Meeting my father and other family

During the Misfit Conference, AJ & Melissa arranged for us to sit in a theatre and watch two movies — Lemonade and the beginnings of a documentary called “Identifying Nelson / Buscando a Roberto”.

Nelson de Witt is pretty amazing. As a young child, he was adopted from Honduras. His adoptive parents weren’t provided much information about his origins, but were willing to take him home to Boston and make him part of their family. As a teenager, his father received a phone call and Nelson learned that he wasn’t from Honduras but was one of the “missing children of El Salvador” — a group of children that had been separated from their families during the civil war.

Nelson’s story is amazing, and I encourage you to check out more about him on his website. One of the things I identified with the most in watching the start of his documentary is the story of reunification between parents and children that have been separated for years.

The separation between me and my biological father is not nearly as dramatic as Nelson’s story. In fact, it’s pretty mundane and somewhat common. My parents were never married. My mother had been married to my sister’s father and she and my father never got married. Shortly after my birth they separated. A few years later, my mother met my step-father, John Robert Reed (Bob), and they got married.

Bob wanted to adopt my sister and I and my mother wanted us to be sealed in the Oakland temple as an eternal family. At some point my father was approached to sign away his parental rights, and he agreed and that allowed Bob to adopt me.

Shortly after this, my father was married and moved out of state. There was very little contact between my father and my mother over the years. I remember one time my father was going to be in town and wanted to see me and my mother felt that wasn’t a good idea, so it didn’t happen. I’m not sure if my father ever tried to make contact after that.

During the worst years of the abuse and during my teenage years when I was dealing with the worst of the aftermath of the abuse, I used to daydream a lot about who my father was and what he was like. I had what I refer to as “knight on a white horse” syndrome and I kept thinking that if only my father knew what my life was like he would sweep in and take me away from all my troubles. This never happened.

During my senior year in high school, I was determined to get in contact with my father before I left for college — against my mother’s wishes. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted from the meeting, but I wanted it.

At some point, my mom mentioned that she thought I had an aunt and uncle that lived nearby, and I was able to get in touch with them and they put me in contact with my father. The lady my father had married shortly after splitting with my mom had passed away and he had remarried and had another daughter.

Over the next several months, we talked on the phone and exchanged letters. For whatever reason, I didn’t tell him much about the troubles I had gone through with my step-father, Bob. There was one point where I was going to tell him, but I didn’t want to jeopardize any potential relationship with him by making it seem like I was blaming him for what happened.

Plans were made for me to visit Ogden, Utah at the end of my Christmas break and on the way back to Wisconsin. There was quite a bit of financial drama that became associated with the trip. My father had mentioned he would pay for the cost to change the ticket (instead of going from Sacramento to Duluth, Minnesota, I was now going from Sacramento to Salt Lake City and then to Duluth, Minnesota a few days later), but he wasn’t able to send the money. I didn’t have the extra money at the time to pay for the ticket and my mother needed to help me pay for it — even though she was against me making the trip.

When I got to Ogden, my father’s wife met me at the airport along with my younger sister. My father was still working up in Idaho and his trip had been extended an extra day, so the time we were going to spend together was shortened.

Meeting my father’s wife and her children, who were at home for the holidays, was a very surreal experience. My thoughts about “family” had been somewhat twisted over the years and here were these people calling me “family” and expecting me to act in a certain way, and I don’t think I was living up to how they expected me to act.

An additional complication was that a combination of the effects of flying (something I still don’t do well with), depression after spending a few weeks in the same house with my step-dad, and a touch of the flu had me feeling really, really horrible. In that first 24 hours that I was in Utah, I think I slept about 20 of them and wasn’t very socialable.

The next day, I met my father and the surreal feelings of it all continued. One of the things that was the hardest for me was that he had a very close relationship with his daughter — my younger sister. It was hard to watch them together and not be jealous.

I was only in Utah for a few days before I had to go back to school. My father talked a lot about when I was a baby and how much he enjoyed having me around. He also gave me a bunch of photos of him and some of my relatives — including a handful of photos of me with relatives from his side of the family as a baby.

I’m grateful that I did put myself out there and met my father when I did. I’ll write more about what happened with our relationship after we met in a different post.

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