Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear Dad...

Saturday we went to see "Mamma Mia" on Broadway. My wife's been trying to get me to see this show for years, but I resisted. Big mistake on my part (there's a rarity) and I apologized for keeping her from seeing it sooner. Aside from the memorable songs by ABBA so skillfully worked into the story line, the plot fascinated me. If you don't know the story, a young girl (Sophie) is about to get married. She lives with her mother, who owns a small hotel on a Greek island. The girl never knew her father who left before she was born, and her mother refuses to speak of him. Sophie finds her mother's old diary and identifies three men her Mom wrote about with whom she was romantically involved at around the time Sophie would have been conceived. Sophie always wanted to know her Dad and decides to send wedding invitations to all three, hoping to finally meet her father.

As the show progressed, my mind wandered and I began to think of how in real life the three men might react after receiving such an invitation. All they knew initially was that the daughter of a woman they once loved was getting married, and they were invited to the wedding. As the story unfolds, each man learns that he could possibly have fathered Sophie some 21 years ago. The story has a happy ending after many funny and tender plot twists, and the identity of Sophie's father is never revealed. In the end, Sophie realizes that knowing her father is not as important as she once thought. She is the person she is because of the efforts and love of her one parent... her mother. Curtain descends, wipe away tears, big, showy finale number, "Dancing Queen" gets the crowd on their feet clapping and cheering.

I couldn't shake the idea of getting such a surprise announcement in the mail. Although my younger years were quite celibate as I saved myself for Miss Right, the story outlined in the play was not so far fetched. Sohpie was born in the 1970s, an era before STDs like Aids were prevalent and when "free love" was the anthem of the young. Flower children hopped in and out of beds, and contraceptives were hit or miss, if they were used at all. What if, twenty years after sowing his wild oats, some guy were to find out that across the world there lived a young girl who might be his daughter? What would his reaction be? What would my reaction be? As it turns out in the play, none of the three men involved were currently married, a circumstance that more easily allows them to follow their curiosity and show up for the wedding, but what if they were?

We tend to live predictable lives, or at least we try. As much as people complain about being in a rut, the routine is something we know. When we are forced out of our comfort zone, we don't always welcome the change. Getting a letter in the mail that said you might have fathered a daughter 20 years ago would certainly qualify as such a surprise. I honestly don't know what I'd do. Knowing I had a daughter who was searching for would be very hard to just walk away from that. On the other hand it would cause complications in my family life to be sure. I can't imagine what my wife's reaction would be...not unadulterated joy. What would I do if the shoe was on the other foot? I know I would be less than thrilled. Would my kids want to meet their half-sister?

It's a little like the complicated emotions adopted children must feel. On the one hand they are curious about their birth parents, while on the other the parents who raised them are the only family they have known, and they might be hurt if their child began searching for the people who put them up for adoption. Luckily, my life is not that dramatic and I only have to deal with this dilemma hypothetically. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and three great children and that's enough for me. Hold the surprises please.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association


The Whiner said...

Just for the record, if you ever do find out you have another daughter I don't want to meet her. She'll steal my thunder.

Jim Pantaleno said...

You'll always be numero uno, unless she's rich of course.