The Yodas

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
my quest to find my biological father ... the challenges, shame, and revelations.

Submitted: November 26, 2008

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Submitted: November 26, 2008

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The Yodas
 
 
A man knows he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
 
 
 
1 - Mexico City
 
 
Dad’s flying in this weekend. It’ll be his first visit to Mexico City, or DF (Distrito Federal). I live in the trendy neighborhood of Polanco, with the posh restaurants, spotless streets, gated 10 story apartment buildings with doormen, and a constant police presence. Rude morning sounds of police helicopters intertwined with the guys on bicycles shouting “tamales, tamales” from their megaphones is already normal to me. It’s not so bad here. DF is a city of the “have a lot’s” and the “have nothing’s”. Lucky for me, an ex-pat American on per-diem is a “have quite a bit”.
 
It’s great to see you Dad …. you’re looking really good. So, um, who is my biological father anyways? Or maybe, did you ever notice how you and I don’t resemble each other?
 
For the 100th time I’m trying to convince myself that I WILL indeed muster up the nerve to finally ask. Maybe I’ll loosen us both up with a few micheladas and then pop the question? Maybe I should ask mom instead? Or maybe I should just appreciate that I was raised in a slightly dysfunctional yet loving and supportive family. I don’t need another Dad. I don’t need any more insane cousins. Being witty and original on one Father’s Day card is challenging enough.
 
But it’s just not that easy.
 
Circuitry in our bodies is practically forcing me to move forward with this. It’s the “where did I come from” circuit. It sits very close to the “eat when you’re hungry” and “have sex when your horny” circuits. I can’t control it. Weeks sometimes pass without my thinking about it. But then there are mornings like this, where I’m obsessed about finding out where in the Hell I came from and what sordid love affair is responsible for who I am.
Am I half German?
Maybe that’s why I’m so damned organized. I recall that visit to Munich where I watched in amazement as hordes of Germans would wait at a “do not walk” sign, even though there wasn’t a single car to be seen for miles.  
Maybe Irish?
But I don’t have freckles or red hair and I despise the Catholic Church.
In Paris I sure felt at home sitting in an outdoor café across the Seine from Notre Dame, sipping on a café au latte, angrily staring at the ignorant tourists and wishing they’d all go away, thinking how superior I was to all the FAT Americans, like a true native.
That’s it, I must be half French. Or maybe I’m a freak of nature - the only child on Earth that doesn’t resemble his father?
 
We end up having a wonderful weekend. We visit outdoor cafes with cobblestone streets in the San Angel artsy neighborhood and drink various light Mexican lagers and squeeze them full of Key Limes and appreciate the beauty of the rich Mexican girls and eat tacos al pastor off the “trompo” from the street carts. The cart food never made me ill …. it was an order of Osterias (oysters) Diablo that forced me to leave the office early and I began projectile vomiting at a bus stop off Insurgentes, easily the busiest street in the world. I can still see the look of terror in one of the poor little Indian girls that was unlucky enough to be waiting for the bus with me. That night I learned why one is supposed to vomit in a toilet and not in a sink.
 
We lazily stroll through the Sunday art market and scurry along the edges of the Spanish inspired buildings when the monsoon rains start, like they always do in the afternoon. We sleep late and drink surprisingly strong coffee in the morning. We read the Mexican paper, the one that always has a graphic death photo on the front page, sensationalizing the city murders that never seem to stop. Dad’s easy that way. He doesn’t care about visiting the museums or fake Aztec ruins. He doesn’t really care what we do. As expected, he strikes up conversations with every single cab driver and asks stupid questions like “and what’s that building for?”  It’s the only time he annoys me for the whole weekend.
 
“Como”, my favorite restaurant in Polanco, is right around the corner from my apartment. It’s an Argentinean joint and they have bar seating, a DJ, friendly staff, outdoor seating, great wines, a delicious bife de chorizo (marinated rib-eye steak), and a dark casual atmosphere. I introduce him to a few of my co-workers here. I always dread the introductions because I know what they’re thinking: Hmmm, Curtis never mentioned anything about being adopted. But it’s ok. Not once has anyone ever put me on the spot like that. People are nice that way. I only guess at what they talk about when I’m not around.
 
Like he always does, Dad speaks proudly of me. He tells them what a great wrestler I was in High School. Never mind that I wasn’t even a state champion. The Yodas soccer team is what he should tell them about. Dad was our coach and that was the name he chose for us. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was making millions in 1980. I was 10 years old. Though he knew absolutely nothing about soccer, he volunteered to coach the first youth soccer team in our village. I was enlisted to draw Yoda on our team flag and was damned proud of it too. Of course our colors were green and white. He bought Soccer books and equipment and learned it all on the fly. I think we finished in first place that season. Dad was always involved with my sister Natalie and I – maybe a little too involved. She recently divulged that he once made up a cheer for her while she was a High School Cheerleader. She said it was pretty bad and thankfully she never used it.
 
The weekend in DF was a break from Dad’s busy schedule and his never-ending ringing cell phone. That same phone he recently answered in a movie theater, as Natalie and I slid down in our seats and nearly died of embarrassment. I warn dad again about taking the green VW taxis and then he’s off to the airport. And of course I didn’t ask.


2 – A Mission
 
From: Curtis
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 12:48:19 -0700 (PDT)
To: Joe
Subject: are you Joe from CT? and Army?
 
Hello Joe,
 
I'm searching for a Joe Gaussier who must be around 56 years old, was
in the Army in VA area in 69, possibly has 1 sister and went to Cornell. He had family from Hartford area in CT. Is this you?
 
I'm organizing a surprise reunion for a group of long lost acquaintances.
thanks.
 
Curtis
 
 
 
The investigation officially began while I was a senior in High School. Class of 88 feels so great. That was our motto and it was a rural High School with about 300 students, grades 10 – 12, predominantly Hispanic.  I was trailer trash and proud of it.
In case you didn’t know, there’s a hierarchy in the world of trailer dwellers:
1) New double-wide trailer on several acres of land, with nice grass and trees around it, with sleeving or on a concrete foundation.
2) Double-wide trailer on several acres of land, no landscaping, no sleeving, looks as if it dropped from the sky. Usually sitting on bricks that look like they’re about to give. Cars conveniently drive up to the front door step.
3) Single-wide on lots of land
4) Single-wide in a nice trailer park, has gated entrance and owners make a half-hearted effort to water grass and shrubs.
5) Single-wide in crappy trailer park, usually dirt roads everywhere and abandoned washers sitting out front. No sleeving, screens are missing or torn, dogs run wild everywhere, nightly domestic disputes, nobody showers regularly.
6) Any sort of camping trailer that was meant for camping, not living.
 
We were somewhere in the middle. Ours was a blue and white 1970 single wide trailer on 18 acres with no neighbors in site. You can’t imagine the joy that is peeing in your front yard in broad daylight. I always dreamed of Dad building us a normal home. I pictured the paved road to the house, the arched entry way to the driveway that said “Los Garcia”, the perfect green grass in the front, the flowers and the shade trees, the furnace that really worked in the winter, and most importantly a house with a concrete foundation that wouldn’t be a mouse/squirrel/skunk haven like ours was. To his credit, he did actually try to start one … but then we grew up and left home and their marriage fell apart. The rock foundation of that solar home is all that remains. There are full sized elm trees growing out of what would have been the master bedroom.
 
I rummaged through every old photo album I could find. I inspected mom’s old black and white, faded boyfriend photos. I rummaged through her yearbooks. I carefully inspected her Army pictures. She was in the Army in 1969 and I was born in 1970. That was the first big “clue”. “So how did you and dad meet? Why did you join the military mom? Did you two break up before leaving?” were just a few of the questions I’d sneak in on random days. All the pieces of the puzzle were there … I just had to put them together.
 
One of the old black and white photos was Mom with a random gringo. She had thick eyeliner and a bop hairdo, as was popular in the late 60’s. The back of the photo had 69 scribbled on it. I once asked her about the photo and she casually shrugged it off. She said it was the boyfriend of one of her good Army friends and that he’d come to visit her from out East and his name was Stu. Not sure about the late 60’s, but nowadays, friend’s boyfriends don’t fly across the country to visit unless there’s funny business going on. At that time I was positive this was the guy.
 
Another suspect was Lenny. He was mom’s High School sweetheart and died of a drug overdose while still in High School. I never could pinpoint the year of his exact death. Mom started me on guitar lessons because she remembered how fabulous it was dating a guitar player. I didn’t really resemble him though.
 
Mom and Dad dated for a year in High School. Dad broke it off for some reason. She graduated and quickly joined the Army, where she spent some time in Hawaii and Virginia. She ran from a crappy home and a broken heart. My grandparents always had a dysfunctional relationship, and in divorce, still do.
 
Somewhere along that journey she became pregnant with me and was honorably discharged. That’s when she moved back to NM where dad was still living.
 
Inexplicably, before my birth, she convinced Dad that I was his and they both moved to CA for a better life. I was born in San Jose and we lived in a rented house on an apple orchard. It was the early 70’s after all and the 2nd gold rush in CA was on. Looking at my favorite photo of dad and I, it’s almost inconceivable that he actually believed I was really his. Dad, with his curly, wavy black hair and olive skin, feeding a banana to a bouncing, blonde haired, bowl haircut wearing, light skinned little tyke.


3 – Bad moods and stuff
 
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2003 06:55:35 -0400
Subject: Re: are you Joe from CT ? and Army?
From: Joe
To: Curtis
You got the age, the service, and my hometown was even Hartford. But unfortunately it's not me. Sorry. And good luck.
 
Joe
 
 
 
A few weeks after Dad departed from DF I finally worked up the cajones to confront Mom over the phone. It was a warm Sunday evening and I was in an extra grouchy mood. That cleansing smell of Mexico City rain was everywhere. Endless honks from the green VW taxis echoed through the canyons of the modern buildings.
 
I was probably disgusted with my girlfriend at the time, Claire. She was home in NYC for the weekend and it may have been the Friday when she went out for drinks with her ex-boyfriend and casually mentioned it to me afterwards, as if it was no big deal. Apparently she’s never read the statistic that over 75% of cheating significant others do so with an ex. Maybe I was upset with my employer for sending me overseas for extended lengths of time, with little notice, thereby making it nearly impossible to establish lasting relationships and to cast my love spell. They’d asked me to go to DF for just a few months and here I was, almost 6 months into it. Or maybe I was mad because I couldn’t find my Grand Theft Auto PS2 game.
 I know that God damned maid is stealing from me.
Of course, I’d find the game a few days later sitting in the PS2 unit where I left it. Surprisingly, she wasn’t a member of the gang of elderly Mexican ladies who play violent video games about stealing cars, hiring whores, and shooting the police. Maybe I was frustrated with Mexicans and how they don’t seem to understand the concept of volume knobs. For them, there are two settings, off and ROCKIN. Even shopping for a pair of flip flops at the flea market means having to endure the Spanish remake of Achey Brakey Heart, blasting from the merchant’s amplified crappy stereo, for the enjoyment of the shoppers, and set to Volume level 10+. Someone will rot in Hell for remaking that song.
 
She upset me for some reason and that invited my attack. Asking that question would hurt her and I was precisely in that sort of mood. “I want to know who my biological father is Mom.” I blurted it out just like that. I can’t even remember if I said hi first. She probably answered the phone and I ambushed her with it. Initially, there was silence on her end. “What do you mean?” she responded. “Mom, nature has a funny way of telling us who our father is. I look nothing like Dad. I wish to God that he was my biological father, but I know he isn’t and I want to know the truth.” I’d practiced that line or variations of it for months now.
 
Surprisingly and thankfully, she didn’t fight me on it. Very calmly, she proceeded to explain that she had always suspected a guy from the Army. It was almost as if she’d been waiting for me to ask, for 34 years. She explained that they dated for a few weeks and that she had even met his parents and recalled they weren’t very nice with her. She assumed they were prejudiced. He had a sister, he graduated from Cornell, had an affluent family that had a home in the Hartford area of Connecticut. He was an Army personnel guy. She thought he may have been Irish. She says she never called him because she wasn’t sure who the father was. All along she hoped my Dad was the father because he was always her true love. Then she started to cry. Then I cried with her.
 
She confessed to being worried that someday I’d be in a car accident, and they’d have to test my blood and then they’d need Dad’s and test his too, and then we’d all find out the dirty, ugly truth. “This has been on my mind since High School, for 15 years”, I told her. She asked if I hated her and I said no, but that I was severely disappointed in her, like I’d never been before. For the first time I could see her …
from a distance ….
 ….
with all her faults ….
not just the little annoying ones, like how she says Mondee instead of Monday. There were many awkward silences. And then we hung up.
 
In my eyes she had definitely fallen from her pedestal. At one time she was way up there. She’d made it through food stamps, a flirtatious husband and their on-again off-again romance, worked crappy jobs without a college degree and moved all over the country with Natalie and I, sometimes supporting us on her own. We were latchkey kids - I remember eating baking chocolate and dry spaghetti a few times after school. At the time, it seemed normal and I just figured she hadn’t had time to go shopping. She was always home in the evenings and I can’t imagine that she even dated, because I remember her being with us ALWAYS. She routinely bought books for us, and read with us, and didn’t let us watch too much TV or eat sweet cereals. Sure she could get a bit crazed once in a while. Like the time she flung all the bathroom toiletries off the water heater in one fell swoop of her hand, in a violent rage, for Lord knows why. It was one of those old, square water heaters, almost like a table. It had a lime green plastic top that was peeling from everywhere. Not sure what sparked the fit but it was probably something related to Dad. That’s my memory. It scared the shit out of me.
 
In a blurry sort of daze, I walked to my bedroom and fell into the bed backwards. I stared at the popcorn ceiling that had glitter on it and slapped mosquitoes from my arms.
These shitty plug-in repellant thingies didn’t work for shit! Why don’t Mexicans and Europeans believe in window screens anyways?
I always worried that the mosquito repellant cloud was feeding large tumors in my body as I lay sleeping … a large cancer causing mist enveloped me, every night, to enter every pore in my body and seed the tumors.
 
Relief! I finally knew the answer to the big question mark on my being. Never mind that this man was out there somewhere and didn’t know a thing about me.  I didn’t know a thing about him either. The possibilities were endless.
 
I knew I had to tell Dad and Natalie next. I’d wait for Natalie, because I didn’t want to disrupt her studies. She was in the midst of trying to pass one of the endless medical board exams.
 
A few days passed and then I finally made the call. It was nighttime and he had company ….. but wasn’t the least bit surprised and actually acted as if he already knew. He’d asked Mom about it before and she’d always strongly denied it and said he was crazy to even think it.  And then he said something that I’ll never forget,
 
“From the moment I first held you in my hands, I knew I’d be your father forever”.
4 - There was a priest, a rabbi and a lawyer …
 
From: Curtis
Date: Thurs, 23 Oct 2003 12:48:19 -0700 (PDT)
To: Joe
Subject: Re: Re: are you Joe from CT? and Army?
 
Thanks Joe.
 
My facts may be off. Now that I’m sure this is your personal account and not a group work account I can tell you that I’m actually searching for the man I believe is my biological father.
 
I’m 34 years old and was born in 1970. My mom is Angela Martinez. She was in the Army in the Maryland area. She was from <removed>, NM. She says you dated for a while.
 
To be clear, I’m not looking for money or anything like that. I’m financially secure and have a BS in Electrical Engineering. I was married but am now divorced. I have a girlfriend. I don’t have any children.
 
If you aren’t the guy then I’m extremely sorry and am very embarrassed.
 
Thanks for your time.
 
Curtis
 
 
From: Mark
Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2003 12:33:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 
To: Curtis
 
Dear Curtis:
In regards to your email to Joe Gaussier, please call our office at 303-232-2111.
 
Thank you. Mark Fountain, Attorney for Joe Gaussier.
 
 
 
My one year stint in Mexico City came to an end and I settled back into suburb living in the Denver area. That’s when I decided it was time to scour the web. Surprisingly, Joe Gaussier is a very common name. The history of the Gaussier name is of French origin. Too bad I didn’t know this little fact when I lived in Paris for a year. It surely would have given me a strategy for approaching those beautiful French ladies that really couldn’t be bothered with me. Most likely, it would have been more successful than “Bonsoir, parlez vous Anglais”?
I found Gaussier reunion photos.
I found a DJ out East with the same name.
I thought I resembled most of the Gaussiers that I found on the web.
I compiled a list of about 15 email addresses and sent my emails out. Most Joes were very friendly and always responded within days. A few of them even wished me good luck.
 
The email addresses were a tremendous waste of time. Next, I started on phone numbers in the Hartford area.  Looking to reunite long lost friends, that was my pitch.
 
As Jerry Springer has demonstrated over and over, these little lost parent predicaments don’t usually have happy endings.
Would he want to meet me?
Would I like him?
Did he wrestle in High School too?
Do I want to meet him?
Do I have half brothers and half sisters and half nieces and nephews?
Are those nieces and nephews slobbering, wild savages scampering around in cloth diapers with chocolate, generic brand ice cream dripping from their mouths?
Was he an abusive drunkard?
Or maybe even worse, a die hard deeply religious, conservative, card carrying member of the Rush Limbaugh fan club?
Natalie was struggling through med school at the time and I worried how this would affect her. She always was the one who innocently blurted out hurtful things at family gatherings: “Sheesh, you guys don’t look anything like each other. You must be adopted”. I always responded to that comment or a variant of it with my best fake smile, or tried to change the topic quickly. Half sister sounds so distant. It was sad to think about.
 
One windy afternoon, after an exhausting day at work, I made a call to an insurance firm that I found on the internet and was surprised to hear the friendly office secretary respond with “why yes sweetie, the boss Joe was in the Army and is 56 years old. I’m not sure where he went to college though.” I asked for his email address and begged her not to mention it to him, as I didn’t want her to spoil the surprise. I knew I had finally found him.
 
As the email above requested, I called up attorney Mark and presented my case. Naively, I was very open with him in the beginning. He seemed friendly enough.  Ignorantly, I laid out all the facts and acted as if I was speaking with an old buddy or something.
 
It was a sunny, crisp Colorado winter day. Outside our generic office building the golfers were out and I admired the snow capped mountains to the West and the expansive blue skies.  Was anyone watching me from their office window? If they only knew how juicy this phone call is. As I had done in the email to Joe, I made it clear to Attorney Mark that I wasn’t looking for money or estates or an instant family or back-pay child support. I thought I should stress that I was a professional, so he wouldn’t worry that I was out for money. He explained that he’d speak with his client and call me back. A few weeks later he did.
 
Attorney Mark started our call with something like this: “well Joe sympathizes with your search Curtis but he isn’t your father. He does acknowledge knowing Angela. I can only guess to what a difficult time this must be for you.” Stubbornly, I suggested we exchange photos as a starter and he was hesitant. This brilliant lawyer proceeded to explain that photos would be no help, as most kids don’t resemble their parents. When he uttered that bullshit I knew they were purposely trying to avoid going further with this, so I persisted.
 
Not sure what I said to convince him, but in a legal or politician sort of way he finally agreed to a photo exchange. I’d send mine first and then we’d see what happens. I eagerly browsed my photo selection:
Should I send young or old Curtis, with a mullet, feathered hair, spiked with gel hair or shaved head, smiling or serious, with girlfriend/ex-wife or without, shirt and tie or casual, with family members or without, with baseball cap in college when I was in the “I can’t possibly be losing my hair already” phase? 
A two year old photo of me, on a bullet train in the Basque region of Northern Spain, is the one I settled on. I had a fabulous tan, didn’t weigh too much (a cheating ex-wife is the best diet I know), and was pretty darned happy. Two of my single buddies were with me and we were on a quest to meet Spanish girls and see as much as we could. I figured I should include a 2nd photo and settled on a photo of my ex-wife and I, at a company Holiday party. We were seated in conversation at a formal setting. The tie would surely help me look official, even thought it’s an ugly tie. I didn’t want to look like “desperate, broke, lonely, pathetic man looking for an instant daddy”.
 
It won’t surprise anyone, but they never did send any photos back. His lawyer contacted me with the same old shit: “We don’t really see a resemblance Curtis, and we’re really sorry”.
 
In one of the email exchanges I think attorney Mark offered to do a DNA test, if I’d pay for everything, and I insisted we should start with photos first. Maybe I still didn’t believe Mom? I must have pissed them off though, because I sent a few more emails pleading my case and then our communications had to come to a screeching halt.
 
 
From: Mark Fountain
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 2004 12:33:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 
To: Curtis
 
Dear Curtis:
In response to your email of Jan 6, 2004, Mr. Gaussier would prefer to not have any further contact with you. Please refrain from any further contact.
 
Thank you. Mark Fountain, Attorney for Joe Gaussier.
 


5 – Legal mumbo jumbo
 
So what’s a half breed bastard to do then? As I could see it, these were my options:
 
1) Do nothing. Give up and take Mom’s word for it. He’s the guy and at least I know he’s probably not someone I want to know.
2) Hire a private investigator to take some photos. Everyone I know resembles their dad. And the ones that don’t will hopefully read this story.
3) Use my contacts in aerospace (my former line of work) to track down an old military photo of him.
4) Fly out East and show up at his doorstep unannounced.
5) Fly Claire out East and have her visit his business on some false pretense, so she could see if there’s a resemblance.
6) Hire an attorney
7) Use the web to search for old Army shipmates and such. Maybe someone would have a photo.
 
These arrogant fucks, who the Hell do they think they are? I’d been handed a challenge. They’d seen my photos and decided they weren’t going to help. I’ll do it without their help then. Fuck them!
 
Realize that I still couldn’t completely trust Mom. She’d lived a lie this long so who’s to say she had ANY idea who my father was? Maybe she strongly suspected this guy but secretly knew there were others? It would be my worst nightmare.
 
I tried calling aerospace investigator contacts but that went nowhere quickly. These investigators don’t have permission to go snooping around military records, even when they freelance. I tried the web but didn’t have enough information about his military history. There’s a plethora of veteran reunion sites out there. I subscribed to an Army mailing list that to this day I can’t figure out how to unsubscribe from. I joined a military connections club. I even visited an Army recruiting office to see if they could locate photos of veterans. They tried to recruit me, but couldn’t help.
 
I actually gave up looking for a while. I didn’t really see how I would ever figure this puzzle out. I was tired, frustrated, angry and still kicking myself for not paying for the initial DNA test offer.
 
Eventually I decided my best option was to hire a PI to snap secret photos. I reasoned that once I’d see some photos I’d know for sure and could live happily ever after.
 
Obtaining the secret photos was ridiculously easy. I phoned an investigative firm in the Hartford area and after answering a few basic questions like “are you doing anything illegal” … “Um, nope, it’s perfectly legal”, I had photos in hand, well in my inbox. I was able to get Joe’s business address off his web site. Mr. PI was probably a sweaty, balding, fat guy with dark sunglasses and black paint under his eyes, crawling through the bushes in military fatigues. The photos were taken in the morning as Joe was walking into work. He was exiting his BMW SUV with golf clubs in hand, and it was a profile shot. The photo was grainy and taken from a distance but I definitely could see the similarities. I wasn’t 100% sure. Claire wasn’t any help. She said there wasn’t much of a resemblance. Maybe my desire to find him was causing me to see things that really weren’t there? I wondered if she thought I was a pathetic loser for doing this.
 
The secret photo option didn’t quite work out as I had planned. By seeing the photos I was sure I’d be satisfied and could finally stop this silly goose chase. Like me, he had a big head, pronounced jaw line, and the PI said he was 5’8” or 5’9”. I couldn’t be sure though. In a strange way, the photos actually made we want to know the facts even more.
 
One snowy evening while driving home from a particularly stressful day at the cubicle farm, I decided I would now hire an attorney. Apparently, a bald 34 year old man-mutt searching for his biological father in a different state isn’t exactly a common problem. The law wasn’t on my side, they all said. I called random divorce attorneys, figuring they dealt with paternity issues frequently. None of them really wanted to touch the case.
 
Finally, a posting on www.legalmatch.com resulted in a good lead. A Family Practice Attorney in Denver said she’d take my case on an hourly basis. The initial meeting was awkward. She’d never had a similar case. We discussed our options and decided to send off a letter to his attorney stating that we wanted to have a DNA test, and that I’d pay the full costs. We were going to try the old fashioned, direct, honest approach … at her suggestion. There wasn’t really any way to force him to take it though. Legally speaking, not even making up a story about needing my family medical history could force him into the testing lab. We picked a DNA lab that she had referred many times before, and we made sure they had offices in both Hartford and Denver, and we fired off our initial letter.
 
Our attorneys exchanged a few more rounds of letters and then he agreed to take the test, as long as I paid for all of it. I was desperate and was willing to pay anything to finish this and find some inner peace for once.
 
The day I sneaked out to the DNA clinic for my half of the test, the nurse asked, “and what is the name of the alleged child”? “Um, that would be me”. It was embarrassing, awkward, and I felt like the trailer trash that I was, like standing in line at an all you can eat buffet. Shameful. That office was so cold and lacking any decor, located in an astoundingly bland strip mall, in one of the most boring suburbs of Denver. One of those suburbs that you wouldn’t be able to identify if you were transported by the Starship Enterprise. Ok, there’s a Chili’s, an Applebee’s, a Safeway, a Starbucks …. I know, I must be in Dallas? Is it Phoenix? Oh, it’s the Denver suburbs.
 
For the next 6 months our attorneys exchanged contracts and newer contracts and super new revised contracts that strike the word “cannot” and changed it to “will never”. So that’s how they their make money eh? Joe wanted me to sign a release specifying that I had no rights to his estate, could not contact his next of kin, could not even look in the direction of CT for an extended amount of time, blah blah blah. It was a bunch of silliness really. Of course I signed it. I didn’t give a damn about any of that crap.


 
6 – Letter from the Stork
 
 
I almost threw the standard white letter away. It was one of those official looking ones that trick you into opening them, only to read about another 2.5% mortgage rate offer or a check for $50k. It took a while to sink in. I read it several times and then slowly let out a breath of relief. It said there was a 99.998% probability of paternity. I knew now that I’d just sit and wait and that if the search ended today, I’d be content.
 
A few weeks later my attorney said that Mr. Gaussier wanted to contact me. Of course I agreed.
 
I wondered what exactly he wanted to say. Would he apologize for being such a dickhead through this whole process? Did he expect anything out of me? Had Mark the Attorney been feeding him false information? Maybe it was Mark who was the real dick? Then I received this email:
 
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 09:49:54 -0500
Subject: DNA results
From: Joe
To: Curtis
 
Hi Curtis,
As you know, the results did come back positive about my paternity.
Since I have a family (wife of over 30 years, and two grown children), this is a rather awkward situation for me, as I'm sure it is for you.
 
However, I do understand you wanting to know your heritage. So if you
Would like to meet, I could come out to Denver and meet with you for a couple of hours. I would probably be bringing my wife. As we negotiated back and forth in the legal proceedings, I do not wish any long term relationship. But I will try to be as helpful as possible to you in understanding your genetic background.
 
Thank you for understanding.
 
Sincerely,
Joe Gaussier
 
 
 
I read it at least 10 times. Was it as direct and cold as I was reading it to be? So I have 2 half brothers or sisters. Where did he get this heritage thing from? It was true that I wanted to know but is that the only reason he’s contacting me? He finds out he has an illegitimate child and all he cares about is a 2 hour meeting to share heritage stories? No long term relationship … what’s that supposed to mean? Well at least he made an effort. Wife of 30 years? So he married a few years after I was conceived.
 
 
 
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 09:37:07 -0800 (PST)
From: Curtis
Subject: Re: DNA results
To: Joe
 
Hello Joe.
 
It's been an uncomfortable situation for me too. Embarrassment, anger, resentment, relief and confusion are a few words that come to mind.
 
I do think it would be nice to meet in person.
 
Tomorrow I'm off to NYC for the New Year ... my girlfriend's family lives there. If you'd rather meet somewhere out East we could arrange for that. But Denver would be fine too.
 
I'm content with where this search has led me. A little void has been filled inside me. My dad has been really great through this process and I feel closer to him than ever. Anything on top of this is a plus in my book.
 
No long term relationship is fine by me.
 
Curtis
 
 
 
 
 
I was being honest … well sorta. We exchanged a few more emails and then I suggested we meet at 4 PM on New Years Day at my favorite deli in NYC, Katz’s. I’d been looking forward to a Katz pastrami sandwich for months now. I can still remember watching that PBS special that talked about great eats in the USA and wondering why Claire had never mentioned Katz’s before. This was the deli where Sally had her now famous fake orgasm scene, in When Harry Met Sally. It was an informal setting and would serve as a distraction to the seriousness of our meeting. He said he’d be bringing along his wife so I said I’d bring Claire. Her rosy cheeks and pleasant personality wouldn’t hurt anything.
 
For a December NYC winter day, it was actually very nice out. I always feel like a hamster in that city … bustling about through the turnstiles and channels, going about my mission for the day. Even though Claire and I had been up till 4 AM playing Texas Hold‘em with her cousins, we weren’t hung over and were both in good spirits. We took the 6 to the lower East side and that’s when I started to feel the butterflies. I didn’t think I’d be this nervous about the meeting. I hadn’t felt this nervous since the day I found out my ex-wife had been cheating on me while she was in NM for the Holidays. I stewed at home for hours, preparing to confront her when she returned from work. We arrived at the deli 1 hour early and I warned Claire not to try to run the conversation, as she sometimes can. We dressed casual. I fully prepared myself to meet the meanest, coldest, most selfish prick on Earth.
 
I sat facing the entrance and had to concentrate on each 50 something year old with grey hair that walked in. Claire spoke with me but I really couldn’t hear a word she said. Katz’s is a bustling, chaotic, cafeteria feeling sort of eatery. Finally, they walked in and I waved them over. I recognized him from the secret PI photos. During the next 2 hours we exchanged small talk. He spoke slowly and deliberately and seemed to have a slight hearing problem. His wife was cordial and pleasant and she asked most of the questions to begin with. I could see the relief in her when I verified that I was indeed 34 years old. I found out that his dad was of French decent and his mom German. He had wrestled in High School too. His hobby was magic. We were both morning people. His father had struggled with bouts of depression, like I think I sometimes do. Ever notice how stupid people are always happy?
 
Claire and I entertained them with tales of our world travels. We shared the story of how we met on a work project in Acapulco: the day on the beach when our group of 6 determined to drink 100 bottles of Corona, and did. They didn’t once mention their children’s names and I’m guessing that was by design. They told us of how they really enjoy working together and we told them about our difficulties doing the same. The Peruvian beach incident is the story I should have shared, where we had a huge fight while walking from the beach on a remote, dusty, dirt road looking for a taxi. Claire wanted to take a bus and I wanted to wait for a cab. After the brief shouting match we walked 30 yards apart and exchanged nasty words with each other. That’s what happens when you spend 24 hours a day together. We were in Peru for business and we stopped travelling together shortly after that.
 
Chatting with them was enjoyable and conversation flowed freely. I have no idea how the pastrami was, but they both said it was fabulous. Joe apologized for everything that led up to the meeting and I responded with something like “I didn’t do everything right either”. It’s not like either of us had been through this before. “No hard feelings”, I added. He asked if there was anything else I wanted to know and I couldn’t think of anything. I never did write down that German last name.
 
Joe and his wife seemed quite normal – I was relieved. His wife gave me a heart-felt goodbye hug and I saw tears in her eyes. Then I shook hands with Joe and we said our goodbyes. I regret not asking to see a magic trick.
7
 
A huge burden was lifted off my shoulders on that eventful phone call from Mexico City. In a strange way it was replaced with another. A secret life is what I occasionally feel I’m living now. My longtime friends still don’t know the story so I tiptoe around the heritage issue if new friends are around and it creeps into conversation. The extended Garcia family doesn’t know a thing, although I’m sure most of them still KNOW it. Vicious rumors spread unchecked in small towns and I feel the need to protect Mom. They’d have a field day with this one. Back in High School, there was a rumor that my friend George had been caught masturbating in the boys locker room with a sandwich in one hand and his penis in the other. We all knew it was just a funny story but it actually made its way to the neighboring schools. The kids started calling him “Knuckles” after that.
 
The complicated relationship with Mom hasn’t fully recovered. Even though I told her that I forgave her I really haven’t. How can a sane, intelligent woman hide this fundamental right from a child who she claims to love dearly? I’ll never unders


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