On Wednesday I found out that my father passed away last December.
Nobody told me. I did a search on the internet for him, as I sometimes did for just that reason, and I found his obituary. They talked about his second wife, her children from a previous marriage, a daughter they had together, and grandkids and great-grandkids. No mention of me, which was what I expected.
My parents divorced when I was two years old. According to my mom, she didn’t really love him. She married him because that was the only way she could get me back. See, I was born out of wedlock in 1963. My mom was pressured into originally giving me up for adoption, but post-partum depression hit her and she decided she had to have me back. She was told by the agency that she couldn’t have me back unless she married my dad, so she did. He was in the army and stationed in South Carolina at the time. (I think. It might have been North Carolina. My mind is fuzzy about the details.) My mom was living with her parents in Michigan, working to pay off some of my dad’s debts.
I don’t have a lot of memories of my dad. He bought me a pony for my fifth birthday, and he’d take me to ride it every so often. He disappeared from my life when my mom remarried. My stepdad went to visit his mother when my dad was supposed to pick me up for a visit. My mom and I waited and waited and my dad never showed up. I remember sitting on the black iron patio couch that we had for living room furniture asking where he was, and my mom said he was probably running late.
He never showed up.
Later that year he was supposed to show up in court so my mom could get permission to take me to Kentucky when we moved there.
He never showed up.
I never got Christmas cards or birthday cards from him. I never got phone calls or letters from him. It was as if he disappeared from the face of the earth.
Then, out of the blue, my mom asked if I was interested in spending some time with him. I was in high school and my great-aunt had kind of kept in touch with him. She relayed a message from him that he wanted to get to know me. I said OK, and we set up a weekend that I could stay with him and his family. It went smoothly. I met my step siblings, and he tried to fill me in on things he had done since he last saw me. He told me about what happened with my pony, and the horse he had. It was mostly basic getting to know each other stuff.
I spent other weekends with him, but it was too little, too late. We drifted apart and never saw each other again.
I thought about contacting him when I moved back to Michigan in 1995, but never did. Part of me hoped I’d run into him. I don’t know what I would have done if that had happened. By that point in my life he was a stranger and there were no real emotional ties.
Around 2004–2005 I accidently met my ex-brother-in-law. I was taking an architectural drafting course, and the semester was almost over, so the drafting studio was open for students to finish their drawings. I was working on my drawings when the staff member who was supervising the studio asked me who my father was and where he lived. I explained that I hadn’t seen my dad in years, and he explained that he saw my last name, in big block letters on my drawing and was curious. Turns out he married my half-sister, but the marriage didn’t last. I felt kind of weird hearing his story.
I look back and compare him to my stepdad. My stepdad kept in contact with his two kids from his previous marriage; my dad vanished from my life. They visited every summer for a month. My stepdad paid child support; my dad didn’t pay anything. If my step siblings weren’t visiting for Christmas, my stepdad sent presents; I never got anything from my dad.
I know my stepdad resented this and I bore the brunt of his displeasure. My mom made sure I knew that I was often the cause of strife between her and my stepdad. I never really had a father figure in my life, and have spent most of my life looking for one, which has pretty much doomed any and all relationships I’ve had.
I don’t know how my life would have been different if my dad had been a part of my life. I don’t know why he vanished from my life. My mom said he wanted to remarry her and couldn’t accept her marrying my stepdad. I don’t know if she told me the truth or not. There were several occasions where she would gaslight me, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this was one of them. There’s a part of me that would have liked to have heard his side of the story, but it wasn’t important enough to me to find him and find out.
In the end he had a family that loved him, and that’s what’s important.
Rest in Peace, dad.