I didn't recognize his voice.
I was frying up some falafel and cooking a pot of black beans and roasting an obscene amount of butternut squash and doing everything I could to make it seem like this call was no big deal. He picked up on the second ring.
It was awkward. How much information do I need to provide to a father to jog his memory that he has a daughter? "This is Kristy. Your daughter. You know?" I stopped myself from describing myself physically...red hair, green eyes, freckles. To be fair, I wasn't exactly sure it was him when he picked up the phone. There seemed to be a glimmer of recognition. I proceeded.
I decided not to beat around the bush. Small talk seems hollow when you haven't spoken for many years. I wouldn't even know how to do it. Everything would need a few pages of end notes. Even weather was not safe. He doesn't know where I live.
I guess I expected a dramatic pause or at least some uncomfortable tension. But, it was as if that was our small talk. "I was wondering when you would find out about that."
His voice sounded tinny and round. As he recounted the story, I found myself lost in his voice. Sentences would pass over my ears and I would have to remind myself to pay attention. His accent was so unique...a bizarre combination Southern (not deep South, closer to the Mason Dixon line) and Minnesotan? His words seemed to be formed from a being that could not be traced to a space. It was as if I was hearing his voice for the first time.
I intentionally "life dropped" to see if he'd ask follow up questions. He didn't. Was he totally uninterested in learning more about his two grandchildren? Or was he just afraid I would dart if he asked about my beloved husband? I guess I am not sure.
He searched the recesses of his mind for details of this process and came back blank. Palo Alto and a vague connection to Stanford was all he could muster. He did say that the doctor tried to match the donor's looks to the father's. Sperm was collected from "anywhere they could find--mostly the university and the surrounding area." It took me a few moments to realize that he was willing to go out of his way to find something out for me. He repeated his offer--he'd call up Kaiser and dig around to find the name of doctors, request medical files and report back to me.
In the fuzz of the offer, I asked him why he never told me. "I never thought it was important." Even when things were stressful? "No." In seven words, he shot down all of the different theories I had concocted about why he could just turn away from me and never look back. In my own moments of parenthood, I find myself trying to put myself in my father's shoes and fail. I would turn myself inside out if it meant I could stay connected in some capacity to my kids. But to attempt nothing? I lack the imagination.
I fumbled and halted and returned to the details of clinics, doctors and sperm. He assumed that I was uncomfortable sharing my own contact information and offered up my stepmother's email address. She instructed him to tell me to "not forget" to email so they could follow up with information. He said it would be a while--they were at their vacation home for the next month.
We both started the dance to get off the phone. "Well, we're out in the garden..." was met with "I suppose I should get back to making dinner..." and then goodbye.
I took out the pan of squash and stirred the beans. I could only think about how his voice was so different from the earthy and sharp voice he uses in my head.