The phone rings. It’s my mom so I answer, “Hello.”.
Mom says, “Hi, I needed to let you know Ralph called.”.
I know there was silence on the phone that seemed like an hour but couldn’t have been more than a few seconds.
I’m now 56 and I hadn’t seen my father for 50 years. The last memories of him were at his home in South Carolina. I lived in Texas at the time with my mom and stepfather. I vividly remember that trip to South Carolina for that visit. I was 6 and found myself sitting strapped into a sit on the plane by myself. I do remember being well looked after by the help of airline personnel. Lots of goodies and all the soda I wanted. Those were the days of full meals and true customer service while you were in the air. I sat next to the window so that I could see the fluffy white clouds as the sun reflecting off of them. It was a clear sunny day and I had no idea where I was heading.
He had remarried and had not had any other children. I can vaguely remember his wife’s name or much about her, but I do remember that something wasn’t quite right. I remember being ready to go home and when time came, I was told I would be there another week. I was scared and sad inside but as a 6 yrs old, I didn’t have a choice it seemed. Finally, the day came, and I was back in my own bed, in my own home and didn’t want to go back. I never spoke of or saw him again.
And now, now He called my mom. What did this mean?
After the silence, I asked her, “What did he want?”
She told me he had called and asked her to give me his number and if I was willing, to please call him. She explained to me that he was sick, and he probably didn’t have that much time left. I got the number from her, and we hung up.
My mind was whirling. I hadn’t even thought of him in years. My life had not been any more or any less because he wasn’t in it, I thought, so what now?
I immediately went outside to talk to my husband. He knew there was another man in my life, but we’d not spoke of him in years. I explained to him about my phone call with my mom. The look of confusion was all over his face. So now, there were two of us, sitting in chairs, wondering. My husband finally breaks the silence and asks, “So are you going to call him?”. I answered firmly, “I don’t know. I don’t even know him.” I got up and walked back into the house.
Immediately, I sat at my desk and did what any intelligent person living in the 21 Century would do and opened up the browser on my desktop and googled his name. The reality was that I didn’t know this man at all. He was a stranger. We may have had the same last name at one time. We may share the same blood type and some of the same features, but I didn’t know him. Did I want to even entertain the idea of simply speaking to him without checking him out on the internet? I think not! So, I hit enter and searched away. Thankfully there was some pictures, articles and other types of information on there so that I could get a good idea of what type of man he had been during the 50 years that I wasn’t in his life nor he in mine.
It’s funny what memories will come to mind when you think for a while. What impacts the life of a little 6 year old girl to the point that she doesn’t want to go back for a visit to South Carolina again. I remember one in-particular thing about that trip that gave me the creeps. Hair! Yes, hair. Even as a young child, I knew that when I pulled the shower curtain back and there was lots of long red hairs plastered on the shower walls and floor, I was NOT taking a shower in there. At 6, I refused to shower until the hair was cleaned out. Now thinking about that, I chuckle but at 6, it was serious business.
Shortly after I had left my husband sitting in the chair outside wondering what I was going to do, he walked in. He too was curious what type of man this was who is asking to enter my life again. So, my husband, being the good, caring and protective man he is, did the same thing I did, googled him and then came in to talk with me about it.
He asked, “What did you decide?” I responded with, “I haven’t.” We discussed what we each had come across in our searches and ultimately, I decided to call.
I drew in a deep and long breath and dialed the number. It rings and then a woman answers the phone. I tell her who I am, and she immediately says to my father, “It’s your daughter.” And hands him the phone.
My stomach was in knots. I didn’t know what to expect. What did he want? What was he going to say? What do we have to talk about? Thoughts swirling around, as I wait to hear his voice.
Finally, I hear, “Hello”. And the conversation starts. The words were as normal as any two people who knew the other person and hadn’t seen each other in a while. There was a lot of catching up to do. He told me about his wife, not the same woman he was married to when I was six. I didn’t think much of that because of the state of the world and the meaning of “till death do us part” these days. But that is another story for another time. He talks about his children he had, after me, and he grandchildren. I do the same.
Still my mind was unsure of what was happening. Questioning why I was having this conversation with a stranger. But something, was keeping me on that phone with him.
He shares with me more details, but this time, it was details about his illness. He had been diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis a couple of years prior to this day and he knew his time was going by faster than he would like. Words like, regret, sorry, shame and others were spoken so genuinely, and heart felt that I could feel them piercing my heart as he spoke. He asked, “Can you forgive me?” and “I’ll take whatever you are willing to give.”. He said he knew his time was limited and he didn’t want to end it without having some resemblance of relationship with me.
I didn’t know this man, he was a stranger but what I did know is he was my father, not the man who raised me but the man who gave me life. I knew he had led a good life, a productive life and life of service during the time that didn’t include me. I knew he was an old man, and he was not going to be on this earth long.
This was our first phone call in fifty years, or so I thought. Again, another story for another time. I still didn’t have answers to my questions that were swirling around. Not the “Why” questions but the “What now” questions. But I didn’t have a good argument for the “Why not” question.
So, I agreed that we could continue our conversations. This was the beginning of many long and often phone calls. One after another, him just wanting to hear my voice, know me a bit better, know his daughter and have a glimpse of who she is.
These conversations continued and with every ending of the call being the same. Me saying “Goodbye” and him saying, “Goodbye, I love you.” I just couldn’t bring myself to say those words. But they rolled off his tongue with ease because he meant them. They were true, honest words. Conversations were all about the same until the day he said, “I’d like to see you, would that be possible?” There was silence again, another question that I didn’t have an answer for.
This was early fall of 2016 and it looked like the new season of the year may include a new season of my life.
There are many out there who have lived not knowing their birth parent. The reason varies. I want you to know that you are not alone in this. If you are searching for your birth parent/parents or are estranged from them for one reason or another, consider making that phone call. Obviously, it doing so would put you in harms way, don’t do it. But if your heart is moving you, I encourage you to move.
I pray that part 1 of my story encourages you.