Haven't been round these parts much. Nothing personal. Just... elsewhere.
But on the verge of Father's Day, I was reminded of something I wrote back in 2008.
I'm publishing it here... again... with the politics removed... cause, well, I love my father and I miss you cats.
Happy Father's Day.
My father was born Roland Lucien Meyer in Perpignan, France.
Being Jews in 1943 with the country still occupied by the Germans, my grandparents quickly put my father and his older brother Claude in a Catholic Orphanage and changed both kid's last name to the less semitic Clauchre.
There my father and my uncle lived for the next two years... kids both with and without parents... with and without an identity... with and without a real heritage.
Thankfully the war ended and my father got to return home... though not to his family.
See, it was soon discovered that my Grandfather Helmut had ANOTHER child with ANOTHER woman and the secret child was barely three months younger than my father.
I assume that's when my Grandmother decided to make the trip across the Atlantic.
There's a photo of my father, uncle and grandmother on the boat to America.
In the shot Roland and Claude sit on the deck, with my Grandmother behind them, surrounded by a dozen other immigrants, none of whom they knew before the voyage.
What striking about the shot is the space that's been left where my Grandfather might have stood; a person sized gap between my Grandmother Thea and the gentleman in the tattered hat. Its clear that though Helmut had been left in Europe... he was not really gone yet.
When my father went through processing at Ellis Island the family's name changed again, this time Meyer became Lieber, my Grandmother's maiden name.
My father grew up in Chicago, ditching his accent, sublimating every last word of French, and, sometime in high school... he also jettisoned Lucien for the more American Leslie.
Fifteen years-old and this was his 4th new identity.
He became an architect (like the man who sponsored my family in this country), met and married my mother and then started having little Liebers... specifically fat, colicky, sleepless, bald me... and before I turned one he marched back to the registrars office in the loop and reverted back to his original French middle name.
Jump cut ahead two years to when my parents decide to take me to Europe on a vacation, but REALLY my father wanted to see if he could find Helmut.
My parents spent three weeks pushing me around in a brand new stroller that was so thrashed by the end of the trip that it was discarded before they went home.
Three days were devoted to Perpignan, but... no luck, my father's father was gone.
My parents came home, my two siblings were born... and little to nothing was ever spoken of my grandfather, except when one of us was bad and my Grandmother would whisper how what we did was "just like something Helmut would have done."
Helmut became the parking lot for all bad deeds.
It wasn't until I was an adult that my father hired a private investigator to finally solve the mystery of his father.
It turned out Helmut WAS in Perpignan the week we were there.... just with YET ANOTHER NAME... having been in trouble with the law at some point.
Also, Helmut died only a few weeks before the investigator started searching for him.
So many near misses.
Now I had a childhood WITH a father... HAVE an adulthood WITH a father... and that means I'm spared the search and the confusion and... well... the hassle and indignity of not knowing.
I know my father... and LOVE father... and for all that security and knowing, I'm eternally grateful.