The night my baby daughter came home from the hospital in which she’d been born 48 hours before, I held her in my arms and baptized her in my tears, tears born of the realization of how much I’d be unable to protect her from. In the arrogance that my fervent adoration engendered, I failed to anticipate that she’d need some protection from me, and that no matter how vigilantly I tried to avoid the mistakes my own parents had made, I was doomed to repeat some of them.
I was the best thing ever to happen to my mother, who’d grown up feeling worthless and powerless. She claimed to be able to remember her father having paid her exactly one compliment over the course of her early life, remarking casually on her beauty. I gave her life meaning and value. She protected our very close relationship too zealously, though, forever telling me that my dad didn’t — couldn’t! — love me as much as she, always eagerly pointing out his failures. As an adult, I came to hate her having done so.
And yet, there my daughter and I were one Friday evening shortly after her mother’s remarriage to Bruno, a Swiss electronics millionaire, walking together in the atmospheric gloom of San Francisco’s Sunset District, as we’d done months before in the environs of our former home, on Nob Hill. My daughter told me that she loved not only her mommy, but her maternal grandparents too. I felt that my former mother-in-law, on whose grave I’d promised myself one day to shit, had been instrumental in the dissolution of our marriage, but held my tongue. I was able to hold it no longer when my daughter said that she loved Bruno too. “You don’t have to love him!” I, suddenly crazed with jealousy and pain, snapped. I hated myself for it, but the words wouldn’t leap back whence they’d come, and Brigitte burst into tears of confusion and pain of her own.
For years, I didn’t meet him. When he and Ex-Wife and Brigitte would arrive home at SFO from one of their frequent visits to his parents’ in Lucerne, I didn’t do the right thing, and greet the three of them cordially, but instead waited for Brigitte to come to me unaccompanied. I hated Ex-Wife passionately, and had no interest whatever in exchanging pleasantries with Bruno, who was neither handsome nor witty, and whom I was pretty sure Ex-Wife had married almost entirely for his wealth. After a while, though, I realized that he was doing his best to accommodate me, and was grateful for it. I apologized for my earlier coldness, and thanked him for what he’d done. He was indeed a dullard — not an asshole, certainly, but neither wry nor charming.
A few years ago, Brigitte, who has refused all contact with me since March 2002, got married. Can you guess who accompanied her to the altar, and who hadn’t even been invited to the wedding? I suppose on some level I deserved that, which realization proved a pretty pathetic shield against my anguish.
Brigitte might be a mother by now. If she is, Bruno almost certainly knows about it. I do not. I suspect that she sends Bruno a birthday card every year, and maybe even a gift on Fathers Day. She hasn’t acknowledged my own birthday since 2001, the year after the last Fathers Day on which she told me she loved me.
Fuck Fathers Day.