Thursday, May 23, 2024

If it wasn't for the baseball game, we'd still be on the phone

I like talking on the phone, but yesterday's 3-hour marathon was a lot ... even for me. Rita is a writer I hired and mentored at my last job. She's doing really well in her new position at another agency. Her personal life, however, is a mess.

She and her husband are living separately. His alcohol abuse made him difficult to live with and had a terrible impact on his ability to parent. The nadir was his DUI, earned with their toddler in the backseat. He's in AA now and working hard on his sobriety. She's supportive and happy to co-parent, but she's not reconciling with him. Even though she knows she's right to refuse to live with a man she no longer loves, she struggles with guilt.

That, however, is not the headline.

She recently learned that her dad may not her biological father. She'd grown up believing that her parents met when Mom was a single mother with two little girls. Dad fell head-over-heels in love with her and, within a month, Mom was pregnant with Rita and they got married. The marriage ended in divorce and Rita is (vehemently) estranged from her mother, but Dad has always emphasized that he once loved his ex-wife and never regretted a moment of their relationship. He and Rita are very close, she's a real Daddy's Girl. 

Rita is olive-skinned with dark eyes and full brows (very Brooke Shields) while her two sisters are blonde. She always assumed it was because they have different fathers, although her dad is fair-haired and fair-skinned, too. Recently, looking at photos from a recent family wedding with her grandmother (her mom's mother), she mused aloud, "I wonder how I ended up in this family."

She was shocked when her grandmother blurted, "I can tell you your father's name." Then Grandma put her hand over her mouth, like she'd said something wrong. 

"WHAT?" Rita asked. Until that moment, it never seriously occurred to her that the man she knew as Dad wasn't her biological father. 

It's a pretty sordid story. At the time that her mother met her second husband, she was partying very hard with a group that spent all weekend in the same house. Couples hooked up for the weekend with no strings attached. Drugs were involved.

Then Mom met Dad (he wasn't a member of that crowd) and she attempted to clean up. They started living together almost immediately and she found out she was pregnant within weeks, so they married. Both Mom and Dad acknowledged (to one another) it was possible that she was already pregnant when they got together. He was so enchanted by Mom and so eager to give her two little girls a better life that he accepted this.

Here's the real kicker: the man Mom had been hooking up with at the party house? He was a Portuguese immigrant whose last name was "Rita." Yes, Mom named her daughter after the man who may have fathered her.

As Rita said, "How fucked up is that?"

She went to her father and asked him about all this. He acknowledged all of it, except that he didn't know why his then-wife insisted on naming her baby girl "Rita." That was new to him.

But he insisted that from the moment she was a baby bump, he wanted her and loved her. He said he could not love her more, and that none of this has ever mattered to him.

It most definitely matters to Rita, though. She wants to know who she is biologically. She wants to be able to tell her little boy, someday, what his ethnicity is. So her father agreed to a paternity test. They are now awaiting the results.

Meantime, she's been investigating the mysterious Mr. Rita from the party house. He died of cancer while still in his 30s. So she can never meet or talk to him.

Of course it's possible that the man she has always called Dad is indeed her father. I hope that is the case. It would be so much easier for her, for everyone, if that's true. If not, well I'm glad she's in therapy!

Then she asked me for advice about her career. Thank God! At last we were talking about something I understood!

I am flattered that Rita thinks enough of me to share all this with me. It was good to get me out of my own head, my own mournful thoughts of Henry and John, and concentrate on someone else. But after three hours, I told her I had to go because the game was starting. That's the thing about being renown as a rabid Cub fan. No one bats an eyelash when I say, "Gotta go! The game is on."


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash


  1. Wow, those are quite some dramatic family situations Rita is dealing with. You are a good friend to listen and offer advice - but mostly just to listen.

  2. What a conversational roller coaster!

  3. Good golly. I caught up yesterday with someone I hadn't talked to in at least a year, and we only spent an hour on the phone. And I thought that was a long time. It was good of you to listen, but she really needs to learn how to use her journal to help her sort through her feelings.


Please note: If you have a WordPress blog, I can't return the favor and comment on your post unless you change your settings. WordPress hates me these days.