I am technically a bastard. I say “technically” because my parents weren’t married when I was conceived. Oh, they were married by the time I was born; there was a civil ceremony at City Hall where my mom was hugely pregnant in a flannel shirt, and my great-grandfather was my dad’s probably-drunken best man. Afterwards, everyone went back to my parent’s place and the Blizzard of 1982 happened overnight, stranding their friend Big Al the Harley Davidson Enthusiast, who couldn’t leave for two more days.
While I’ve always known that my parents weren’t married when I was conceived, it was only in the past few years that I learned they weren’t even dating when it happened. Apparently my mother was dating two guys – both named Dennis, which I guess was convenient – and got pregnant.
Now, I’m no obstetrician, but it stands to reason that if you’re sleeping with two guys during the same period of time and you get knocked up, you might be a little bit confused over the paternity of your fetus. My mother is much better at math than I am, but I still get surprised by my period every month and I have to have gotten that from somewhere. Because she wasn’t sure who made her pregnant, she said, she set about to tell both of them.
The first Dennis (not my dad, as you’ll find out) was not pleased with this news. My mother insisted to me that she was telling both Dennises no matter what the first Dennis said, and I choose to believe that’s true.
The second Dennis (my dad, as you’ll find out) was not only not displeased at the news, but, as my mother told me, probably would have adopted me even if I wasn’t his kid.
There was no paternity test, by the way. This was before the days of paternity tests-at-birth, and way before the days of the Maury show. My paternity was determined by my pinkie fingers. My dad (and his dad, and his dad, and possibly his dad but we don’t know because my great-grandfather was orphaned with six of his siblings) has crooked pinkie fingers. Bent inward at the top knuckle, the crookedness gets less pronounced as it goes along. My pinkie fingers are bent at maybe 35-degree angles (keep in mind that I am very bad at geometry and have no idea what I’m saying). My dad’s are more severe, and my grandfather’s were practically bent at total right angles. It’s a cute little deformity, and, as it turns out, one that helped my parents decide that I didn’t belong to some fat hippie weirdo who recoiled at the thought of me.
Although I just found out about my questionable paternity a few years ago, I’d always been told that the first things my dad checked upon my expulsion from the womb (yeah, you like that?) were my pinkie fingers. I’d thought this was a charming quirk of new fatherhood, but it was apparently as crucial to my birth certificate as was the hospital cleaning lady who suggested the name “Erin” to my mom while they both watched Saturday Night Live.
Today is my 29th birthday. I woke up early, got my car registered and my license renewed in less than an hour (Rita at City Hall, you deserve the most badass pension my taxpayer dollars can afford), had Mud House for breakfast and Truc Lam for dinner, and, in between taking a shower and a three-hour nap, read a book about the apocalypse.
Now I have some drinking to do. If you need me, I’ll be at the bar, pretending like birthdays still matter when you’re a grownup and demanding that everyone care just as much as I do.