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The Call

So I get this call from the Los Angeles County morgue.

So I get this call one day from the Los Angeles County Morgue. I lived in Florida and was about ten years old, and the only one home. The woman on the other end asked for the next of kin for one Rodney O'Connor, a man whom I had never met, but he was my father. The true next of kin would have been my older brother but he was in the Navy and out of the country. And I thought my mom would have been next of kin, but they were divorced so she didn't count. So it was up to me to sign the papers to release his body to his sister Sue so she could have it brought back to Washington, D.C.

Thing is, I was supposed to fly out two weeks later to meet him for the first time. I had been very nervous. I was nervous about meeting him, about spending time with a complete stranger, and about having to fly alone. Maybe that’s why I remember his death being a relief to me. I never cried; it's hard to have sympathy for a stranger.

My real father was my stepfather, Sidney Ashmore, who adopted me when I was four. Although he was a gruff, stern man who rarely smiled, he was the one who taught me what hard work was and not to be afraid of it. He taught me how to work with my hands and take pride in what I did and to do it well. He loved me the best way he could, by teaching me.

So "the moment" is when I realized that biology and love sometimes don't have anything to do with each other. And maybe that's why I think that if two gay women or two gay men or any family for that matter want to adopt a child to give he or she a loving home, well, God's speed. Biology wasn't enough to keep my father near me. But love was enough to make me the man I am today.

_Marc Ashmore is an artist and actor who lives in Brooklyn. He works at Dryden Gallery in New York and spends way too much time taking care of his 159-year-old house._


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