Today I Have My Own Name

“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!

Pretty Joy!
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. ”
Bill Cosby

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.



About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Father, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Today I Have My Own Name

  1. XUP says:

    You’ve not had no father. You’ve had a bad father. There has been a man on the periphery of your life that lived in your house with you, that had a profound impact on your life and your psyche. A very concrete father, but one that has always just been out of reach for you. Like putting a delicious hot meal in front of a starving man day after day after day, but he’s never allowed to taste it. My daughter has literally had no father. She may also be a starving man, but she has no delicious meal taunting her every day. She knows a man exists in the world who contributed to her being here, but he is only an abstract notion to her. She doens’t know him as a person at all. Because of that I think it’s easier for her than for people in your situation. If you’d never met your father; if he had disappeared around the time of your birth, I suspect all these issues you have with him might not exist — at least not to the extent that they now do. In any case, for good or for ill, your past has shaped who you are now so there’s no point in regretting it. You seem to have a remarkable well of strength somewhere in you to have overcome everything you’ve had to deal with and come out of it able to shape for yourself a healthy, productive and happy life. Sometimes the best thing to do with the past is acknowledge its place in your history and use what is valuable from it to build your future and close the book on the rest of it.

  2. Soire says:

    I’ve been slowly dropping my married name as the paperwork comes in, and going back to my maiden. It’s a similar sense of cleansing.

    It’s like a clean slate almost.

  3. bromac says:

    I also did not feel that the comment made was accurate regarding absent vs bad father. However, I am only stating from the periphery as I had a wonderful, there, father. I am basing my opinion only on my knowledge of my husband’s father. It wasn’t my place to make a judgement on the issue.

    Congrats on the new name. It sounds liberating!

  4. Mahendra says:

    Congratulations! I’m happy for you.

  5. nursemyra says:

    Me too Gabe. Here’s to a new and better life with the name you’ve chosen to use

  6. dumbwaiter says:

    Kuma Kumtai to you, GVL.

  7. bipolarlife says:

    It sounds more like you are grieving the loss of a could-be father than the did-happen father. Congrats on the transition. I hope it brings you some peace.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    …so what about the photo? Nobody ever comments on the photo. After 223 posts, and 223 photos it’s getting a little weird. I thought this one was really, really cool. Sigh.

    Akakáume Xup… the thing is I didn’t have a father. I was raised by a collective. The politics of the collective meant no one person was to have a connection to any individual over the collective — which, in theory, meant the parental bond as well. At one point they used the the theory to refuse my aunt’s request to breastfeed her newborn daughter. So I was raised by thirteen to seventeen people who had no emotional connection to me beyond their duty to the group. I didn’t even start calling my mom “mom” until I was in my late teens, we’ve always been on a first name basis.

    When I was growing up, after we left the collective, all of my memories were jumbled because I didn’t know if it was my father who was playing with me, or one of the other twelve adults in the house. One of the reasons why I can’t “close the book on this” is because I’m still trying to deal with the crap everyone else hasn’t. I just changed my name and got my first piece of photo ID… and everyone seems to think it’s a great thing. But it’s something which should have been fixed before I was ten years old.

    When I was fifteen I had to travel to my father to find out why he didn’t want to have anything to do with me or my brother, and he left me waiting in his waiting room for thirty minutes before taking me to a restaurant for an hour… where he told a waitress I was his son, and it was the first time I had heard that from him.

    He lied to me about my sisters, telling me their mother didn’t want us all to meet while they were young. So, when they were “old enough”, my brother and I made the decision it was time. So we had to travel back to the city we had escaped from, deal with aunts and uncles who had abandoned us, and live the insanity all over again.

    A few years later (ago) my aunt, the one who helped us escape the collective, and the one who couldn’t breastfeed her baby, entered into a “relationship” with my father, so once again the betrayal and insanity gets tossed into my face.

    It just goes on and on… like finally getting rid of my father’s name from my ID. If there was one thing, one reason — he was a heavy drinker, there was abuse, he died when I was five — I think I could close the book on a lot of this. But there’s just too much not in my control.

    Fakaalofa atu Soire… the book may still be open (I’m stealing the analogy from XUP, but only because I like her so much), but there is a much less cluttered slate. After having no real ID for so long because every piece of ID I had was in a different name, or a different collection of names, to have everything fixed so suddenly is a little jarring. Just knowing I can now apply for a passport, or walk into a bank and not have to explain my life history to a total stranger… it’s like a huge knot has been massaged out of my neck. Knowing who you are, officially, is very liberating.

    Taiguey bromac… definitely liberating. Sort of… my grandfather is in a hurry for me to get my licence so I can become his chauffeur. I don’t look at it as “judging”, beyond writing about the issues we have, a health/recovery blog is supposed to be about the feedback and opinions from people…

    Kaisan baari log Mahendra, and wai palya Nurse Myra, and thanks to both of you. It means a lot to have people recognize what a big deal this is.

    Sekoli, and thanks little brother… I’m not sure what “Kuma Kumtai” means, but I’m assuming it has something to do with you mailing me a new release for the PS3. Say hello to your lovely new wife for me, I’m looking forward to seeing the photo book.

    Marhay na aldaw BPL… I think you hit the nail straight on the head. Thanks a lot dude.

  9. thordora says:

    I think it’s awesome. WHile not totally the same, I can relate on the level of finding my biological family, and how it just settled a part of me. We need to draw the lines of the box we sit in-and sometimes it takes a long time for the lines to be found.

    I think it’s fantastic, and your picture a kick ass representation of it.

  10. dame says:

    once you graduate the grief of the process, i imagine you realize that your father was always within in you, and always will be. you merely needed the opportunity to say something along the lines of ‘hey, i don’t accept how things went… so i don’t want your name.’
    then you get to move on to the next stage. whatever that is.
    and whatever that is, i wish you the best toward it.

  11. bipolarlife says:

    Sorry – I always enjoy your photos but never comment on them. Can’t you read my thoughts? 😉

  12. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Thor… I don’t know how it would effect you — I know you know all the people involved in your adoption, but there’s been a change in the Ontario adoption policy. As of June 1st all of the records are being made public. That means kids who have been adopted, and the birth parents will have access to the files.

    Hi dame… thanks. I agree he’ll always be a piece of me, and I can even recognize some of his behaviours in mine — albeit to a lesser degree — but I’m not sure about the ‘grieving process’. I think there was an expectation of grief, but it really hasn’t happened. At least not for much longer after “American Pie” had finished playing.

    Maybe I’m still in shock from everything happening so fast, but what I felt while writing this was more… basically, relief.

    Hi BPL… thanks for the photo comment. Actually, now that I’m trying, I can read your mind… and I had no idea you were so into team sports. No… wait, just the locker rooms.

  13. Sure, yeah, it’s good for you. Now I have no idea what to put on your Christmas card.

  14. Rhiannon says:

    I have a question for you, feel free to ignore it. I am on vacation and it is hard. I didn’t think it would be hard. I feel like I should be constantly doing something, but I still have to keep tabs on my mental state so I don’t go crazy. Do you or anyone else have any tips, I am feeling a little lost and my support network is back at home several provinces away . . . .

  15. bromac says:

    Rhiannon, I would suggest slowing down and taking some time to just sit and relax rather than running around everywhere. I have had to work hard to get over the idea that on vacation I need to be doing something every second of the day. I come back feeling completely exhausted and, thus, start my brain working against me.

  16. dumbwaiter says:

    The next big ps3 exclusive is called MAG….google it. You may be getting a copy but it’s online only. As for Kuma Kumti.. Think Roots. By the way… The picture sucks.

  17. Gabriel... says:

    Bonjour dumbwaiter… it’s “Kunta Kinte” you spaz. I think “Kuma Kumti” might have been his cousin. And the picture is freaking awesome.

    M.A.G looks super-cool, awesome concept, but I don’t like the idea of getting sucked into an online game that only makes sense if I’m playing for an hour a day… actually, I should finish GTA IV soon… I got to the last mission a couple of months ago but ever since all I’ve been doing is driving around and killing people.

    Rhiannon… depending on how long you’re away from your support network a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if other people are doing what you’re thinking of doing. If you’re worried what you’re about to do might be a little… manic, just take a look around you and see if it makes sense within the context of where you are and who you’re with.

    If all you’re worried about is wearing yourself out on vacation, plan one “event” in the morning and one in the afternoon… like the museum in the morning, a nice walk through the city / forest / village in the afternoon. Maybe scout out some stores for you to come back to later on in the week…

    The most important thing about vacations are:
    1. make sure you’ve got your meds
    2. make sure people know where you are
    3. have fun.

  18. dumbwaiter says:

    if MAG isn’t your thing than what about DC Universe online, or Heavy Rain…… Kuma… Kunta… the sentiment is the same.. jerk

    ps, you’re a jerk…. jerk

  19. dumbwaiter says:

    By the way…. You should know… My name change came through today….

  20. Gabriel... says:

    One online game is the same as all the others… too much commitment, not enough sunshine. MAG would totally be my thing… if I didn’t have the girlfriend, this blog, the other blog or a need to eat and sleep.

    I thought you were going to live with the hyphen forever and ever. Did they let you go with Richard Ina Bush like you’ve always wanted?

    How long did it take? And just so you know it doesn’t count if you mail the forms to yourself.

    ps: I’m not a jerk, you’re the jerk, and mom told me to tell you to fuck off. Or something. I wasn’t really listening.

    pps: get an avatar… jerk.

  21. Mahendra says:

    Oops. Probably dumb, stupid me, but what’s “Kaisan baari log”?

  22. dumbwaiter says:

    You know…. If you’d hook the damn thing up to the internet… I’d give you some great sites to watch “still in theaters” movies and hard ti find critically acclaimed tv shows

  23. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Mahendra… no worries, it just means hello in Bhojpuri. I’m pretty sure anyway.

    Hi little brother… you know, I do have a Dimension 3100 with various upgrades and a uber-high speed connection to the Interweb. I also have an avatar, which our sister made into a button. If you’re lucky, and not homeless, I may mail you one. despite you being a jerk. Jerk.

  24. Mahendra says:

    LOL! You’re full of pleasant surprises!

  25. Rhiannon says:

    Thanks for the advice guys, it really helped ^_^

  26. Woodsy says:

    Funny, it’s the photo that got to me… the most. I cut mine up when I did a name change… I burned other stuff.

  27. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Mahendra… thanks. I do like to make people smile.

    Hi Rhiannon… I’m glad you made it through the vacation without any trouble.

    Hi Woodsy… I’m still not sure what to do with the cards. I didn’t burn them to a cinder, the card in the photo is actually still mostly intact. It feels like there should be some ceremony involved in creating the new name… I’m just not sure what yet.

  28. Pingback: Confessions Of Someone Who Was Run Over « …salted lithium.

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