You would think that with four possible grandparents I would know st least one or two, but no, mine are all dead or relinquished or vanished, especially my mother’s purported father, Victor Burns, said to be a dead English seaman from Liverpool or London, or maybe just a hallucinated figment of Anna’s imagination. My mother says she questions her aunts after she leaves the orphanage, asks them if they know who her father is, but everyone is silent on the subject, whether from ignorance or reticence she will never know. There is certainly no marriage license reflecting his existence, could have been a fleeting relationship I suppose but Anna keeps the name Burns her whole life in the asylum, that seems to me a little over the top for a one night stand.
The genetic analysis from my DNA test shows that I am 80% Ashkenazi Jew and 20% mixed British/North West Europe, a breakdown which actually fits just fine with being descended from Victor. So maybe, probably he does exist, maybe, probably impregnates crazy Anna and then leaves her without a backward glance to set sail again on his ship, or maybe, probably he dies and then leaves her to wander the city streets, to look for work when she can, cleaning houses or the like, to knock on her sisters’ doors when she can’t think of anything else to do in these days before welfare and antidepressants and group therapy.
What my mother remembers from those days is acute, a sharp narrow small child memory. She remembers, I have to go to the bathroom. She remembers, I am sad, I am scared. She squirms on her aunt’ s mohair couch but Anna doesn’t look her way. Her mother is too busy being crazy and a pain in the neck, so troublesome that soon the sisters send her to the asylum and my mother to the orphanage, so much for family, the ghosting family where everyone you love disappears.