Having strangers disapprove of Emma is one thing. Having a close family member unhappy with my decision is something completely different.
My dad is a bit of an old-skool racist. There I said it. Phew, it feels good to get it off my chest. I remember as a young girl bringing a pitch black puppy home from the SPCA and introducing it to my dad as his black grand-child. His rather stinging answer is as loud and as clear now as it was back then. “I hope that’s the only black grandchild I ever have” he said.
Whether it was to piss him off way back then or a premonition, I always tell my mom I was going to adopt a black baby when I was older. Even then I was bit of a do-gooder, always believing in fairness for all and despising any kind of injustice. While still at school I remember asking my dad if I could go to WITS. “No way,” he said, “I’m not watching you get arrested on the 8 o’ clock news with all those other lefties.” I thought he was referring to left-handed people and couldn’t understand why they, along with ‘gingers’ were so marginalized.
My dad doesn’t burn crosses on people’s lawns nor does he walk around the house in a white gown with a pointy hat. He’s not a cruel man and I would say that he is also for fairness and equality. But he’s ideas of equality don’t quite match mine. And to this day he cannot accept Emma. Family get-togethers are difficult because he doesn’t see her. At all. He doesn’t acknowledge. When she was sick in hospital my mom obviously forced my dad to show some concern by calling us to see how she was doing. “How’s the baby?” he asked under duress.
When I miscarried Mark was away. At the worst time in the world he was on the other end of it. With a time difference of eight hours I had to wait for what seemed like forever to let him know I had lost our baby. My scan was at 10am and I needed to make arrangements to get to the Linskfield Clinic the next day. I called my mom but she wasn’t home. My dad answered the phone and the moment I heard his voice I started crying. After telling him in between sobs and ‘snot-trekking’ that the baby was no longer, I asked him to get my mom to call me as I wanted to find out whether she would be able to take me in for the procedure.
The next morning I took a tranquilizer and I had to insert or swallow something. I can’t remember. In fact I can’t remember whether I inserted a tablet or swallowed something that should have been inserted into my vagina. The day was a haze and I was doing everything in my power to get through it. My mom arrived, along with my dad. According to her there was no way he was letting me go through this on my own and in his quiet way he was going to be there to support me. When I saw my dad I collapsed into his arms and cried like a baby. I cried and cried and cried. And he cried too. I’ve never seen my dad cry before, but he sobbed with me. We stood like that for what seemed like hours, with my mom sitting in the background. Now when I think back I’m not sure whether he was crying with me, sharing my grief for my lost baby or whether he was thinking “shit, this was my only chance at a white grand-child!”
Today we had my niece’s birthday party. She turns six on Monday (happy birthday Kelly – quick shout-out to you). It was a Hawaiian themed party and Emma arrived dressed for the celebration. My dad ignored her the entire day. He doesn’t say hello, he doesn’t reach out to her, she doesn’t exist as far as he’s concerned. And it breaks my heart. He is missing out on so much. He’s losing precious time with a little girl that has the personality the size of a big big jumping castle. He’s missing out on hugs and kisses, which she so freely gives to everyone. He’s missing out on hearing her say “I love you grand dad”. He’s missing out on a bundle of awesomeness that’s clever and funny and caring and sweet and incredibly special.
She doesn’t understand it now and to her he’s a face in the crowd but it won’t be that way for much longer…and then, what do I say? What do I do?
I think my dad feels I adopted Emma to spite him. I think he feels that ‘this’ was done to him. And every time I see him and the way he ‘reacts’ to Emma is a reminder of his words a long time ago, “I hope that’s the only black grandchild I ever have”.