You don't hear me talk about my dad very often. My maiden name is Harper but I started out life as Kristyn June Nussbaum. My dad, Mike, and my mom split when I was 4. I didn't see my dad from the time I was 6 until I was around 24.
My step-dad, Tom Harper, adopted me when I was 10 and Erin was 8. That's when my last name changed; "Harper" gets blamed for a lot of things it isn't technically responsible for like flat asses and AD/HD. He ditched us when we were 17 and 15 respectively. I have so many, that my daddy issues have names, give me some vodka, I'll introduce you to some of them.
I actually have many memories of spending time with my dad when I was little. What I remember most was that he was intense. I actually remember that being around him could sometimes feel heavy; it's probably because it's a trait we shared.
There are so many things I know I have that are from my mom. There are less from my dad. There is a small list of things I get from both; my love of politics, my patriotism and the fact that I won't eat the whites on fried eggs (weird, right? Neither of them would eat a fried egg white). I'm sure my intensity and my tendency towards being occasionally dark are from Mike. So are my flat feet and bad back. I think some of my powers of persuasion are from my dad as well. Erin looks exactly like my dad. My mom would always freak out a little when she would arrive some place not expecting to see Erin and wonder how Mike got there and how he looked so young! Erin dances exactly like my dad (this is not necessarily a good thing for either of them), we never understood that either; how can you grow up without someone and do something as specific as dancing exactly the same?
My mom who raised us completely on her own without a cent of child support was always very good about not talking shit about our dad. She always said that when we were ready she would help us find him and that he loved us very much and that his problems were with her and not us. What she did by keeping quiet about their relationship was allow Erin and I to someday have a relationship with Mike.
Erin moved to Colorado at some point in his early twenties and that's where my dad lived. He had moved back to Colorado after the divorce and he had remarried and had two children, my half-siblings Hunter and Alexandra. I also have a step-mom, Terri. They're all lovely people who I wish I got to spend more time with.
When I was around 24 I visited Erin and we decided to look our dad up. We had dinner and it was nice. There were a couple of awkward moments and to this day there are things I wonder that I will never get the chance to ask. A relationship built from that dinner and eventually we met his family and my brother actually spent a lot of time with them when he was living there. In 2003 my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and at a point I had to decide if I was going to visit him with Aidan and Dan while he was alive or if we would attend his funeral. I missed his funeral but I will always be very grateful that he got to meet Aidan and Dan. It was a beautiful trip with many wonderful memories.
My dad died on November 14, 2003 the day before my mom's birthday. We didn't have a father/daughter relationship but I miss him and I'm so glad I got the chance to re-connect. My feelings for Mike are complicated and one of the reasons I try not to write about him publicly is because of the conflict I feel in regard to him and how our relationship makes me feel about myself; myself today and my six year old self. In some regards it has become more complicated since I've become a parent; a force doesn't exist that would keep me from my kids. At the same time, I also feel like getting to see that he was a really loving and present dad to Alex and Hunter has been very good for me emotionally, it feels like it somehow fixes old hurts. In any case, I know he loved me and Erin the best that he could and that things happen for a reason.
Today I am thinking about my Colorado family; Terri, Alex, Hunter, Claire and my two nephews (one who is still cooking). I know that the pain they feel at the loss of Mike is more like what I feel about my mom, I know that ten years is a long time and that it is nothing. I hope today they celebrate his life and remember the time they had him for; it was a gift.
Rest in peace, Mike.