“In memories there is no blood. No sound. Just vague, half-blurred remembrances that may, or may not be concealing something else. The mind is a sieve. Only fragments remain of hopes, loves, fears, hates and desires. Pictures fade. The only memory is who you are today.”
“Alex: A Short Story”, Me; June 26, 1996
“When we left him I still had his name, but unofficially changed a year later to hers. So who I was in school, my identity, was constantly ill-defined. I had no identity. I couldn’t even spell my name in grade five. Pre-divorce I was “Gabe”, a few years afterwards I was “Gabriel” and in grade five I spelled it on the board as “Gabrielle”. When the teacher said it was wrong, I told him it was the French spelling.”
“Let Me Tell You About The Risks Of Convenience”, Me; April 17, 2009
“I have no name:
I am but two years old.”
What shall I name thee?
“I happy am,
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while,
Sweet joy befall thee!
“Infant Joy”, William Blake
“Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”
‘Tyler Durden’, Fight Club; Chuck Palahniuk
“If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right. ”
When I was thirteen I applied for my Social Insurance Number (SIN). It was early summer and I would spend the rest of it working as a farm hand and needed the number to make everything legal.
The only identification I had at the time was my birth certificate. My mother tried to convince the guy behind the counter she had divorced my father and I was using her maiden name for my school and medical records. He didn’t bite, so since then the name on my SIN card has been the one I was born with, not the one I grew into after my father abandoned us.
I had my name officially changed last year to remove my father’s name. Last week I received my new SIN card in the mail. Today (Thursday) I received my new OHIP (health) card.
It’s official… I no longer carry my father’s name. Either of them.
I was named after him. My middle name was his first name, my last was his. Even after adopting my mother’s maiden name for work, for my health card, my school records and even my taxes, I still carried his first name.
I started the process to change my name a couple of years ago. I finally got my new birth certificate and, after a few months of half-starts finally went through the process of changing my OHIP and SIN cards… which was surprisingly easy. The OHIP card took one form, which I filled out while waiting in line for my photo, along with a phone bill and my birth certificate. Three weeks later I have my very first photo ID.
Getting the new SIN card took twenty minutes in the Employment Office, with about fifteen minutes of that in the waiting room. Then I answered some questions, showed them my new birth certificate and a week later a new card (same number) arrived in the mail.
I know why I waited so long… but get incredibly frustrated at how long it has taken. It took so long because, during the years I was untreated and unmedicated, I was incapable of planning. At the same time I think all I really needed was for someone to take me by the hand and say “today we’re going to fill out the forms for the new birth certificate…”.
Actually… I filled those out a few times. I could never just do them in the right order. Every time I’d fill out one form, only to find out I needed two other done first, it was like I had failed… not just failed, however, but failed at ridding myself of my father’s identity.
It’s a strange thing to empty yourself of your father’s identity. As much as it has been the right thing to do, I think there’s always been some trepidation to finalizing the act. I never asked my father to neglect me. I never asked him to abandon me. I never did anything to warrant the bizarre behaviours he has exhibited to me… neither have my brother or mother.
Someone left a comment recently saying if the choice was between a bad father and no father she’d be happy with no father… but I don’t think it’s that simple. I think we need the opportunity to decide if our fathers are good or bad. We need to have lessons taught to us, lessons that can’t be taught without fathers being around to teach them.
I wasn’t given a choice, I’ve always had the “no father” option, even during the few years we were living in the same house. And I’ve spent thirty years trying to answer questions he could have answered over the phone with a weekly call from wherever he was in that moment.
I feel… honestly, I feel like thirty pounds of shit has been carved from my chest, and another thirty taken off my shoulders. Next week I apply for a passport, and I get the driver’s handbook so I can start studying for my driver’s licence. Right now I’m looking at my new photo ID, and my new SIN card, and I’m thinking “Jesus… this is something new and good and far too long in the making.”
But at the same time I’m thinking… this isn’t supposed to be the way things were supposed to be. I’m looking at my new identity cards and I’m not seeing any trace of a father. The only place my father has ever existed for me has been on my cards… has been in the name on those cards.
These cards have been a direct line… an anchor to who I was when I was eight when I packed all of my pennies into an envelope and tried to mail them to my father, because I thought the money would get my parents back together.
Or when I was nine and started crying in the cafeteria because I felt so alone.
But the name on the cards has also been a link back to when I was five and my father bought a new car, and took us all out for a ride around the city and “American Pie” by Don McLean was playing on the radio.
It’s been a link to the possibility of having a father. Just that gossamer spiderweb glint of silver out of the corner of your eye, something so fine and so faint that you have to look twice to to remind yourself something like that is even possible.
Realism plays no part in fantasy. And in some of my fantasies — not many, but some — I stood beside my father.
But in reality he made his choices. And now I’ve made mine. And now I have my own name.