One night not too long ago, I awoke in a panic. I had gotten a call from our lawyer earlier that day, letting me know that the court had "misplaced" my name change documents and we'd have to re-submit the paperwork. I've been meaning to change my last name for a long time, but with my due date drawing ever closer it's taken on a new sense of urgency.
I can't stand the thought of my babies having my father's last name, even if it turned out to be a temporary thing until we got paperwork straightened out. My father has been almost absent from my life, but pops up just enough to make things complicated. I was 5 when he got another woman pregnant with what turned out to be my half sister. My mother kicked him out of the house. He was supposed to see me and my brother on weekends, but would cancel frequently. Sometimes, he wouldn't even tell us he needed to cancel. My brother and I would wait like fools in the elementary school lobby for him to come pick us up, only to have the secretary shake her head and sigh and drive us home an hour later when he failed to show.
Over the years we saw him less and less. After I left for college at 18, the visits slowed to a pace of about one or two per year. Now I see him for a few hours a year sometime around my Christmas / New Years break at work. He spends most of those brief hours trying to make me feel guilty about how little I see him, even though he is the one who has always failed to return my calls and breaks plans at the last minute. It made me sad when I was a kid- I would get my hopes up that he would come through but wind up feeling rejected. As I got older, I recognized my father for the pathetic person he is. I stopped feeling like I needed a daddy, so his unreliability and disinterest in my life no longer hurts the way it did when I was in pigtails.
I was lucky, I have a wonderful mother and didn't need to rely on him. I think the one who was really hurt by his absence is my half sister Ella. Ella and her mother moved out of state when Ella was almost 4. When he did remember to pay child support for her it was next to nothing, even though he knew that her mother was financially and emotionally unstable. At 24, Ella is a culinary school dropout. She is unable to find work and has few adult life skills. This is mostly due to the fact that she had no role model to teach her how to be a responsible adult. She also suffers from depression, and has some of the worst luck of anyone I know. She has a tendency to drop off the face of the planet for weeks at a time. I found out yesterday from my brother that her most recent absence was due to illness. She had a severe staph infection which spread to her bones and cartilage and she's now wheelchair bound, living in a motel. My father knew of her condition, but did not once make time to visit her and didn't let anyone else in the family know she was sick. So for the past two days, I've been beyond angry with that man. There is no way he deserves to be honored as a grandfather, no way he deserves to have his name passed down.
My court date finally came through, and is set for next Friday. We always knew we wanted everyone in our family to have the same last name, and toyed with a lot of ideas before coming up with a solution that worked. We thought about hyphenating, but that would have meant a 6 syllable last name. Waaaay too much of a mouthful, especially since Elizabeth's last name is Polish and has more z's than vowels. We thought about combining part of her name with part of my name (i.e. banana + vanilla = banilla) but the results were laughable. We didn't want one of us to take the other's last name, because we were worried it would make one of us seem too dominant. In the end, we looked at as many different last names in our family trees as we could come up with, and decided on a favorite. So next Friday, we will both be using my grandfather's name as our last name. Hopefully the babies will stay put until then.
2 months ago