating French poetry into English poetry. The other similarity I discovered much later when talking about my dad with my cousins was that he liked to buy books and music as presents for everyone.
He also had an affinity for being on the radio, which I never heard about until 2007. He had his own program on the local Sudbury radio station, presenting music from his own extensive record collection. Until John Lennon was killed in 1980, I too had a very extensive record collection. I stopped collecting Beatles‘ albums that fatetul day in December. My radio career (if one can call it that) was as a guest on David Lowe’s Sunday Late Show on BBC Radio Devon and Cornwall in England. My guest spots were all in 1992, where I would recite poetry and discuss mundane astrological charts for interesting events from the past. My ebook At This Point in Time evolved out of those spots. But I disgress.
The point I’m making is that these traits came naturally, not because I had a model for them, but because they were part of my genetic heritage.
The 6th of April was a sunny Sunday morning. It had snowed the night before, and the drifts across the road in the trailer park where we lived were waist high. I had chosen that day to leave. I’d had enough of our small village life, where everyone knew everyone else’s business.
I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to do so had I not met my dad three months previously. I’m not blaming him, far from it: but I knew that to be truly myself, I needed time on my own. What I hadn’t realized was that Judi and I would both be waiting for the other to undo the split by saying that we wanted to try again. Those words never happened, so we went our separate ways, and my son, Derek, had to live his young life without his father, too.
We all have regrets. It’s natural. But would I have turned out the way I did had I stayed? I doubt it, but then that cannot be proved or disproved now. One can only wonder.
If I’d been totally true to my father’s genetic heritage, I would never have married. That’s why we cannot rule out the effects of the other half of our DNA: our mother’s influence. God bless them both.