“Our” is such a simple little word; it’s three letters long, an unassuming modifier implying possession by two or more parties, or I guess just one if you’re Pope Francis or the Queen of England. I’m neither of those people (but you knew that since you probably would’ve heard about going to school with a monarch), and as such, “our” to me retains its common-folk denotation.
When we talk of “our school” we swell with pride (or at least for show when talking to powerful alumni). When bride and groom speak of “our lives together,” we feel hope and love in a budding union of two souls. When social justice warriors mention “our duty,” we feel a responsibility as one. “Our,” for better or for worse, implies a togetherness, yet when I use it with my siblings, it has the opposite effect.
You’d think “our dad” implies a bond between children; when brothers talk about “our dad,” they’re referencing the same person and shared experiences. The difference there, however, is that “our dad” is a secondary way of referencing a parent when not using proper nouns like “Dad” or whatever you may call the paternal donor of half your genetic make-up. Yet for me and my siblings, it is the primary way of referencing him.
My siblings are, in decreasing order of age gap, 15, 14 and 6 years my senior, and while we all share “our dad,” we come from three different mothers; that is to say, half-siblings. I never really grew up with any of them, and in many ways, I consider myself an only child.
Additionally, to say that we have the same father really only applies to the now. We each grew up with him as our dad in varying places in his life. While my older brother and sister were raised by him while he was young, in college and working two minimum-wage jobs, I grew up under a more established man, working as a manager at a cell phone company. But back to “our dad.”
My two older siblings refer to him as “Pa,” while I’ve always called him “Dad.” When we talk, we shift our vernaculars. Neither of uses our personal word for him, and to bridge this divide, we’ve somehow naturally settled on “our dad.”
It’s a constant reminder that we didn’t share childhoods, that in many ways we didn’t grow up with the same dad, that, in all honesty, we don’t know each other that well. We’re more like satellites circling “our dad” in different orbits, sometimes coming close enough around the holidays and special occasions to see one another.
I hope one day, after I’m grown-up and living my own life like they are, to have more than the relationship we do now, to one day say “our dad” and not think about division.