I was 26 years old and I had just heard those words roll off of the lips of the woman I had always thought was my mother.
A few weeks prior, I had been researching my family history, tracing my family’s roots in Africa, when I kept hitting a dead-end.
There was no trace of albinism in my family.
The Filipkowskis are all black. Every single one. Except me.
My “mother” had always explained this to me by stating that I was a black albino. I had inherited the gene from my Uncle Dennis, who had died when my mother was a small child.
I had heard many conflicting stories about “Uncle Dennis” from the members of my immediate family.
“Oh, Uncle Dennis? He died in a calculator fire,” said my cousin Geoffrey.
“What the heck is a calculator fire?”, my nine year-old self asked.
“I don’t know, shut the hell up,” replied Geoffrey.
Some said he was a pilot for Eastern Airlines, though my exhaustive search of that now-defunct company’s records turned up no traces of him. In fact, I could find no mention of him anywhere.
I was also told that he had been a lifeguard at Jones Beach. When I questioned why someone with a pigment deficiency would choose a profession that was conducted exclusively under the blaring rays of the sun, I was given the familiar retort of “I don’t know, shut the hell up.”
To that end, how come the sun didn’t burn me as easily as most albinos? Why was my hair brown? Why did I have perfect vision? It just didn’t make sense.
After years of lying, my mom just gave up trying to explain all the incongruities in her story.
“You’re not an albino, you’re adopted,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t love you like our own!”
Sure it didn’t. Nobody loves an adopted kid as much as a regular one. Everybody knows that. If I was going to be loved like a regular son, I was going to have to find my real mom.
So, armed with the name of my birth mother, I started my search over from scratch.
After just a few days, I received some heart-breaking news: my mother was dead.
Elsie Dadoriano had disappeared and been officially declared deceased just months after giving birth to me. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, a simple request for documents at my local town hall had turned up the chilling fact that I was all alone in the world.
I returned “home” to my “family”, a broken man. It just wasn’t the same, though. Sunday church services no longer seemed so boisterous. That evening, my Aunt Jenny’s peach cobbler wasn’t quite as sweet. As I finished my last bite, I realized it might be because she wasn’t really my Aunt Jenny, after all.
I needed something to take my mind off of things.
I didn’t have many hobbies, but it had always been my dream to set a Guinness Book of World’s Records record.
If you’ve ever skimmed through this book, you know most of these records will probably never be broken. I wasn’t about to swallow 8,000 clothespins or run a mile in 23 seconds or whatever.
I needed something that was easy. I racked my brain as I drove to work. I parked in my assigned spot. “Eric Filipkowski” it said. It occurred to me that I would have to have that changed to say, “Eric Dadoriano” pretty soon.
As I sat in my car, I wished I didn’t have to go into work. I wished I could stay in my car all day.
I wished I could stay in my car, if not forever, for months at a time!
Great Scott! That was it! I would live in my car!
What could the record be for that? A few days? Weeks? Months, at most? I could do that.
I sprang into the office, a completely revitalized man.
I was no longer just “Eric Filipkowski: former black albino.” I was “Eric Filipkowski: future world record holder!”
People asked me what was going on, so noticeable was my change in demeanor, but I was hesitant to share my idea. I believed it to be that good and original and I didn’t want anybody stealing it.
At lunch, I could no longer contain myself. I confided in my best chum, Walter Pittstall.
“Good luck with that, I hope you’ve got 26 years to kill,” was his reply.
My heart sank. 26 years? How did he even know that?
“They just did a story about it on the news, the lady who did it lives just a few towns over. Elsie Dadoriano’s her name, I think.”
I couldn’t handle this roller coaster of emotions. First, I found out I’m adopted. Then I found out my real mother was dead. Then I found out my mother was actually alive and she stole my idea for setting a world’s record. I couldn’t take it anymore!
I made sure that Walter had the correct name. He showed me a newspaper clipping he had taken. There it was. The name of my real mother. No picture, though.
I grabbed the clipping and ran for the door. I shouted something about explosive diarrhea to my boss and was gone in a flash.
I zipped through the streets of my small town at a pace that would make my hero, Jeff Gordon, jealous. Within minutes, I was flipping through a phone book in the middle of Apple City Square searching for her name. Unlisted number.
“Damn it, Mom!” I said in frustration. I started asking random people on the streets and they were able to direct me easily to their most famous resident. It was just a few blocks over!
I slowed my pace, gathering myself. I straightened my hair and tie; I wanted to make a good impression with my new Mommy.
The townsfolk had told me I was to go to the corner of Benson and Hudson streets. They said when I got there, I would know what to look for. But all I saw was a filthy homeless woman living in a broken down… junked-out… car.
My mom is homeless! Gross!
I ran for my life.
I went straight home and begged my parents to take me back. I wanted to be Eric Filipkowski again. I wanted to be black again. I wanted to be an albino again.
To their credit, they took me back with open arms and promised to try and forget the whole business, though, if I push their buttons, they’ll sometimes drop a sly, “I don’t know, shut the hell up, Dadoriano,” under their breath.