“You’re wrong!” I shouted, “Not everyone does!”
“Yes they do! You’re stupid!” he shouted back at me.
The pre-school teacher caught us and separated us seconds before our heated argument turned into a pushing match.
When my mom came to pick me up, the teacher called her into the office and had me sit outside.
When my mom came out of the office, her bubbly mood had turned somber. She looked at me thoughtfully as she took my hand and led me to the car.
“Your teacher told me that you got into an argument today. Do you want to tell me about it?” she asked.
My rage swelled. “A boy asked me who my father was and I told him that I don’t have one. He called me stupid! He’s stupid! Of course I don’t have a father! Wouldn’t I know if I did?”
“You do have a father,” my mother said softly, gently.
I gazed up at her in wonder, silently contemplating.
Finally, I asked “Who is he?”
“Well, his name is Mike. Would you like to meet him?”
As I sat waiting for my father to arrive, I watched my favorite movie, The Secret of NIMH. I hoped that he would be like the main male character in the movie, helpful and kind. Brave. A little silly. His visit was like a whirlwind, he talked to my mom a lot. I couldn’t much tell what he was like. Before he left, he picked me up and whispered to me “Even if I don’t see you, know that I love you.”
That was the only time that I saw him during my childhood. We tried looking him up when I was about ten, but it wasn’t so easy to find someone in the early nineties, if you didn’t know where they lived.
As I grew up, I wondered a lot about my dad. Did I inherent this cowlick from him? What nationality were his parents? Had he any more children? I knew I felt out of place sometimes, reading my books while the rest of the family noisily played outside.
When I started dating, I was a little paranoid. Every new potential match was met with a barrage of questions about their family and especially about their father. I imagined nightmare scenarios straight out of the V.C. Andrews booked that I binged. Finding out the guy you’ve fallen head over heels with is a first cousin or even a brother tugs at the heartstrings when you’re reading about it, I certainly didn’t want to face that in real life.
Then I met a man and moved in with him. We moved to a new state to start a new life. He proposed. Don’t worry, I didn’t find out he was my long lost brother. Instead, he asked what my father’s name was when we were making out wedding invitations. He did a quick search online and came up with an address and phone number.
I called my mom and giddily asked her to call the number. It took her days to build up the nerve, but eventually she made the call. She called me back and the level of excitement and anxiety was palpable, even over the phone from 1,000 miles away. “It is him! You have to call!”
So I called. Since the wedding would be in the New England state where I grew up, he said he could make the drive and come to the wedding, bringing his wife and her daughter, as well as his other daughter. He wondered if I would like to speak to my sister before the wedding. I said he could give her my number and address.
A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from a sister that I had never met. She said that she was too anxious to call; she felt more comfortable writing a letter. I stood straight up when I read that line, pacing as I hungrily devoured the rest of the letter.
It’s been interesting getting to know my father and his family as an adult. There have been many “Aha!” moments where I’ve felt the gaps getting filled in. It turns out that my father lives just 25 minutes from my mother’s sister and brother, so I can easily visit him and my aunts and uncles within a weekend. The 4th of July has become a special time of year when I do just that.
It’s been 16 years now since that first phone call when we reconnected. It’s been amazing to get to know a whole new family. More than that, however, I finally feel whole. I do have a father, after all.