Sunday, October 22, 2006
My Family Story
I’ve actually written this blog many times in my own mind. I’ve tried several catchy ways to start it off, collected many puns, invented witty remarks, but in the end none of it has achieved the goal that I set out for. So I have reverted back to the simple power of story. This is my story, from my point of view, but is a tale that I feel needs to be told as I am working through my own emotions and understandings of this story, and how (in a theological sense) this story merges with my story of my Christian walk.
When I was 15 my mother sat me down in my room to have a serious talk with me. At first I was afraid because I thought my parents finally built up the nerve to have “the sex talk” with me. Yeah I know, most 15 year-olds already know way too much about sex, but that doesn’t stop parents from being naive about their child’s naivety on the subject.
Anyway, it was a narrow escape, but that wasn’t what my mom wanted to talk to me about. I could never have prepared myself for what she was about to tell me. She told me that the person that I had always known as my father was not my real father. Long story short (because there are many details that are still unclear), my mom gave birth to me and my father was never in the picture. I know that many questions arise from the ambiguity of that summary, but know that there are many queries that I still have, yet I’m not sure I am ready, or, for that matter, will ever be ready to hear. So, I fall safely to the understanding that my father and mother were young and that mistakes and injudicious decisions were made.
Needless to say, this news came as a shock to me. I know that this happens and is not a rare occurrence in this day and age, yet I couldn’t help to take it as a shock when the life i had always known seemed, at least for a couple of days, to be a farce. I was 15 years old, my world while not turned upside down, was still knocked awkwardly askew. I made the decision not to search for my real dad (between my resources being limited and a shaky relationship with my adoptive father), and instead went about with my life as if nothing changed. Eventually the new information was filed away in the back of my head and was no longer an issue.
Fast forward now to the summer where I am taking classes between my Jr. and Sr. year of college. I get a call from my mother with disturbing news. My real father has now passed away from massive heart failure at the age of 41. My mom, audibly upset, not only breaks the news to me, but makes several calls to find out the particulars about his funeral. When she calls back I am in the midst of trying to figure out how to get ahold of my professors and how to get out of class for a couple of days. The thoughts of blame and guilt had already started seeping into my brain and I had begun cursing myself for never getting around to finding and meeting my real father. Now I would never have the chance to meet him and tell him that I held no ill will towards him. I had always felt like he deserved to hear that from me because no one should go through life with the guilt of a bad decision if there is someone who can relieve him or her of that burden. I honestly held no contempt towards my father or mother for the mistakes that were made.
What I did not consider, however, is that my real father would have made a life and family for himself. I don’t know why I had never considered this, I guess it was because I had never seen a picture and up until the phone call about his death, my mom and I never discussed it. Thus, when my mom relayed the particulars of the funeral to me, she broke some more shocking news: I had a younger brother and sister. All of the sudden I had to make a decision. I didn’t know if they knew about me, and if they didn’t, I didn’t want my presence to place any questions or thoughts in their heads that would potentially ruin the wonderful memories of their father that they held. So I made the decision not to attend the funeral because of that, and because of classes.
I often beat myself up for this decision, along with the decision not to find him to begin with. It is a hardship that I struggle deeply with because I chose to miss out on a lot of things on which I will never get a second chance . I will never get a chance to know my real father and the person he became. Although admitedly curious, I really don’t care what happened for him not to be a part of my life. I don’t care about the man that he was at that one moment in his history. What I DO care about was the man that he had become. I question and analyze my choices; my excuses to never meet my real father. It is scary how fast “too late” came knocking at my door.
Now here I am at 26 years-old and again my life has changed; this time in a more wonderful and hopeful way. My brother and sister found out about me soon after our father's death and eventually convinced their mother to track me down. I got a call from her asking if I was interested in meeting my brother and sister. Unlike the previous bad decisions I made about not seeking my dad, I was exhilarated by the opportunity to meet them. I quickly found out that my brother (18) is a freshman at the same college where I received both my undergrad and Masters Degrees. I also found out that I had a 15 year-old sister that is a sophomore in High School.
As I have met them, I have begun to fall in love with them. I have talked to my brother several times (AIM, phone, and in person), and until yesterday had only talked to my sister only on Instant Messenger. Yesterday I was privileged enough to meet her and her family in person at my brother’s homecoming at school. It was one of the best days of my life! I feel like I’ve known them more than a month, and it is amazing (and kind of scary) how much he 3 of us are alike.
Life is moving on, and I can’t help but to want to put my life on hold and spend all of my time getting to know them. I feel like I have missed out on soo much not knowing them over the years (something else to beat myself up over). Sadly though, our lives must go on, and all I can do is hope that over the years they will allow me to build a relationship with the both of them that will make up for all of the years lost. I couldn’t ask for 2 more receptive and open people to have as a long-lost brother and sister. They have been so kind and accepting of me although they have no reason to be. I know that we are related by blood, but in this day and age that means so little to most families (luckily my siblings and the mafia are an exclusion: ) .
So where am I now emotionally? Overwhelmed and confused are the best words I know to describe it. I have yet to sort completely through my feelings about the situations. I am ecstatic about the possibilities and the relationships I am building with my siblings. However, always lurking is the oppressing guilt that is hiding in the shadows. I am getting to know my father through his children, but I still will never know the man in person. I will hear stories and I have seen pictures, but that is far from capturing the flesh and blood that they grew up knowing. I wish I had known him. I wish I had more than a month’s worth of memories and experience with my brother and sister, but it IS all that I have. All I can do is keep going and hope that they will allow me to make up for lost time with them. All I can do about my father is hear their memories and see the emotion and love in their faces and try to paint my own picture of my father using their words as my brush.
I am thankful that God has opened this door in my life. I am thankful for the opportunity to fall in love with 2 wonderful people that I have never known. I am thankful for the fact that my younger brother and sister are better people than I am, because, unlike my decision to put off finding my father and getting to know him, they are smarter and bolder and they took the initiative in finding and getting to know me. My only hope is that I don’t let them down and that I can be the brother they want me to be!