Walking up to that doorway was easily one of the most nerve-racking set of footsteps I have ever taken. Add up all the music gigs I’ve performed over the years and none of them quite reach the depth of emotions driving my state of mind as I approached that house. My entrance through that doorway wasn’t hinged on how a bunch of strangers would react to my music – this entrance hung on the reaction of my own family to my very existence. After all, my father had never told them about me. Three brothers, three sisters and a stepmother who may or may not believe I was who I said I was. A whole family on the other side of that door that took half a lifetime to track down could reject or accept me in just a few seconds…
When I was ten years old I distinctly remember the excitement and shock that bolted me to my kitchen stool when my mother answered the house phone before turning to ask, “How would you feel about meeting your father for the first time in one hour?” At that age I was overwhelmed with happiness as he rocked up casually and drove us to ‘Australia’s Wonderland’ for the day. Any conversations he had with my mother were blurred over like white noise with the buzz of roller coasters, themed rides and a Swatch watch he gave me that I couldn’t wait to show off at school. I didn’t need answers. I was living in the moment.
By the time I was showing off my watch, ‘Bob’ was well gone. Its hands would turn another 5 years over before I managed to see him again briefly when I passed through New York where he introduced me to people as his ‘friend’s son from Australia’. My puberty racked body felt awkward. My haircut looked feminine. My voice cracked all over the place and embarrassment introduced itself to me as I did my best to impress this big manly character that knew so much about fishing, electrical bits, cars, boats, things and stuff. His children Bobby and Allissa were toddlers at the time, too young to understand who I was; informed or not. They were perfectly innocent and forthcoming in their love for me as I played with them in his kitchen. I had no idea what his wife Patti was feeling as she watched on. I left. The loose connection was lost.
Years passed. The grunge soaked angst. The battle into adulthood. The trampling of the child. The drugs, the music, the squeezing through spaces as tight as life can grip until you’re forced to grow through the other side. Bob lived in the back of my mind throughout it all and so did Bobby and Allissa. One day I would track them down. One day I would fly over there and see what truth be known. One day.
And then the internet got big.
For months I had googled Bobby and Allissa to see if anything popped up. I figured if I was thirty, they must be old enough to either know about me or deal with the shock of finding out. When they both eventually appeared on Facebook and Myspace I almost backflipped. I had opened a window into their world. Albums of photos showing even more family members than I had expected. It was time to see if they could adjust to the knowledge of one more. My introductions were soft and I let them do the guesswork. As expected though, I had sent a small atom bomb of intrigue and shock across the Internet and no doubt there were plenty of questions firing up on the other side. Eventually they both hit me back with “Holy shit, you’re like, my brother??!”
Seven years later and I arrived in New York with intrigue from part of the family and zero interest from my father. By all reports he had convinced them that I was probably not related, changing the subject with the kids whenever I was raised. At this point I was more interested in validity of blood so that I had the chance to build relationships with a family I had never had the chance to know. It was no longer about knowing a man that had no interest in me. His lack of honesty wasn’t going to stand in the way of new relationships with brothers and sisters that could last a lifetime. I left a message on his answering machine and told him I was on the way regardless. A game changer. He called back and arranged to meet, surprisingly chirpy.
So there I stood. In front of the door to the family house. Suppressing a child’s emotions with the nervousness of an adult that knows he needs to be an adult. No more guessing. No more bodies of water between us. Just a thin wooden door.
When the door opened I was flustered into go mode. Allissa greeted me with a huge embrace and a flood of smiles moved behind her. Nervousness dissolved into humor, hugs and handshakes. The impact of facing a crowd was cushioned by the presence of Wood Dog and Dave, my road-trip partners in crime who quickly made their own introductions and after a fast exchange with my father they were already hitting the billiard table with him while I settled into other conversations. Complete acceptance, love and appreciation for my position filled the room in a way that was completely unexpected. I moved from fear to comfort in seconds. What an amazingly beautiful family. Every effort was made to make me feel at home. My stepmother Patti poured out more love and understanding to me than I could have imagined taking place. She had not known I was Bob’s son when I visited them all that time ago. “You are one of us now. You belong in our family. We love and welcome you from here on in.” Words I had longed to hear for a lifetime.
SO the only thing that remained was to question my father. The simple truth. He needed to openly and honestly let them know I was undoubtedly his son, that we were blood. The chance came as we sat next to each other in a warm outdoor town concert setting the next night after a long day out on the boat. Pizzas. Beers. Family. Our conversation floated through the ins and outs of moving forward and building on the future rather than the past. I felt comfortable. He seemed set in his ways yet ready to be honest. I looked him in the eyes and asked that he do me the honor of telling me he acknowledged I was his son. So he looked me in the eyes and responded:
“In my heart I do not believe you are my son”
Boom. There it was. Another Backflip. Another layer to the onion being torn off like a ligament.
So here I sit. My DNA swabs taken. My memories golden. My confusion ten-folded. Waiting. Hoping he steps up to the plate and follows through with my request. A saliva swab and a simple test.
We all need closure. Nobody likes guessing. To be continued. DNA pending……