Post 101

We spent the past few days visiting my parents, during which I had planned to ask more about my biological father, who I never knew. But I didn’t mention it. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to ask or say, so I figured I wouldn’t worry about it. The time wasn’t right to address it.

Let me back up. There’s a more involved story here, but the short of it is that my mother’s pregnancy with me wasn’t planned. Nor was it with the love of her life–at the time, he and my mom were on broken engagement number two or three. It wasn’t until after my biological father—in his early twenties, not sure what he was doing with his life, not interested in settling down, yadda yadda—skedaddled, that my mom reestablished a friendship with her ex-fiancé. He was there when I was born, as he’s been every day after. This was the guy I grew up with, think of, and love as a father.

My parents sprung an even more abbreviated version of this tale on me one evening when I was ten years old. The news hit me from out of the blue. I wanted to laugh when they told me, even though their eyes and body language told me they were serious and uncomfortable. Afterward, when they asked me if I was ok with what we talked about, I said yeah, but I felt weird.

We didn’t discuss my parentage again until I was twenty-one, just out of college and about to move to New York. My mom was driving me back from the mall, where we had bought kitchenware, sheets, and other domestic necessities. I had wanted to say something the whole trip but didn’t until we were pulling into the driveway.

She started crying. She thought I had forgotten about the whole thing.

But I hadn’t. I picked at the memory every now and again and sometimes thought about sharing it, but until college–when I told a few of my closest friends–never did.

After finally having the balls to ask her about it, I heard for the first time the bones of my birth story. Over the years, the details have been fleshed out. When my mother survived cancer, she said that she regretted not giving me all the information she had about my biological father, and presented me with his picture. Still though, I only knew his first name. I worried that one day I’d stumble upon a folder of I didn’t know what—letters, more pictures, something—and I didn’t want to be taken by surprise. I wanted to feel some ownership in this story, some sense of authority. So one Mother’s Day, about three or four years ago, I asked for everything she had.

My mom told me my biological father’s name, and dug up a couple other pictures of him. For awhile I thought my curiosity was sated, yet still something nagged at me—the question that it seemed everyone asked when they heard the story. “Are you going to contact your biological father?” (Sometime around the age of twenty five or so, after some years in therapy, I had begun telling more and more people, making this information a part of who I was.)

Last fall I had in fact tracked him down to an address in Florida, but couldn’t think of a reason to contact him that outweighed all the reasons not to. Sure, I’ll be better able to know if I’m going to go bald, or drop dead of a heart attack at the age of forty. But then there were the emotional repercussions to me and my family. I had a father already. I didn’t need another one, particularly not one who didn’t want me. I didn’t want to upset my parents by bringing them back to an unstable, insecure part of their lives. I didn’t want my dad to think that I didn’t love him, that somehow he wasn’t enough, that he wasn’t my real dad, when he will always be more of a father to me than this other guy. My biological father might have given me part of his DNA, but my dad gave me part of himself; I’m his son, through and through. So I wrote my biological father’s address down and pinned it to the corkboard in my office, where it became buried by other, more pressing things.

And then Felix came along. Since then, all the genetic reasons for contacting my biological father have become weightier. But more than that, I want to have an answer for him when he asks about who my biological father is. An answer that feels right to me, which I’m not sure if I have yet.

See, as disorienting as contacting him might be, the thought of never knowing him bugs me. Perhaps it’s my writer’s instinct—I want to learn my biological father’s side of the story, I want it to be complete.

Or perhaps it’s just that this, finally, is a piece of the puzzle I have control over. And I want to play my part and not sit by passively. I want Felix to know that it’s ok to make the decision that feels right, even when that decision is difficult and complicated to make.

But still I’m not sure, so I didn’t bring it up with my parents. There’s no rush, I thought. Let me wait till the time comes.

Then earlier today, S was looking up flights to Ft. Myers, Florida, where her cousin will have her bat mitzvah in January. While discussing our travel dates she said, “Have you thought more about looking up your biological father while we’re down there? Where exactly does he live anyway?”

I couldn’t remember, so dug up that slip of paper from months back, pre-Felix, what felt now like another time. It read Ft Myers, Florida. A google map search pegged it as thirty minutes from where S’s aunt lives.

Seems like too strange a coincidence to pass up. Of course, that’s assuming the guy I found is really him. Part of me hopes that it is. While part of me isn’t sure what to feel. All in all, my stomach feels flighty and fucked up thinking about it. I don’t even know what my next steps are. Do I call him from out of the blue? What would I say? Should I write him a letter? What if he never writes back? Or do I just show up? I don’t know which of these feel less scary. And why the hell am I scared?? Christ, this is hard.


6 Responses to “Post 101”

  1. 1 Aimee July 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    i remember when you shared this story w/me way back when. thanks for sharing how it has unfolded recently, though it must be really hard. and i can’t even believe you’re asking why you’re scared!! of course you are – if nothing else, don’t sweat that fact.

  2. 2 Mom July 27, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Now, that you are a parent I know you understand how protective we can be of our children. I wanted to shield you from any hurt and pain in your life. Especially one that I may have caused you. Oh, the guilt that an Irish Catholic girl can carry with her. You used to watch Webster at that age on TV. We thought that this would be a way to share with you. We were told to share with you at a young age since, the teenage years are confusing. I also think that are minds put up protective blocks until we are ready to deal with issues. You are ready so, do it! It this will bring some clarity and closure do it. I have loved you from the beginning. I knew I was pregnant before I even went to the doctor’s. You gave me a strength and resilience to get through our nine months. You also brought me back to my soul mate who loved you from the start. You are a wonderful son, husband and father! My love for you just continues to grow and deepen along this journey of life!

  3. 3 Kim July 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I can’t really think of anything to say that won’t sound trite. Whatever you decide to do we will be here to mull it over and dissect it.

  4. 4 cindym July 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    My stepdad recently did this with his dad – and learned, sadly, that he had already passed away. He has rekindled a relationship with a long-lost half brother and stepmother in the process, though.

    My half-sister did this with her mom as well. No relationship came out of it; they had an awkward afternoon sitting on a couch looking at each other. But I think it helped satisfy her curiosity, and answered some of her questions.

    You already know that family is not defined by blood; you have a rich life full of people who love you. But it’s natural to wonder about your biological dad. Good luck whatever happens, Bri!

  5. 5 Rachael July 31, 2009 at 11:16 am

    This sounds like a good plan, Brian. I have a friend I might have told you about who found out a couple of years ago that her mother had been impregnated using a sperm donor because her father was incapable of producing sperm. All she wants is to find out who that person is, but she can’t. Not to say, of course, that because you have an opportunity she wishes for means that you should want to try, but it sounds like you do want to. Don’t worry about where it leads or doesn’t. I can’t see how I’m qualified to give you advice on this, but hey, there it is anyhow. Much love.

  6. 6 Hilary August 3, 2009 at 7:23 pm


    I found out last summer that my father, who left my mom when I was 6 months old and with whom I never had a relationship, passed away. His (now) widow contacted my mom. I googled his obituary, and I was the only of his children (2 prior to me, 2 after) that was not mentioned as being a survivor. We spoke on the phone twice, and exchanged letters briefly when I was 16. I had often thought of getting up the nerve to meet him for my 30th birthday, but alas, I was about a year too late. It is the greatest regret of my life. I urge you to at least make contact, try to meet, even for the quickest of moments.

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