Well, it finally happened. I met my birthfather this weekend for the first time in almost 34 years. I know I don’t get to write in here often, but be forewarned: this blog entry may be long and rambling, as I’m using it to both update close friends/people I trust on the latest events, and writing to try to piece together all of the information I have to try to make some sort of sense of it all.
A crash course refresher first: I’m an adoptee in a stepparent adoption. I was born in November 1982, to my mom and birthdad, who I’ll call “CD” (any people I talk about other than myself, I’ll be using initials for the obvious privacy and anonymity reasons, should anyone in the random interwebs stumble upon my blog). They were never married. A few months later, about 6 according to my mom, she left him. When I was 3, she married my adoptive dad. He went through the adoption process to give me his last name. They proceeded to not tell me any of this until I was in 7th grade. At that time, they told me his name, that he was a dangerous, violent alcoholic, and had threatened to kill both me and mom at one point.
Through a series of events, about a week or two after I found out I was adopted, I learned that a girl, “TD”, who was in some of my classes that year, was a cousin of mine on my birthfather’s side of the family. Soon after, my mom tells me that he called wanting to speak to me, and she said that if I wanted to when I turned 16, I could. As a side note, I confronted her about this years later and she denied ever saying that.
Here and there over the years, I occasionally saw TD until she apparently dropped out of high school and I never saw her again. When she would see me, we never really talked, but she would always tell me how much CD missed me. Soon after I located CD, I learned that TD got arrested when we were 18ish, skipped out on parole and went to Ohio, had a kid that died, had another kid, was arrested for participating in a robbery with a machete and sledgehammer, and in 2014 was killed by her boyfriend in a murder-suicide.
My teen years and college years were understandably difficult. I hid it well in public, but I had anger issues. I was a very angst-ridden kid. My mom reacted with threats and comparing me to CD, intending it to be the biggest insult she could possibly think of (I.e. “You think you have it so bad, I should send you to live with your father! Good luck living long enough to finish high school!”) . When I was around a senior year in college, I finally felt emotionally ready to pursue meeting him, and asked my mom about it, hoping she would have some contact information. She refused to give me any, if she even knew it by that point, and swiftly told me that if I contacted him I would no longer be a part of the family. I didn’t pursue it because I was scared and isolated, and not to mention had no clue of how to find or contact him because without any information from my family, I had no way of knowing whether or not he still even lived in my hometown. I had talked to my grandparents before talking to my mom, and they were equally unforthcoming - my grandma strongly discouraged it, citing his heavy alcoholism and violence (even though at the time I was born she had been sober for less than a year herself); my grandpa, while he understood as a fellow adoptee, strongly discouraged it as well, as he had been disappointed with his own reunion experience.
Fast forward to around October 2012. Like I had done so many times before over the years, I randomly did a Google search for my birthfather’s name. I stumbled on the obituary for TD’s father (TD had told me her dad‘s name when we were kids), who had apparently died recently of alcoholism-related illness. In the past, I had never turned up anything definitive. His name was somewhat common, and I didn’t even know what he looked like. This time, I knew it was the right one because there was a link to one of those memorial websites, where there were pictures of TD as a kid. I learned through that obituary that CD lived in Maryland. After a few months and going back to therapy, in January 2013, I got the nerve to mail him a letter. On the day he got it, he both emailed me and called and left a message. I still have the message saved in my voice mail box. I called him, and we talked for about 30 minutes. He told me “If you want to know what I look like, just look in the mirror”. He described a picture of me he’d seen on facebook, and told me he had been keeping tabs on me all these years. Apparently my mom had told him the same thing she told me - that when I turned 16, I could contact him if I wanted. Because I hadn’t before that point, he thought I just didn’t want to for all of these years.
For the next four years, we emailed each other occasionally, especially near the beginning as we were starting to try to get to know each other (for some of this next section, I’m re-reading old emails to remember, as I have never deleted a single email I’ve gotten from him). We both loved the ocean. We had the same type of camera. We both were into genealogy and family history, although I got farther - about a month after I located him, I actually even found a family tree he had created, listing me as his son, on ancestry.com. This confirmed to me that I should contact him. He sees my mom as “the one that got away” and still loves her to this day. The hardest day of his life was her walking out the door with me. Even with everything, he never once had anything negative to say about her. For whatever reason, his name wasn’t on my birth certificate, and two lawyers told him that because he didn’t have his name on my birth certificate (I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original birth certificate, as the one I have has my adoptive last name and adoption laws make things very difficult in NC), he didn’t have any choice but to sign away his rights - which is curious because research I’m doing as I type this suggests that if a father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate, he doesn’t have any rights to begin with, really. However, my research also suggests there are ways around this, and after meeting him, I fully believe that he just didn’t know that he had options and wasn’t educated or well-off enough to get legal advice, and she took advantage of that. He admitted to being married to another woman at the time he met my mom, stating that the marriage was already over emotionally by that point. He admitted to getting upset and violent when I was in and out of the hospital with my seizure disorder (which, as it turns out, he also had as a baby), explaining that he was upset and worried about me. She never opened up to him about her own childhood, and apparently only told him about an ex who liked to play poker. He married again at least once after everything happened with me and my mom, but is single now, and never had any other kids, as he didn’t want to risk going through all of this again. As the next four years progressed, our contact honestly became pretty sporadic after having the whole “what happened back then?” conversations finished. Probably because both of us seem to be pretty strong introverts.
Fast forward again to this past weekend, Labor Day weekend 2016. My close friend, BH, and I were finally able to go up to the DC area, in part just to get away, but in large part for me to finally meet CD. We got there on Friday 9/2. On Saturday, 9/3, the two of us met CD and his close friend and roommate, SL at the Holocaust Museum. It was a little awkward at first, but incredibly insightful. Fortunate for us, BH and SL are both extroverts, which eased the tension and helped us engage in conversation.
At one point, CD and I got separated from BH and SL, and between things that CD told me and things that SL told BH that he then relayed to me, I gained a lot of insight.
CD told me that, in 7th grade, when TD told him that she’d made contact with me, he made her bring a picture of me to prove it was me. She used a school yearbook picture that she somehow got, which he said he still has. Soon after, he ended up getting a new computer. He called my mom wanting to give me his old one. She wouldn’t let him, even though he suggested that she didn’t even have to tell me where she got it. Over the years, he drove by my house fairly regularly, just to see if he could see me and check on me. He moved around frequently trying to find work, from NC to AZ, to AL to CA back to NC, and eventually to MD where he lives now (not sure if in that particular order). He was essentially an almost homeless wanderer after he left NC. He moved to MD, met SL, and she and her family took him in, about 13 years ago, and helped him sober up. He only got along with one sister, who still lives in my hometown, and didn’t even go to the funerals of most of the rest of the family as they passed away.
While we were separated, SL gave BH a fair bit of information too that he then relayed to me. According to her, CD was, of course, extremely nervous about meeting me and afraid I would hate him because of the past. He took the whole week off of work just in case I wanted to hang out more while we were in town. Apparently, at one point my mom supposedly cheated on him while they were together. He has maybe a 6th grade education.
After the museum, we went to lunch at this Afghan restaurant and learned more similarities. The same health problems. The same picky eater habits - we actually ordered the exact same thing for lunch, except for ordering different sodas. CD and SL travel together a lot. After lunch, we toured the National Cathedral, before they took us back to our hotel and parted ways. SL paid for anything that cost any money the whole day. After a nap, BH and I went to a local gay bar, which was a wonderful experience.
On Sunday, BH and I attended one of the local Unitarian churches. After church, we visited the Lincoln Memorial and attended a concert on the Capitol Hill Lawn. We invited CD to join us, but he backed out. That night, we went to another local gay bar, which was decidedly much less wonderful than the first one.
On Monday, we spent the day at the National Zoo. We had a late lunch, then took another nap at the hotel. We went back to the Lincoln Memorial to see it at night, after first going to the Pentagon City Mall. CD had said he was going to join us, but once again backed out, citing stomach troubles, which had me nervous and disappointed and wondering if I‘d seen and heard the last of him pretty much. I told him we were probably going to see the Arlington Cemetery on Tuesday to walk around a bit before heading back home. He not only joined us, he showed up an hour and a half early to make sure he didn’t miss us. Apparently he had been talking to the security guard, because as we walked by he excitedly told her that I was the son he was there waiting on.
While at the cemetery, he told me a lot more about our family. He had cut off contact with most of them because of the dysfunction. TD had a tendency to maliciously call DSS on her dad and lie on him, which is why CD didn’t believe her when she said she’d met me. He mentioned an uncle (or maybe one of his parents, I can’t remember exactly) who took care of his grandma when she became sick near her death, and then charged her $20,000 for it. Or maybe it was a brother taking care of their mom. I just know the money bit. When TD’s first child died, they tried to get her for murder, but it didn’t stick. He never did hear the full story of why that was. He had heard that her death was drug-related. When he tried to look into his own family history, everybody refused to tell him anything. TD's living son was adopted out of the foster care system by a very nice family.
I was about 3 months old the last time he saw me. He says he remembers my mom giving him a look, kind of a “death glare” knowing that he would never see me again. His last words to her that day was that if anything ever happened to me, he’d find her no matter where she lived (guess maybe that’s where the death threats came from, and she conveniently left out that part). His dad didn’t want his stepmother to be buried with him, and the other relatives tried to do it anyways, and he (CD) threatened to dig up the body if they did. He had a lot of behavior issues in school, jumping out the windows of the classrooms to sneak away. He was drunk pretty much six months straight after my mom and I left him, and he injured his fingers on the job. At one point, he and all of his co-workers, including his boss, were always showing up to work drunk. Honestly, he seemed less surprised that my family waited to tell me about him until I was in middle school, and more surprised that they told me anything at all, as she’d told him that I would never know he existed. Conversely, he wasn’t at all surprised to know that I haven’t told her about us meeting - although he perhaps thinks I should. And I’m sure I will confront her when the time is right. But that’s another blog for another day.
He's a bit superstitious. Got to talking about ghosts while at the cemetery, and I told the story about how on my mom's side, I'm a direct descendant of who was the town fortune teller. He told me how a psychic predicted that he would learn what I looked like, without him actually telling her he had a son, about a month before TD approached him about me. He seems to be just as much of a religious seeker as myself, although more on the conservative side versus my liberal side. As SL put it, "if you can be baptized into it, he's been a part of it".
Since all this, BH and I have been trying to piece everything together like a puzzle. I’ve gotten a lot of the pieces, but now I have some new ones. It was actually BH who, after meeting both my adoptive dad and my birth dad, put together that my mom seems to pick lesser educated men (my adoptive dad, God bless him, has maybe a high school education) who are easy to manipulate, and a lot of our issues stem from the fact that I can’t be easily controlled. In any case, she certainly has never been straightforward with me about much and absolutely minimizes her role in the things that happened back then, even though even the worst relationship problems are rarely one-sided issues.
Now I guess I have to see where things go from here. It’s going to be difficult to develop a real relationship with my father beyond just digging up old skeletons, particularly because for one, I don’t know who or what to trust right now, and for another, we’re both such introverts. He may be going deep sea fishing in October and said I’m welcome to go, and BH and I are inviting him and SL down for some Christmas activities in December, so that’s a start. I guess only time will tell.
12 hours ago