Journey to finding my family…
For those of you who’ve been following me, you know I’ve been on the search for my dad’s family for years. My father passed away when I was 3 ½ years old. I didn’t know him. When I was younger, I was angry with him. Why? For dying on me. Sounds crazy, right? I mean, he didn’t have control over his death no more than we have control over Mother Nature. God was ready for him, even though no one else was ready to say goodbye.
For all my life, I thought his mother and father—my own grandparents—despised me. I wasn’t wanted. No one cared if I had lived or died. No one wanted anything to do with me…
True or false? Then, as a child, I believed it all to be true. I spent eighteen years angry with my father’s side of the family for “not wanting me”. So, as I got older, I got over it, or so I thought.
First year of adulthood, I got pregnant with my twins and forgot about them. Well, I tried. What I really did all those months I was in a hospital bed, in preterm labor, was research my father’s name. I looked for any information I could find, but I always came up empty handed. So, I gave up.
Then, on October 12th, my dad and his family came to mind. I mean, after I finished panicking that I was going to deliver two babies in the matter of hours. It was my daddy’s birthday. The man whose birthday I celebrated each year. After all, he is and always will be my dad. I remember lying on the operation table, numb from my chin down to my toes, and whispering, “Happy birthday, Daddy.” Lame? Maybe to some. But, I constantly wondered if anyone still celebrated his birthday. If no one did, I would. Because even though I didn’t get the chance to know him, he was still worth remembering.
I remember looking into the eyes of one of my baby boys and saying, “Oh, my, God… He looks just like my daddy.” My mom nodded and cried, my Granny smiled and said, “Yes, he sure does.” My husband had said, “Nah, he looks just like you.” But, who did I look like? Was it my strawberry blonde haired and blue eyed mother? My ginger aunts and uncles? My hair is so dark it’s almost raven (my natural color that is). My eyes are big and brown, my face round and lips plump. Greg, my father, is who I resembled most.
Nineteen, new mom of twin boys, full-time college courses, and I didn’t even think of looking for my family. Heck, it took all the energy I had to take a shower and brush my teeth at the end of each day. There was no way I was going to read through article after article of nothingness, articles that gave me absolutely no information as to who my father’s mother and father were. Besides, it was pointless, right? I mean, both of my grandparents were dead and the only other name I had to go off of was one of his sisters. Of course, she had married and I couldn’t find her either.
One night, I was lying in bed and thinking about my dad. What was he like? Did he want me? Did he love me? Did he think if me often? How did he die? I had been going through cancer screenings for months, testing for medical issues, and thankfully all came back negative. But, I wanted to be able to answer the doctors when they asked me “And, your father’s medical history?” I didn’t know. My answer had always been, “I don’t know. He passed when I was very young.” I was tired of repeating the same answer!
So, I typed in my father’s name once more. Ancestry. It’s the same site I got every time I looked for him. I thought, “Seriously? If I can’t find his obituary through the library database in Crawfordsville that keeps record of all the papers, why the heck would I pay you to tell me what I’ve already found? Absolutely nothing!” But, I did. I paid for a subscription. And, nothing… So, what did I do next? I typed in my grandfather’s name, and BAM! There it was. His obituary. Listed was my grandmother, who by the way, is ALIVE! Each of his siblings, along with their spouses, were noted. Immediately, I thought of Facebook. Seriously, who doesn’t have Facebook?
I stayed up most of that night and typed each of their names into the search bar, and thankfully, they all had a Facebook. Terrified of rejection, of their response to me, I messaged them. I was desperate for answers. Days passed and no one acknowledged me. I felt like giving up, again. I mean, how can one miss something or someone they never had? I still don’t have the answer to this, but, you do. I decided to become a ‘stalker’ and search their friends list for anyone with the same last name as my dad. Some weren’t related at all and wished me the best. Others saw my messages and ignored them. But one man, my cousin Eddie, was the first to reach out to me. What a blessing that man is! I spoke with him several times, I still do, and he got in touch with another cousin who then reached out to one of my aunts. A few weeks later, I got the message from my cousin that my aunt Gwen wanted me to give her a call.
Nervous, terrified, all types of emotions ran through me at once. I was excited, though I had no idea what to expect. I think I was expecting no one to know who I was or of my existence. But, Gwen, she knew about me. I cannot explain how good that made me feel. I wasn’t some secret child of my father’s. There wasn’t anger in her voice, no hate. Shock, yes. Who wouldn’t be baffled by their deceased brother’s 28yr old daughter reaching out to them for the first time, EVER?
It wasn’t long after that conversation that my aunt got in touch with my grandma and other aunts to let them know I’d tried to reach out. But, thanks to Facebook and its craziness, no one saw my messages because we weren’t ‘friends.’ I won’t lie and say everything was all lollipops and rainbows after that. It wasn’t. I was an emotional wreck! I cried. I never cry, unless I’m livid or hurt. Was I hurt? Yes. But, I didn’t know why I cared so much.
My grandmother denied my friend request. She did a bye Felicia on me quickly. Then, I didn’t know why. But, she only knew my maiden name and that I lived in Nashville. She told me she saw that I was an author out of West Virginia, and thought, “Now, why in the hell would someone want to write a story about my life?” LOL!
My other aunts didn’t know what to think about me, and my grandma needed time. I wanted to understand. My God, I tried to understand why they weren’t opening their arms and welcoming me—a piece of their son, brother, etc.—into their lives… Then, I couldn’t grasp what everyone’s deal was. Now, I know. They had been hurt, lied to…
Skip ahead a few months, because this post is extremely long, we’re at Thanksgiving…
I met my auntie G for the first time on Wednesday afternoon on November 25, 2015. It took everything within me to keep my tears at bay and my voice strong and even. Come on, y’all, I cried as soon as I crossed the Indiana state line. I mean, I was driving though the state my dad grew up in. Had he traveled this same interstate before? Again, I was crazy emotional.
That night, my family and I had dinner with Gwen, and I can’t tell you how natural it was. It wasn’t awkward, intimidating, or forced. Though 28yrs have passed, it didn’t feel like I’d never met her before that day.
Thanksgiving morning, I met my grandma for the first time at Bob Evans. I cannot tell you how excitingly nervous I was. Would she cry when she saw me? Would I cry when I saw her? Would we force an awkward hug because it’s what we’re supposed to do or because that’s what we think is supposed to happen? Would we talk about a DNA test?
The answer is no. Did we hug? Absolutely. Did we cry? Not in front of each other. Meeting Grandma wasn’t weird at all. Again, all natural. We sat in a booth for hours and talked; about her, about me, about dad, about everyone. I wasn’t hated by her my entire life. I was never not wanted. And, that felt great.
Now, a situation happened just before I left that affected me, but I won’t go into details. I went to dinner with my auntie G and her family that night, and met with my dad’s family—my family—Friday night for dinner. I met my uncle and his amazingly sweet and awesome children. My cousins and their fabulous children. I met one of my other aunts, Gail, who is crazy awesome! Again, everything felt natural.
It’s like there was this piece missing from my heart that I didn’t know was missing, like a missing puzzle piece you forgot about losing until you stumble upon it one day. I discovered a lot about myself; my personality, my joking nature, my bluntness… Yes, I have a lot of personality traits from my mom’s side of the family. After all, they are who raised me. But, in certain areas where I don’t fit in, I do with my dad’s.
It was hard for me to hug everyone and say goodbye. I blinked back my tears, because I’ve taught myself to never let anyone see me cry. Well, I may have cried a bit in the car on the way back to the hotel. When would I see everyone again? Was this a one-time thing? Did they want us back?
Why did I ask myself those questions? Because of how I was brought up. I know that I will see them again, that I am wanted, and I am loved. My meeting everyone wasn’t just a onetime deal. Oh, no! I’m in this for the long haul, y’all. I gained a family. I have my grandma! I have my aunts, possibly my uncle, and cousins… Oh, and a new friend from Hawaii!
Meeting my family has my heart swelling with joy. But, with joy comes pain. I’m learning who my dad was, and that… that hurts more than words can explain. Now, 25yrs after his death, I’m mourning a man I didn’t get to know. I’m saddened for what could have been. I’m angry that I’ll never get the chance to know him, personally. I’m depressed that I don’t have the memories everyone else has of him. I hate that I can’t ask myself what he would do or say in certain situations. But, most of all, I’m broken because I’ll never get to know what it feels like to be wrapped in my father’s arms.
All I can do is pray and ask God that when it comes my time to meet Him face-to-face, that he’ll grant me the gift of hugging my dad just once. So, to you who have told me about you wanting to reach out to your father or father’s family, but you’re scared. Do it! Yes, it’s scary. The thought of rejection is always at the front of your mind. Rejections burns like a hornet’s sting, but it’s worth it. After all, if you aren’t accepted it’s their loss—not yours. Will you be an emotional mess? Abso-friggin-lutely! Your emotions will be all over the darn place. Mine have. They still are. And, this is why I haven’t been able to write. My emotions affect my writing. If I were to write now, I’d kill everyone. There would be no happily ever after. Oh, no, everyone would die—a painful death at that. So, yeah, it’s best that I keep away from my computer and mourn with the deliciousness that is my homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Take your journey. Live big. Be strong. And, never forget who YOU are. Some will accept you, some will not. But, tis is life…