My parents divorced when my brother and I were very young, probably 2 – 3 years old. My father, Julius Charity, remarried twice, producing seven more Charitys with his second and third wives. So altogether, there were 10 Charitys in Pontiac and for most of my early life I believed we were the only Charitys in the state of Michigan. I didn’t learn otherwise until I discovered the Internet and Prodigy. I plugged Charity into one of the online phone directories and hundreds of results were returned, most of them in Virginia. I was so surprised that I printed out all of the names. Then I posted a query on the old Prodigy message board and received this reply:
This information was a little hard to swallow. I live about 30 minutes from Detroit and had traveled there several times with my father to visit his mother’s relatives. Not one time did he mention that his father’s family lived there. I imagined all sorts of reasons why my father never mentioned these people to us. Maybe he didn’t have a relationship with his father. Or his father had remarried and the second wife didn’t like him. Maybe there was some sort of family falling out, maybe my father’s mother discouraged contact. There had to be some earth shattering, valid reason, for these people never having been introduced to us.
Well late last year I finally asked my father why he never took us to meet his father’s family. He had no real answer. Was there animosity between him and his father? No. He saw his father regularly until he married my mother when he was seventeen. Then life happened — a wife, one kid and another on the way, and he didn’t have the time to visit his father as much as he had. Ok, but did he still see him at all? Yes. Then what about us? No time. I was 24 years old when my great-grandmother died, and 36 years old when my grandfather died. In my mind there was plenty of time.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised by his answers. When his mother, my grandmother died, he never called me. I found out by seeing her obituary in the newspaper. I waited for him to call but he didn’t. I didn’t attend her funeral because I was angry and confused. When he still hadn’t called a few days after the funeral I called him. All he said was “you couldn’t make it, huh?” I hung up the phone. Years later when I discussed her death with him he was surprised that I knew she had died from breast cancer. “How did you find out,” he asked. I had gotten a copy of her death certificate. “Why didn’t you tell us (me and my brother) that she was dying?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders and said “she asked to see you before she died.” Why didn’t he contact us? Again, he just shrugged his shoulders.
You can probably guess that my father and I don’t have a close relationship. I used to be angry, but I’m over it. I’m also over him as a father. He’s more like a casual acquaintance. I’ve never said that to anybody, never said it out loud, but it’s the truth. And because of it, I don’t know how I feel about being a Charity.