Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Selling the Hoard House


Sometime this summer, about a year after our dad had died and stopped paying the mortgage, Dante was evicted.  The bank had foreclosed and reclaimed our childhood home last spring, and now they were finally putting it on the market.    

A few weeks ago I saw photos of it online.  It’s surreal and familiar at the same time.  I haven’t been inside that house in nearly a decade, but so many of my bad dreams are still set there that, displayed with its natural horror movie lighting, it’s like seeing photos from my nightmares.  All the coverings and Styrofoam insulation my mother kept over the windows and sliding glass door have been removed, but it still looks dark inside.  Most of the walls are dark wood paneling like people put in their basements in the 1970s, and the floor of my bedroom was a white roll-out plastic of faux tiles.  I had forgotten how absurd that looked.  The only photo of my childhood bedroom is blurry.  There are still stickers on the windows of Dante’s and my bedrooms notifying firefighters that children are inside.  

My dad’s bedroom floor used to be white and blue roll-out faux tiles, I think, but now it’s a sort of brownish grey so I’m not sure.  There are horizontal scratches along the length of his bedroom wall from 40 years of running into it and chipping away at the door frame with his wheelchair.

The front entry way has been stripped of its 45-year-old, peeling wallpaper.  I’m not sure when the wallpaper was removed, but the walls are tan underneath and covered in white strips that I assume are either leftover wallpaper glue or spackle.  There is a dark shape at the edge of the photo of the main bathroom that I think must be a giant hole in the shower wall.  It’s where tiles ought to be.  There was gold velveteen wallpaper in the bathroom when I lived there, some of which had turned green and hard from Dante scrubbing it with blue toothpaste before I was born.  The walls are painted a violently bright blue now like my grandmother’s bathroom used to be.  I’m not sure which looked worse.  

The master bathroom still has its original 1974 blue and white wallpaper.  There are brown blobs of water damage on the walls and ceiling and a mystery hole in the wall the size of a small pipe.

The kitchen and laundry room are still a dingy, dirty yellow with gingham wallpaper.  The major appliances are all gone, I assume because they were no longer working and possibly molding from the inside out.  Some of the cabinet doors in the kitchen are missing.  I cannot fathom why.

The basement has been dried out and is the first thing in the house to look bright and professionally tended in a long time.  It looks like the basement bathroom, where my dad had his roll-in shower, has been removed completely.  The shower -- and I think there was a toilet – must’ve been in pretty bad shape to warrant removing them completely.  I’ve never used that bathroom myself.  No one but my dad had ever used it.  That’s how bad it was.

The last time I was in that house, a lot of the light switches didn’t work, but you can’t tell that from pictures.  My dad had described the electrical as “going bad,” as though it were the vegetables perpetually rotting in the refrigerator, or something else that can’t be fixed.  I can only imagine it’s gotten worse from another decade of neglect.  I wonder how much of the plumbing still works and how much of the electrical will have to be rewired.  I’m suspicious of the holes in the bathroom walls.  I wonder what the person buying the house plans to do with it.

Someone is buying the house.  After a little over a month on the market, an offer is pending.  I did not expect this to happen.  First, I could’ve bought that house in cash and paid my mother and Dante to watch while I had it razed.  I wanted to film them.  I hoped they would cry.  I wouldn’t actually do any of this because I'm neither that rich nor that crazy, but I did crunch enough numbers to know it was well within my financial means because that is the kind of person I am.  I was entertaining the idea of touring the place one last time under the guise of being a potential buyer when I’m in town for my best friend’s wedding next month, though I probably wouldn’t have just because the last time I went in that house my nasal cavity was lined with black for two days from breathing the dust and mold.  But now an offer is pending.  

I can’t wait until the buyer information becomes public.  I want to know who bought it and what they plan to do with it.  I want to know what they paid.  The listing says, “Some improvements may require special financing such as 203K or home improvement loan.”  I think this is their way of saying you can’t afford to fix this house yourself.  Part of me hopes the buyer is my mother and she’s offered to pay one million dollars.  I think those crazy days are behind her though.   

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Every time a donor conceived person reaches out to their sperm donor biological father and he seems happy about it or consents to talk with them, I feel so worthless.  I am happy for them.  I am glad they were well received.  But I wonder what's so wrong with me that I can't have that.  I know the letter I wrote him wasn't perfect.  I got advice from people before I sent it, but I didn't take all of it because I wanted to write what I wanted him to know, in case he'd never let me write another one.  I didn't send a picture of myself because it felt presumptuous and I'm easy to Google.  And I wonder if something I said or didn't say or didn't send is the reason I will never meet my father.  If I had done one thing differently or better, would he want to know me?  What could I do?  Who would I have to be?  I would do it.  I would try so hard to be whoever I had to be to be acceptable.  Sometimes I think if I'd gone to medical school it would've been enough.  But I doubt it.  He'd still have twice as many doctorates and I'd still be me.

If you've found your father recently, that's really good.  I'm so glad so many formerly anonymous sperm donors are being decent and receptive when their children reach out.  I'm also very jealous and wish I could be you for awhile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Letter to the Sperm Donor's Wife

I mentioned in my last post encountering a man on the internet who I am concerned is keeping his wife in the dark about the fact that he donates sperm.  So I'm sending her a letter.  The way I see it, this might upset her because he told the truth and she wants to pretend this isn't happening (this was how it seems to have gone down with my biological father's wife -- she knew he was donating, but the fact that no one would ever know or have to answer for it was crucial), or she has no idea he already has seven DC kids and she'll be blindsided.  Either way, I figure a letter will make her more capable of making informed decisions for herself going forward.  If I didn't tell her, I think the outcome would likely be even worse because, when your husband is impregnating women across the continental US, you don't have to know it is happening for it to become your problem.  If you have notes for me on what to add or remove, I'll happily take them.  Here is my first draft:

Dear Emily,

I am writing to you because I have some personal information I wanted to make sure you were aware of.  Your husband, Aaron, has been donating sperm to women he finds online.  He says on his sperm donor profile that his wife is aware of his activities and only asks that he be discreet, and but this sounded like a lie, so I wanted to make sure you did indeed know what was going on.  This is something that will affect you too, no matter how quiet it is kept.  I have included screenshots of his sperm donor profiles that you can look up online.  You will notice he has been using photos of himself with your daughter to advertise his services.  I would advise against this for the sake of her privacy. 

Aaron’s Known Donor Registry profile says he currently has seven children in addition to your daughter.  His profile says he is willing to be in contact with his offspring after the age of 18.  Some will reach out to him.  Some might reach out sooner than that.  And some will want to know your daughter too.  If she doesn’t already know that she has seven half-siblings, now would be a good time to tell her.  The truth will come out eventually, and it will only come as more of a shock the older she is when she finds out. 

I hope when the other children reach out that you are okay with them being in contact.  If you didn’t know about Aaron’s donations and the other children until now, I can only imagine how upsetting this must be.  But please know this wasn’t something the children made happen, and your daughter might also want to know them.  They are her half-brothers and -sisters after all.

Aaron posted on Facebook the other day that you’re in the market for an egg donor and surrogate, or traditional surrogate.  If this is true, I do not think it is a good idea, but I wish you well.  If anything I’ve written has been news to you, please have a conversation with Aaron.  His choices affect you too, and donating sperm isn’t something that’s just about him and his body.  There are seven new people in existence and even more who have been or will be affected by this choice, and you and your family are a part of that. 

I don’t know you or your husband.  I have never met your husband.  I wanted to write to you because I’ve been in a similar situation involving a sperm donor and mothers and children, and people suffered when what the various adults and children wanted didn’t match up.  I empathize with your situation, and I know how complicated this can be.  I wanted to make sure you had as much information as possible since this is something that will affect you whether you knew about it or not.

Here is a list of websites and Aaron’s user names if you’d like to look up a bit more information:
knowndonorregistry.com – REDACTED
vivasperm.com – REDACTED
donorpride.com – REDACTED
His Known Donor Registry profile also describes how to find his Facebook page.  He uses the name REDACTED.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tips for Keeping Your Sperm Donations Secret


Step 1:  STOP DOING IT!  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU'RE GOING TO GET CAUGHT!

A few months ago I crossed paths on Facebook with one of the many, many men who advertise online to donate their sperm to strangers.  He said he was married and had a daughter.  He said his wife knew he donates sperm and is okay with it but wants him to keep it discreet.  He used a very common fake name, as well as photographs of other people instead of his own.  He used a fake birthday, fake age, and fake place of employment.  He seemed to use his sperm donor user names exclusively on sperm donor websites.  This guy knew what he was doing.

He posted on a lot of sperm donor websites though, and little bits of information started to come out.  For one thing, he uses photos of himself with his daughter on some of the sites.  There are several photos – too many of them both to be stock photos -- and it seems like the people who had actually met him for sperm might say something if they weren’t him.  Reverse Google image search unfortunately yielded nothing. 

On another site he listed an actual small town name for his location instead of the local metropolitan area like he had on all the others.  Someone who had availed him of his services for “natural insemination” (sexual intercourse) gave him a glowing online review that called him by a different and presumably real first name.  Other ladies told him happy birthday on Facebook when his account said it was still months away. 

That’s still not a lot of information for a person to go on.  But apparently it’s enough for Google.  I had been entering everything I knew about him – first name, date of birth, town, user names – and it finally yielded the MyLife listing for someone with his first name, date of birth, and small town.  Maybe he used his sperm donor user names or email alongside his actual name too; I’m not sure.  I looked up the full name MyLife listed and suddenly I was looking at the man from the photos with his daughter.  Suddenly I was looking at his wedding announcement, his wife’s Facebook page, his Pinterest, his LinkedIn, his father’s YouTube page.  He had deleted most of his social media accounts that weren’t about donating sperm under fake names, but it didn’t matter.

I wonder if his wife really knows about his donations.  And if so, I wonder how she feels about it.  I wonder if his 5-year-old daughter knows about her half-siblings yet.  She already has seven according to the sperm donor profile with her sweet little girl face all over it. 

Foreclosure

After my dad's Dish Network password stopped working, I looked up my childhood home to see if the bank has foreclosed on it yet.  I suspected if Dante hadn't stopped paying for Dish service last year after Dad died, he probably wouldn't stop paying for it until he completely ran out of money or the bank took the house.  

A quick Google search of the address indicated the county was auctioning off the house earlier this month.  The bank had foreclosed on the house last month.  After the auction, ownership of the house reverted back to the bank, and it appears Dante might still be living there.  Which means Dante will probably remain there until someone forces him to leave and locks the place down.

Part of me thinks of the childhood things I left behind in that house and feels weird about someone else going through them when they buy the house as is.  But then I remember that Dante started going through and throwing all my things away when he moved back home over a decade ago after our parents divorced and Mom got evicted.  My clothes, books, toys, awards, and mementos.  Dad said I'd better take some time off work and travel the thousand miles to collect my shit if I wanted any of it because Dante was "cleaning out the house."  Hoard photos he sent me later indicate that was a lie, but I don't doubt my things were discarded.  His girlfriend's son moved into my old room.  I wonder what it looks like now.

I wonder what happened to all the family photos.  That was what I asked Dad to have Dante set aside for me when he found them.  I wonder if he threw them away or just never got that far in his "cleaning."

Dante has lived in an apartment on his own before, or at least with a roommate, sometime in his late twenties I think.  It's been at least a decade since he's had to move or pay rent.  I'm not sure if he has a job or how much of Dad's $10k life insurance policy that I transferred to him remains (my guesses are "no" and "very little" respectively).  I hope he's doing okay.  But I also don't really care.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Stop Posting Secrets You Wish to Keep


If you aren’t telling your donor conceived child they are donor conceived, please consider not telling strangers on the internet either.  If you post – even in a private Facebook group -- are you posting under your own name?  If so, everyone in there knows who you are.  Anyone can look up who your children are and where you live and where you work and where your kids go to school.  A woman just posted in a private 5000 person (!) Facebook group a photo of her donor conceived son side by side with his half-sibling and stated that he is currently unaware the other boy is his brother.  He doesn't even know that he is donor conceived.  She plans to tell him but doesn’t know when.  I'm not sure what backstory she gave him for who his brother was and why they traveled 3000 miles to meet him.

A quick Google search later and I know her son’s full name, date of birth, home address, where he goes to school, and what grade he is in.  He's a minor with no social media accounts.  

Now, I’m not going to do anything with this information.  The only thing I would gain by contacting family members (whose contact information is all too easy to find) would be the ability to brag about how good I am at looking things up on the internet, which is clearly what I'm already doing here.  But PLEASE reconsider posting online about secrets you wish to keep.  I'm not the only person on the internet.  

Let’s say you’ve learned your lesson and have started posting under a pseudonym.  Did you keep the same Facebook account and just change how the name appears?  Are you posting under an alias or username you have used on other sites?  Is your account linked to an email address that is in your name?  Or to an email address that you’ve used on another account that is linked to your name?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then everything you post is being linked back to your name.  And not in a fancy only-NSA-and-Zuckerberg-will-know-who-I-am way but in a randos-can-look-me-up-on-pipl way.  The woman I mentioned above uses the same username for Facebook, Pinterest, TripAdvisor and travel forums, her defunct blog and Twitter accounts, and – drum roll please -- multiple donor/sibling websites.  

If her son ever does a Google search on his mother, the fact that he is donor conceived will be one of the first things he learns.  He is already nearly 13.



I’m really not sure what my goal is in writing this post.  I don’t actually want parents to get better at keeping secrets from their children.  I want them to realize that they CAN’T keep secrets from their children.  They suck at it.  Even if they don’t post about it online, they probably confided in someone.  Even in they didn’t, they might announce it themselves in a fit of something.  Or it’ll come out with a DNA test.  Please tell your kids who their biological parents are.  They’ll find out regardless, and it’s in their best interest for it to come from someone who has their best interests at heart.  And it's in your best interest for them to continue thinking they can trust you.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

My Dad's Dish Network password finally stopped working

Nine months after my dad died, his Dish Network password has officially stopped working.  It allowed me to stream literally every show I've ever tried to watch that wasn't already on Netflix or Amazon Prime, including HBO.  That login was my inheritance, and while I knew it was only temporary, I am grateful he let me use it both in life and in death.  I gave it to everyone who asked, and it touched the lives of at least three families who mostly just wanted to watch Game of Thrones.  It will be missed.

I'm wondering what Dante is using for entertainment now.  My dad's Comcast password isn't working anymore either (yes, he had both at one point, my parents made bad choices).  I'm also wondering if Dante still lives at the house.  I haven't checked real estate listings and foreclosures lately.