A Singlewith.com exclusive by Christine Coppa
“I think Adrian wanted to be born. I felt him. I felt Adrian. I felt his spirit.” – Adrian Grenier’s mom, Karesse
Entourage hits theaters tonight and while I’ve been a huge fan of Adrian Grenier’s witty work – his star turn as Vincent Chase on the HBO series that inspired the buzzed-about movie, his flirty role as Andy’s boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada and, yeah, he drove me crazy with Drive Me Crazy, too – I was much more entranced by his directorial debut, Shot in the Dark (available on DVD) in which he embarked on a personal quest to find his absent biological father he’d met only a few times.
It takes an ‘entourage’ to raise a family
Behind every absentee dad is a single mom. I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian’s mom, Karesse Grenier, about raising Adrian alone, with limited support and resources.
Here, she shares details of Adrian’s conception, expectations she had for her unborn child’s father, the bond between a single mom and her son, and more.
Meeting Adrian’s father
Karesse, who was 25 at the time, describes Adrian’s conception and that time in her life as “going with the wind.” It was 1974 when she met John Dunbar, Adrian’s father. They met in upstate New York at a summer camp run by the Theosophical Society, an organization that brings together wisdom and knowledge from all religions, exploring spirituality and “the essential oneness” of all beings. “I taught the kids yoga and spiritual movement,” Grenier says. Adrian’s father, then 24, was working in the camp’s kitchen. Grenier says he was very handsome with a gentle spirit, but very quiet. “I took that as him being strong inside and stoic.”
“I did all the talking,” Grenier admits. “I was making the relationship, the fantasy and the romance. It was the ’70s. We were in the moment and there was a physical connection, plus the camp was a very magical place.”
Grenier remembers sipping wine in the evening with Dunbar, then a fantastic lightning storm. “We ran in between the lightning bolts in the woods.”
Reacting to the pregnancy news
“I was living in NYC with my roommate and I called John to tell him I was pregnant. He was nervous… but thrilled. However, John did not offer any direction as to how we would live and was always looking to me for what’s next,” says Grenier.
Grenier got serious, fast, as she faced the reality of being with child. “Oh my God, I’m really going to have a little person!” she remembers thinking. “My body was changing. How was I going to work and live? She felt John needed to grow up a bit and admits being intolerant of him. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” was her attitude. Grenier’s motto for her new life as a parent: “Whatever I did before, I’ll just do the same thing. The only difference is I’ll have my ‘little gremlin’ with me.”
“I didn’t have too much support,” she says. “I did go home to New Mexico to have the baby. It was day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. I’m the oldest of many kids. I was home, but I was on my own.”
Adrian’s early relationship with his dad
Adrian’s father did come to New Mexico for his birth. “I wanted to be friends with John,” Grenier says. “I didn’t want to be with him, romantically, but I wanted him to be a part of Adrian’s life.”
She made her feelings clear: “I kept telling him, I’m not going to be committed [to a romantic relationship].” Dunbar went back to Ohio, married and did not see Adrian again until he was six. “His wife initially wanted to embrace a relationship with Adrian. This was a good sign, I thought,” Grenier says. During the visit, “Adrian was upbeat and loving. For him, this was another opportunity to have company.”
But the company didn’t last. “I don’t think Adrian was bummed when he realized John wasn’t going to be around after that visit,” Grenier says. Since his father hadn’t been a big part of his life before the visit, 6-year-old Adrian didn’t seem to experience his dad’s departure as a loss.
Being Adrian’s single mom
“I moved back to New York when Adrian was a month old. I breastfed him until he was nearly two-and-a-half,” says Grenier, who today is married to a wonderful man named Bob. Adrian calls him his #2 dad and even jokes he has DNA from both John and Bob.
Adrian and mom share a similar favorite moment from when Adrian was a young boy.
“I would wake him up early, wrap him in a blanket, put him in the car and go on adventures,” Grenier says. She also loved bike riding with Adrian once he turned 7.
“We would bike from the Upper West Side to the ferry and then go to Staten Island. There were these fantastic abandoned warehouses to explore.”
Karesse Grenier’s advice for other single moms
Be honest with your child. “I never kept secrets from Adrian,” Grenier says. “I always spoke very positively about his dad. ‘Dad does love you,’ I would tell him. I liked to remind him that human beings have weakness and his dad wasn’t strong-willed, but that one day you will know his love is real for you. People can’t always act on their feelings.”
Don’t let guilt get in your way. “I went to a psychic before Adrian was born, because I felt guilty about bringing Adrian into the world without a dad and wondered if I pushed John away,” Grenier says. “The psychic told me that my child had his own personal destiny and came here primarily to be with me for his purpose… that was the choice of his soul.”
Don’t let society stigmatize you. “I encouraged Adrian to be aware of this,” Grenier says. “I didn’t want him to be pitied because his father wasn’t around. Adrian and I didn’t lack. You can be as fulfilled and as whole as anyone.”
Know that you’re enough. If you end up as a single mother, Grenier advises, understand that you are a full, complete human being and you can provide your child with everything they need. The support of a male figure is ideal, but not necessary to hold your family up.
Adrian Grenier’s advice for kids who have an absentee parent
After speaking to Karesse, I emailed with Adrian to get his take on having an absent father. “It’s hard sometimes not to have the support from parents that we want, but you’re not alone,” he says.
“We all have to make the circumstances we’ve been given work for us,” Adrian adds. “Some people are born without dads; some people are born with dads that have one leg. Whatever it is, all of life is a unique, special opportunity to rise to the occasion.”
The hardest thing about being a single mom, according to Karesse
“It’s having to be a nurturer, loving parent, provider and in the older years, a disciplinarian,” she says. “You do it all alone. You have to wear two masks. As a boy growing up with a single mom, they want that comfy pillow to lay their head on and don’t always understand the tough-love boundaries coming from Mom.”
How Adrian’s art was able to change his life
“Adrian was always creative and loved music,” his mom remembers. “He had a natural ear for music. He was expressive but a little shy. I never thought of him as being an actor.”
Adrian took his creativity to another level when he directed Shot in the Dark and Karesse thinks it helped his relationship with his father, beyond what we saw on camera.
“Adrian said, ‘I’m going to take a camera and find my dad. And I said, ‘OK, that will be cathartic.’ I never thought he’d make it into a movie and show the world!” Grenier says, laughing.
“It took a lot for John to even take Adrian to the house to meet his wife [her feelings had changed since the visit when he was 6]. She hung up on him when he called. He had to go back a few times to shoot.
“She was resistant. In the documentary, she talks about this stone in her heart – closed-up feelings and pain – having to deal with her own personal challenges of not being able to have her own biological child with John.”
Grenier’s take on the issue? It is important that a stepmom or girlfriend embrace her partner’s history and the relationships that come with that history. It is not always that simple, she says, but in the end openness and acceptance of the role of stepmom will define and build character.
Where are Karesse and John now?
Today they are friendly, Grenier says. “He’ll give me a hug at events and I know that John is proud of Adrian. Debbie, too, is always warm and truly gracious. Everyone has come together and found peace in what has connected us in life. Adrian is at the center of this bond, reuniting us with a gentle reminder to keep our hearts open.”
“Adrian loves to document things on film. [Shot in the Dark] was a public event. That was good in the sense that it brings you to the stage and you become less significant – you’re part of a greater purpose. You’re sharing a story with the world. The documentary opened up doors and conversations not just for us, but also for others going through similar family events.”
Where are Adrian and John now?
“I celebrate my mother on Father’s Day,” Adrian says. “She was a mother and a father to me for so long. There are father figures in many different variations. John is my dad in his own way, amongst other role models and people I look up to.” (Hear that kiddos? Give your single mommy a Father’s Day gift this month.)
Is Adrian ready for fatherhood, himself?
“I don’t have expectations that he has to give me a grandchild,” his mom says. “I would welcome it, [but] he has to find his own way.”
Grenier says her son is very happy to have a Bohemian life – who cares about the white picket fence? Adrian values individuality, autonomy and honest communication, she says. For him, “Nothing has to be ‘legal’ official or to standards determined by society’s perception of normal.”
So, would he ever choose to become a single dad? “I think he’d be open to having a kid alone,” his mother guesses. “But having a partner is going to give him peace in the long run.”
She’s right-ish, says Adrian: “I’m big into the idea of chosen family, where you build and create the family that is right for you,” he says. “Sometimes it’s better to depart from a situation that is destructive or perhaps isn’t best serving you, even if it is biology, blood. We’re all one big family under God. I would adopt, and I think I could raise a child alone, but I would not choose to – it takes a village.”
The bottom line on single motherhood, according to Karesse
I asked Grenier for her definition of single motherhood. “Very rewarding, very defining of your character,” she says. “It ultimately defined me as a person. [It was] a big leap of faith.”
How well does Karesse Grenier really know her son?
Does a single mom know best? Just for fun, I asked Karesse to answer a few questions about her son. Next, I followed up with Adrian. She did pretty well!
Adrian’s favorite ice cream?
Adrian: Vanilla chocolate chip, or strawberry. I like simple flavors
Adrian’s favorite movie?
Which does Adrian prefer, acting or playing in his band The Honey Brothers?
Karesse: The Honey Brothers
Adrian: I like being in front of and behind of the camera. They both fulfill me in different ways.
L.A. or Brooklyn?
Adrian’s favorite food:
Favorite dish made by Mom:
Karesse: Veggie tacos
Adrian: Veggie tacos
Does Adrian have a girlfriend?
Karesse: I don’t think he’s in a committed relationship.
Adrian: No comment.
What’s Adrian’s favorite drink?
Karesse: I don’t like him to drink! Don’t ask me.
Adrian: Tequila and soda
Adrian’s favorite color:
Karesse: Blue or green
Where does Adrian want to travel next?
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featured photo by Kevin Winter © EdStock
Entourage photos by Claudette Barius, courtesy Warner Brothers Pictures
family photos courtesy Karesse Grenier