“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou
― Maya Angelou
I had, as you might imagine, put a great deal of thought into where in the WORLD My Real Dad might be. I guesstimated that he was probably around my mother's age and that, like many people, he had never really strayed far from home. In my experience, the great majority of people I know still live within 100 miles or so from their birthplace. "Home" is a connection point and we tend to stick close to the nest.
So, there were TWO men in the state of North Carolina with the same name. One was the EXACT same age as my mother and the OTHER was approximately five or six years older.
I decided to go with the first one. I sent the letter out on my birthday one cold January day and gave it to Fate.
I heard nothing.
Not a peep. Not a sound. I assumed this was a Very Bad Sign. But, finally, one August day, an e-mail arrived in my inbox from a woman purporting to be the sister of the wife of My Real Dad. The wife had intercepted the letter all those months ago and had held onto it, consulting with her sister and they had determined that the letter was, indeed, accurate and they were going to confront him with it that VERY weekend. But first, they wanted a few more details to arm themselves with.
I was nervous and excited but a little hesitant because I really hadn't planned on this being a confrontational kind of event. I gave them their information and sat back to wait. Bear in mind, that there were a couple of problems here: 1) The man in question was already in the relationship with his now-wife when I was born and 2) He had never 'fessed up about my birth. These women were ANGRY.
I heard nothing.
A couple of weeks went past and finally, I could wait no longer. I e-mailed the woman back and asked her how it had gone.
A couple more months passed and, finally, in November, I sat down and wrote an e-mail saying "Look, I am sorry if I screwed things up, and it appears he doesn't want anything to do with me, but could you PLEASE just tell me if he is My Real Dad?"
The reply came the next day, with apologies. He had denied everything. He had NO CLUE what I was talking about. It was apparently a rather large brouhaha with them accusing and him denying but finally, in the end, they had (somewhat reluctantly) believed him.
I owe that man a beer.
Since Christmas was coming up, I decided to give My Real Dad, Option 2, a break over the holidays. I felt pretty bad about wreaking havoc and almost ruining My Real Dad Option 1's life so I gave it a rest.
Then, about a week or so before my 36th birthday in January, I revised the date on the letter and sent it out into the world again.
A few days before my birthday, I received an e-mail. It said, simply, that he was the man I'd been looking for and that he would call me in a few days.
My Real Dad. My Father.
He did call me. We fumbled through a first conversation and then a second. He sent me a picture of himself and his wife (whom I shall call One Good Woman). He had told her about me but I think they had never expected that they would hear from me after the passage of so many years.
After all those years, I had finally talked to My Real Dad. The connections started falling into place and I began to feel whole for the first time in my entire life. He told me his story and he told me about the two sisters I have who live near him. I met him and One Good Woman. (The meeting is a story for another day.) So much of me was SO MUCH LIKE HIM. It was uncanny.
Over the past several years, I have met My Father and his wonderful wife a few times. I swap e-mails with his wife (who is one of the MOST AMAZING women I have met, hands down) and every now and again My Real Dad and I shoot a text to each other or we break down and give each other a call. It's still awkward at times but we've talked through a whole bunch of stuff. I know he has regrets but I also think that this is the only way it could have been.
I met one of my sisters who is EERILY like me. We are similar down to the cadences of our speech. I recognize so much of myself in her. She is much younger (by about 10 years or so) but she and I are easily cut from the same cloth. She's a busy, busy woman...smart, funny, sassy and headstrong with three kids of her own. I enjoy her tremendously and only wish I could spend more time with her.
It has been beautiful. It turned out to be the best possible scenario...with maybe only one bittersweet exception: my youngest half-sister. She refuses to acknowledge me. The arrival of my letter threw a big GIANT curveball into her family. There was some pain there. It couldn't have been easy for ANYONE to have had a stranger thrust into their midst. I have reached out to her in an e-mail once...but I am respectful of her choices and do not intend to force myself into her life. But, regardless of what she chooses, I hope she knows that I send her nothing but love.
So, I send out a public Thank You to My Real Dad and his wife. They have made me feel welcome and loved. They have accepted me into their hearts with abandon and I am forever grateful. God's grace and mercy shine through them clearly and profoundly.
I finally know who I am.
Hear me roar.