How I Met My Father

Fathers don’t fare well in my fiction. They are white supremacist killers and domestic abusers. They trick their wives into becoming pregnant. They have affairs. They abandon their families.

My biological father, Albert Coleman Bryan Jr., was 22 when I was born. He was a dashing air force pilot who flew off into the wide blue yonder, leaving my mother and me grounded.

He had red curly hair and freckles and a charming grin. It’s a face I don’t remember, if indeed I ever saw it. My parents split up around the time I was born.

I grew up tasting the bitterness of my father’s absence, especially at Christmas, when he sent me expensive presents. My mother would hand them to me without a word, and I would know to go into my closet to open them.

By then, she had remarried. In addition to a stepdad, I had a brother and sister. Our stockings were filled with bananas and oranges, little else.

In my closet, I would open the presents from my father, with cards signed by his secretary or someone in a store. Among the many gifts over the years, he sent me a pearl necklace, a portable typewriter and a birthstone ring. I’d know to tuck them away in my closet and never to mention them to my brother and sister.

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