My mom and I moved away from South Carolina when I was about 3. I guess. I was a little too young to remember and she’s probably in the bed so I can’t check this particular fact. But when we moved away is not nearly as relevant as that we did and the events that followed.
She eventually married the man I came to know as my dad. He brought me medicine and Sprite when I was sick. He took me to softball games and came to my school musicals when Mama was working nights. He made me clean my room. He walked me down the aisle at my wedding.
Whatever his flaws may be, he’s my Daddy.
So today, my biological father, the donor, friend requested me on Facebook, and I am all perplexed and feeling like my 17 year old self about this.
(See? I told you sometimes the internet is full of suck.)
How, you may ask, did he find me?
Because my Nana, his mother, has made sure to keep in touch with me. And because I have an older sister. His daughter from a previous relationship. She and I have kept in touch over the years, which now includes Facebook.
Up until I was 17, part of me had always wondered about my biological father. I’d always wanted to throw the “you’re not my father!” in the face of my step-dad whenever he reprimanded me for something in the melodramatic way that only bratty teenagers in movies do.
But I never did that because in my heart I knew those words weren’t true.
I was a senior in high school when my sister asked me to be in her wedding. We–Mama, Daddy, me, my little brother, and my friend–made plans to attend. We made hotel reservations. I bought my dress and had it altered. And one Friday night after a football game, we took off, Daddy driving.
Mama, my friend, and I headed out for the wedding that Saturday evening and the butterflies in my stomach were on crack. I remember scanning the audience at the church looking for him. And I didn’t even know what he looked like, so that was a futile attempt. But I knew he was there and I knew that he knew who I was and that was discomforting.
At the reception, my friend and I made our way through the buffet line and back to a small table by the wall. Soon, Mama followed, and with her was a man not much taller than she was with a small plate in one hand and a something-and-Coke in the other. They sat down at the table and I concentrated on my food.
I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember being an observer as Mama and this stranger talked old times and old friends. I’m actually not sure he even spoke directly to me the entire time he sat there with us.
Later that night as we were getting ready to leave, he came up to me, and I, in my too-tall heels, towered over him. He gave me an awkward hug and pressed a cocktail napkin into my hand.
He whispered, “I really do love you, you know. We’ve got some catching up to do.” And then he was gone. Or I was gone. Or we were both gone.
I looked at the napkin and on it he had scrawled “DAD” and a phone number.
I folded it and put it in my little purse and we left.
Once we got back home, I was faced with this dilemma of what to do. Here was the phone number of a man whose only contribution to my life had been half of my DNA. And he had dared to call himself my “dad.”
It was then that I knew that I’d never say those words to my step-father. Because it was then that I stopped wondering about my biological one. It was then that I realized that he’d had all the opportunity in the world to contact me over the years and it was never my responsibility, as a child, to seek a relationship with him.
So I lost the napkin. But maybe not the anger.