Monday, October 22, 2012

Letter to My Father

 My therapy "assignment" for this week was to basically come up with a list of the things I would want to say to my father if I were to contact him. Because I do these things better in free-association writing. The following is a "rough draft", if you will, of a letter:

Dear (my father's name),

I hope this letter finds you well. If my name (my name here) sounds familiar to you, then you must be my father. If not, then I apologize for getting the wrong person - it has been very hard to narrow down which (my father's name) may be the correct one with a simple Google search as my primary means of doing so.

I first want to say that I in no way have any intention of disrupting your life and any family you may have by now. I know the stereotype, the fear, is often that someone’s long-lost son or daughter only shows up for money, inheritance, or something along those lines. I want to say I have no interest in that. I also ask that, if you happen to still have the rest of my family’s (such as my parents’) contact information, that you not contact them regarding this. I have been working for years on this moment, when I would finally get the chance to contact you. I would like, then, to wait for the chance to discuss this with them myself, should I decide to do so, without worrying about what their reaction may or may not be.

I guess I should explain how I found you and why I‘m writing you. I have thought of you a lot over the years. Wondering what you were like, what you looked like, if you had other family. What have the last 30 years of your life been like, compared to the last 30 years of mine? I love my mom, sister, adoptive father, and my family through them very deeply, and could never replace them; however, I’ve always felt that you were a part of me just as much as they were, even though I had never met or spoken to you. Once we got the internet and I became computer-literate, I would regularly type your name into Yahoo!, Google, whatever search engine I was using.  Of course, the name (my father's name) showed up in countless places. I always assumed you were still in (my hometown), because that’s where most of my family was, and most people I know who grew up in (my hometown), stayed in (my hometown) - or at least that general area.

Then one day, about a month ago, I entered it in, and this time I stumbled across your brother, (my uncle's name) obituary from 2010. I want to say I’m sorry that I did not get a chance to meet him, and I’m sorry for your loss. It was actually seeing his obituary that led me to finally get the nerve to contact you, as I realized that if something happened to you before I at least got the chance to write you one time, even if you weren’t interested in regular contact, I would never forgive myself.  So, I read the obituary, and saw the memorial picture site, and recognized his daughter, (my cousin), from my middle and high school years. So I knew I had finally, after 18 years, found a definitive clue as to your whereabouts, when it said you lived in Maryland. After that, I got a paid membership to one of those people finder websites, which gave me your current (I hope) address. 

I’ve wanted to contact you many times before.  I just never knew what to say, how to say it, where you were, or the right way to approach my mom to see if she still had your contact information. I was also nowhere near emotionally mature enough to do so at the time. I admit I had some problems growing up. I had trouble understanding my family situation. I had a lot of questions as to what really did and did not happen when you and my mom were together, because I really wasn’t told all that much. But I had a lot of growing to do. I went away to college, and majored in Psychology. After I graduated, I moved, briefly, up to Chicago to be closer to a girl I was dating at the time. When that relationship ended after a year and a half, I did some soul-searching, and realized I wanted to be near the coast, the sea. I’ve always had a love for the ocean. So, I ended up where I am now. After that, I went to graduate school, getting my Masters in Social Work. I now have a job working with families that have problems and are on the verge of DSS taking the kids away.

So I guess the reason I’m writing you is to let you know that, I had some problems, but I turned out okay. I matured, as most people do. I have no interest anymore in figuring out the “he said/she said” of what may or may not have happened when I was little. It was so long ago that to dwell on it, like I used to, would just be pointless and keeping me from looking forward to the future, the here and now.  And finally, even though you weren’t around for whatever reason, I still thought of you often, and I still do.

With all that being said, I would love for you to write back if you’re interested. If not, I understand.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.


  (my name here)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Labels and Options

We all have labels. Some we assign ourselves, some are given to us by others, with or without our permission. Gay. Straight. Christian. Pagan. Buddhist. Nerd. The list goes on and on.

These last few weeks, returning to therapy and processing my family situation, I'm learning that I am a "victim of abuse". I always hesitated to use that label for myself, because it wasn't physical - I was never one of those kids who went to school with "mystery bruises". I was never severely beat, even though my parents were proponents of corporal punishment.

But there are other types of abuse. Mental, emotional, spiritual. These means of abuse, I was a victim of. When something bad happened, I was told it was God punishing me for being a bad person. When angry with me, my mom would threaten to send me off to live with my birthfather - with the assumption that he would be a worse parent than her, and that he was so violent that it would basically be "good luck living long enough to turn 18 if you're with him". Even before I found out about my adoption, I remember being locked out of the house in elementary school, at night, in my underwear. I remember my mom saying that if she and my dad (now known to be my adoptive dad) divorced, it would be my fault.  I thought I had worked past these childhood issues, but it seems that the real, concrete possibility of contacting my father has brought it back to the surface, and made me realize I still have a lot of issues with forgiveness regarding what I went through.

Therapy is going tough, but well. In addition to the aforementioned, it's helped me realize that my father's reported behavior wasn't necessarily all his fault. It's likely that their conflicts were a two-way street. I'm not justifying domestic violence by any means, but my mother did have a role to play, for better or worse, and especially based on her behavior during my childhood, it's likely that she was not just an innocent victim. It's helping me learn to set boundaries - for instance, it's none of her business whether or not I choose to contact him at this point in my life, but if she does find out, how to stand up to her?

I think as time progresses, things are moving from "should I contact my father?" to "what the heck do you say to someone you haven't seen in 30 years?" and "how can I do so without totally disrupting whatever life he may have by now?"

In the meantime, I have learned a little more about that side of the family. It appears my father is somewhat into genealogy as well, as I believe I found some posts from him on's message boards from the late 90s, and a family tree from a user that may be him, last logged in around 7 months ago. Apparently his father died in his early 50s as well (seems to be the family trend to die before age 60); my uncle had several DWIs. I'm researching more into his criminal record as well, at least what is readily available. I'm hoping having this information will (1) give me more insight into what his life has been like the last 30 years, and (2) help me in my decision of whether or not to contact, and when. On the one hand, if he's a dangerous person, it may really be in my best interest to just continue to stay away. On the other hand, he's in Maryland, I'm in SC, and it's like the therapist said once: if he really were *that* dangerous, there would be protective factors in place, (i.e. he would be in jail), and I'm not going to necessarily go meet him alone in an isolated place, anyways.  I'm just ready to get this whole, 20 year bit of drama resolved once and for all, and finally move on with my life.