The day I began the process of finding my biological father.
The day I began the process of finding my biological dad was just like any other ordinary day, except that day I felt an extraordinary amount of confidence. At the time, I was working at a law firm at the front desk, answering phones. Every week, a private investigator would come into the office for meetings as he worked on various cases with different attorneys. The thought had frequently crossed my mind to ask him if he would do a national search to find my biological father, but I never could quite conjure up the confidence to ask, until that particular day. I had grown up without my father. He and my mom divorced before I turned two years old. He dabbled in drugs, abused alcohol, and was abusive himself. One can easily take that information and decide that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to pursue a relationship with someone with a past like that, but my perspective was quite the opposite of that. I remember always being curious about him. Sometimes I would even peruse the yellow pages and call all the numbers that listed his name. I wondered what he was like, where he lived, what he did for work, if he had another family, and I also wondered if he ever thought about me too. I prayed quite often that someday I would get to meet him, and give him a big hug. God answered my prayer that day with a “yes” after I had been working at the law firm for about a year. Here’s what happened:
(My conversation with the private investigator)
Me: (Nervous, shaking and shy, but feeling more confident than usual!) “Excuse me, do you do national searches?” (Looking back, I can’t believe I asked him that! He’s a private investigator for heaven’s sake!)
PI: (Laughing out loud) “Why yes! Why do you ask?” (With a mischievous smile) “Are you looking for an ex-boyfriend or something?!”
Me: “Hahaha. No, I actually wanted to start looking for my dad.”
PI: (His face all of a sudden got very serious and he put all laughing and joking aside, which made me even more nervous). “Wow, I love these stories. Yes, I do national searches and I would love to find him for you, free of charge. This one’s on me.” (I think the first phase of finding someone could cost upwards of $1,000, which covers time, effort, database costs, etc., so the fact that he wasn’t going to charge me was a miracle in itself.)
We talked a little more about giving him the limited information I had that could possibly be helpful in locating him, as well as the things to be mindful of if we did, in fact, find him or learn that he was deceased. Butterflies descended and remained in my stomach throughout the entirety of this process. Not even a week went by when I found a message sitting on my desk one late afternoon from the PI, letting me know that he had found my dad and asked for me to give him a
The day we met.
The day had come. I sat in the airport on a bench that faced the escalator of people trickling off the short flight from Phoenix to Orange County. My stomach was in knots as I tried to keep myself from running back to my car and driving away. As I sat there, I wondered what in the world I thought when I had agreed to this meeting. Should I have done this whole thing by myself or had someone else come with me? Would I recognize him? Would he recognize me or would he walk right past me, without knowing who I was? I hadn’t been sitting there for too long when I saw him. I don’t know how I knew it was him, I just did.
He was a little bit on the short side (like I am), had a bit of
Our weekend together was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was actually hanging out with the man who I had always wondered about growing up, who had played a part in bringing me into this world. He felt like a complete stranger to me because he was, yet at the same time, I felt like I had known him all my life. Our weekend was mostly spent eating meals together, walking on the beach and talking. I learned so much about myself as I listened to his stories. We learned that we had in common a love of painting, country music, watching the sunset, pina coladas,
Meeting him in person that weekend, made me feel like most runners do when they near the end of a marathon; relief. Relief came when I realized I no longer had to run the race of curiosity that had been ongoing for the past 24 years. It came from finally knowing where he lived, where he worked, that he was alive, that we had a chance to have a relationship, if he had any other adult children besides me, and that he actually wanted to meet me. Paired with my relief, also came an unexpected pain. Like a runner who crosses the finish line, relieved that the race is finally over, and then she quickly discovers that there is pain that she had been ignoring while she focused on getting to the finish line. The pain that took shape after meeting my dad was realizing that he wasn’t exactly the dad I was secretly dreaming he would be when we met. It was obvious to me that he still struggled with the same substance abuse issues he had struggled with when I was a baby. There was also pain when I realized he was having a hard time fathoming how I could forgive him after all these years and why I wasn’t angry. He didn’t understand how I could possibly accept him, despite the fact that he had been absent all my life. Forgiveness can be a funny thing when the person on the receiving end can’t seem to accept it. As my marathon ended and our weekend together came to an end, I resolved to move forward, for the time being, accept the relief that had been waiting for me at the finish line and take some time to walk out the unexpected pain, just like any experienced runner would do after a long race.
Firsts and lasts.
The days following our reunion were full of phone calls as we continued to get to know each other better. It wasn’t long before I decided to fly out to where he lived. Our second time visiting each other was much different than the first. He lived in a trailer park outside of Phoenix, AZ, where he took care of his mom who was suffering from scoliosis. On our way from the airport to his place, we stopped at an old bar in town where I met some of his friends and he played my song (the one I was named after) over the jukebox (Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) 1972). We arrived at
Three weeks after our trip, my dad called to say that my grandma had died of a heart attack. I was shocked by the timing of it all. Had I not found him when I did, I might not have ever gotten the pleasure to meet her. After she died, pain took a toll on him. Our conversations on the phone became less and less pleasant. The pain he had, mixed with substance abuse problems became increasingly hard for me to endure, and after a few years of having a toxic relationship with him, I finally had to draw a line and ask that he no longer call me while he was inebriated. That was the last time we spoke.
The day he died.
It was a Monday afternoon, following a weekend that I had been on a church retreat at the beach where I spoke on a panel with a few other women. It was a special time. As I walked through the door from being gone all weekend, I got a call. As soon as I answered, I was told that my dad had been found dead that morning, alone, in a hotel with cocaine all over the room. Three months before this happened, my dad’s only brother had been found dead in his home as a result of a drug-induced suicide, now this. When he died, I felt like the hope I carried in my heart that I would someday be able to have a good, father-daughter relationship, died right along with him.
The days following his death were grievous for a plethora of reasons. I beat myself up for not being more involved in his life, for not helping him with his problems, for not doing things that could have possibly prevented this. Now, it was too late. As I sat with my grief, a seed of hope was planted in the dark soil of my heart where the pain was, and it subtly began to grow as it was watered by my tears. As time went by, I slowly began to realize that my journey of finding and connecting with my father wasn’t over; it was just turning out a little differently than I thought. The entire process of losing, finding, meeting, getting to know my biological father, and then losing him again was the fuel that finally brought me to the threshold of discovering and accepting who I was as God’s daughter. My circumstances eventually made me realize that HE was actually the man I had been curious about, searching for, and wanting to connect with, not the other guy. I was wrong in thinking that the hope I carried in my heart that someday I would be able to have a good father-daughter relationship, was dead. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It had actually just begun and hope was still very much alive.