Thursday, June 25, 2015

An Open Letter to My Father

I found you.  I did the thing I thought I'd never be able to do and I found you.  I wrote you a letter, and you wrote back.  You answered my questions and told me never to contact you again because your wife doesn't like it, and that is where we stand now.  I am so fortunate to have gotten this far.  I know your name and your favorite book and where you grew up.  I know how my grandparents died and I've seen their wedding photo.  I have photos of more of your extended family than of my mother's, thanks to  More photos of you than of the parents who raised me.  There used to be more photos of my family, but a lot got lost when my mother fell apart.

I don't know if you meant for your letter to sound condescending or if I read that tone into it.  It doesn't matter really.  I never expected you to want a relationship with me.  Lunch someday would have been nice, just to hear your voice and have a conversation, but if I'm being honest, I never expected it to happen.  My friends didn't even think you'd respond.  In hindsight, I wonder if you told your wife about my letter because you're so open with her or if she opened it herself because she reads your mail.  It doesn't matter really.  Just curious.  I know so little about you and your family dynamic.

Thank you for telling my brother and sister about me.  In hindsight, I realize you were probably up against a wall.  After your brother saw me on a DNA database, he had to contact your son to get a hold of your current phone number to ask you if you had any illegitimate children he should know about, so a dangerous number of people already knew something was up.  You probably thought you couldn't keep me a secret if you'd wanted to.  Regardless, thank you for telling my brother and sister about me, even if you did forbid me to contact them myself, as though forbidding me is a thing you have the power to do.  They both reached out to me before I even received your letter, so that took some of the sting out of it.  Did you ever consider they might want to know their donor conceived siblings?  They do, and it seems like it didn't occur to you.  I'm glad you told them though.  I know you aren't close with them and they're not close with each other, but they seem like good people and they welcomed me. 

Your son and I look a lot alike.  You'll know that if you've looked me up online.  I guess we both look like you.  We have the same sense of humor too.  Yours?  Your daughter tagged me as her sister on Facebook, much to the shock of some people who thought they knew the entirety of your immediate family.  I think that's what she was going for though -- shock factor.  She does that a lot, doesn't she?  It was exactly what you forbid me to do in your letter -- exactly what I wouldn't dare to post online myself -- so I got a kick out of it too.  I hope to get to know them better.

If I find more siblings, I'm going to give them your name and the information you gave me.  You know that, right?  They might contact you, just like I did.  Prepare yourself for that. 

I don't really talk to my parents anymore.  I could never actually tell you this, but you brought them up in your letter as Paragons of Child Wanting, so I want you to know.  I don't tell most people about my parents because it's not their business and I don't want them marking me as damaged goods or a terrible person, but the people who know my parents -- my best friend and my husband and my extended family -- they understand.  If I wanted you to know about my parents, I could post one of my wedding photos to Facebook where your kids would see it and wonder what's wrong with my mother.  They might be shocked enough to mention it to you, though the more I learn about your relationship with them, the more I doubt they tell you much.  That's how severely mentally ill my mother is -- it's obvious even in still photos.  Just thought you ought to know.  The things wrong with my dad don't come through in a photo.  They'd just see his wheelchair.

I don't know what I still want from you.  I wrote to you in the hopes that you'd tell your kids about me and tell me about yourself and maybe someday agree to meet me for lunch.  You gave me most of that and I still want more.  I realize I'm in a place of privilege to be able to want so much.  I didn't think I'd ever know who you are and here I am wanting to hear your voice and wanting to know what kind of jokes make you laugh.  I've already found everything about you I could online.  I wish you'd start a blog or something.

I think what I really want, at least what I really want for now, is for you to feel something for me.  Even if it's regret for the actions that led to my existence.  I'd settle for regret, you know.  I want you to lay awake at least once thinking about me, even if what you're thinking is how much you hate me for finding you and writing to you and getting your wife all "irrationally angry," as your son put it.  I want to be something to you, and I will never tell you these things.  Even if we were in contact and you wanted to get to know me, I could never tell you these things.  I would be always on my guard, always showing my best self, never taking my mask off because I know that I have always been nothing to you, just as I have spent the last thirty years being nothing to my half-siblings, and I have to constantly be earning the privilege of their inclusion.  One slip up and they can write me off forever because, while people say you can't choose your family, we both know that isn't true.  If my mother can say you're "just a donor" and you "don't count," that's a choice, even if you both made it for me.  My parents adopted another child -- that was a choice that was made for him.  And when I decided I didn't want to see any of them ever again, that was my choice.  You can indeed choose your family.  I want your children to continue choosing me, and I am afraid they won't, and you won't, no matter what I do. 

I'm glad I reached out to you.  I don't know if I ever want to hear from you again.  It's not a secret wish I hold onto or anything.  Mostly, when one of us dies, I just want the regrets to be on your end.

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