Then the jagged edge appears
Through the distant clouds of tears.
I'm like a bridge that was washed away;
My foundations were made of clay.
Eric Clapton (My Father's Eyes)
As 2011 slowly fades into past tense, and becomes a “was” instead of an “is’, most of us will start to analyse what legacy the last twelve months leave behind, whether it is on an international, national or personal level, we have all in some form or another been, metaphorically speaking, touched by certain happenings and events that took place in our lives in the last 8765 hours or so. The Arab Spring, Euro crisis and other global upheavals that heavily marked the past 365 days, have taken second place to a much greater and important event in my life; I would go so far to say it was a major addition to the make up of my genetic being-a giant step deeper into discovering who I am.
None of us enters life fully-formed, life is an unending highway of discovery, knowing or unknowingly we are attempting to find out who we are, why we are here and where we are going. Those who have come from a solid parental background, (i.e. with both biological parents present during childhood), have found it easier to confront these questions. Individuals who have been adopted; have had stepparent/s, or were raised in a single parent home, are more apt to feel that their personality is incomplete; a key to unlock a vital door in their inner psyche is missing. The search for that key never ends; the thought may lie dormant in some dark corner of your mind, but some days it jumps out to haunt you again.
Until recently, the mother figure was stated to be the all important role in a child's upbringing, the father usually taking a weak second place. However, social research has shown where a biological father is lovingly and consistently present to his child, that child has a far better chance of discovering where they are from, who they are and where they are heading. Where a father is absent to his child — through desertion, distance or even death— that child’s capacity to be sure about these things is greatly damaged; in other words: fathers are just as important as mothers.
Not knowing your biological father can leave you with a sense of lost history. Never living with or knowing one’s father can be particularly predictive of poor outcomes: and one in eight of all children do not have even a vague memory of him. Many struggle with issues of identity and self-esteem and, more specifically, children who never had a father in the household, face relatively higher odds of serving a prison sentence than those who experience disruptions later in childhood or adolescence. You may know your mother’s family tree, but this is only half the story. Knowing little or nothing about the father who gave you life leaves you feeling unsure of where you really come from; it is difficult to have a future without having had a past. Today there are countless children, adolescents, and adults who have suffered what is now increasingly known as ‘father absence’ and whose sense of their genetic history is profoundly damaged; I know how this feels because I am one of them.
I am not going into the reasons why my mother, in her naïve wisdom and ignorance, decided to lie about my father. The fact is she did. There are many mistakes a parent can make in a child's upbringing, they can with time be forgiven; however to cut a child away from his genetic inheritance is the biggest mistake of all. There are characteristics, which are within you that you can’t explain. I for example had music and rhythm that flowed through my veins. I had many other traits, which before were unexplainable but now, having traced my genetic heritage, have become clearer.
Nagging questions such as, who is my father? Is he still alive? Do I have other siblings? Where did he come from? Often passed through my mind. I always felt there was a part of me missing. I was always half a story, that of my mother’s family; my other half was bits and pieces of half truths and lies; no wonder many children growing up in similar situations become disoriented and disturbed. For many years, deep in to adulthood, I lived with a sense of insecurity. An actor wandering aimlessly around a stage, waiting for a talented scriptwriter to fill in the details of my back story.
The writer came in the guise of my partner Gabi, on whose insistence I joined the online family tree site, Genes Reunited, half-heartedly entering the little information I had about my father. To my astonishment within a few days I was contacted by a person who suggested that we could be related! And we were! This first encounter was a door opener into the undiscovered world of Alexander Johnson’s inborn character.
It was not long after, that I had the pleasure of meeting my last living uncle, Peter Johnson. I was fortunate to be present at his wife's, Aunty Margret, eightieth birthday, my uncle was in his ninety-first year! I also met his sons, my cousins, Robert and Douglas; unbelievable that they had lived in London's Blackfriars, a skip and a hop from the World’s End, where I had been brought up! Uncle Peter, and Aunty Margret, filled me in on the Johnson family history and what my father was like. My heart and soul, who had for so long searched for that missing link, found fortitude in their words. Sadly Uncle Peter died shortly after, and I returned to attend his funeral.
Over the following months I made contact with cousins in the North of England and Australia. My father and most of his brothers and sisters, (12 siblings to be exact!), were musically talented, a gift that had passed down to their children. I, too, had this talent but had missed out on developing it. Perhaps, if I had been allowed contact with my father’s family, my life could have taken another path. Instead my childhood was spent surrounded by useless men, low on character and consideration, who were a degradation to the title ‘father figure'. However, in my opinion, even if my childhood had been great, full of happiness and wonders-without a father that inner feeling of uncertainty, a sense of being incomplete, would still have been present. Keeping a child away from their genetic birthright is a felony committed by the single parent, or adoptive parents, but it is the child that serves the life-long sentence.
2011, and my father had been dead for over thirty years, but at last I had a glimpse into his eyes.