On March 20, 2014, I had my world rocked by doing something I do nearly everyday – just checking my email.
I had received an email from a man named Larry, who started his letter apologizing for the strangeness of what he was about to say. He proceeded to explain that he had been involved with a woman with my mother’s name from the city my mother was living in at the time – and had been searching for his daughter for 20 years. She’d been born on February 9th, 1988 – my birthday.
I must have reread that email 100 times before it finally sunk in. I had a father. I had a father who had been looking for me. I’d always assumed whoever my dad was probably wasn’t a guy worth knowing anyway, and the thought that someone somewhere out there was looking for me had never crossed my mind as a possibility.
I called the numbers he’d left in the email, his sisters’ phone numbers to confirm he was who he said he was. Everything in his story checked out. And perhaps the strangest thing of all was his address. He lived 40 minutes away from me, 10 away minutes from my aunt. We’d even briefly crossed paths in Germany when I was 4.
We sent a few more emails back and forth. We got to know each other a little bit. I couldn’t believe it. This was never something I’d expected.
But there’s often a reason we don’t expect these kinds of things to happen in our lives. They sound like a movie – like it’s a moment too good to be true. And it was.
I’ve always had a rough relationship with my mother. She’d never given me any information about my father. Not even as an adult. Not even when I’d asked. For whatever reason, this was not information I was to be entrusted with. No one else in my family knew who he was either, and the wisps of hearsay and rumors didn’t amount to more than a little smoke. It was her choice to make, but given this turn of events, I was finally given the reins to handle this situation. I could finally get some answers, whether I was prepared for them or not.
I told her someone claiming to be my father had contacted me, and she finally gave me a name.
It wasn’t Larry’s.
I was crushed. We had a paternity test done, and it confirmed what my mom had said. Larry was not my father. As much as he wanted to be, and as much as I found myself wishing he were, the test was 98% accurate.
But besides my heartbreak over this was an underlying rage over the injustice of it all. All I could think was about how this poor man had carried this weight with him for 25 years, thinking about how somewhere out there he had a daughter he couldn’t find. Once he returned from his many overseas tours in the military, he hired a private investigator, managed to finally find her, and it turned out, she was never his to begin with. Now in his 50’s, unmarried, and otherwise childless, this left him very alone in the world.
A moment’s carelessness between two people from a time before I was ever even considered has now had a ripple effect on the lives of many others. My very existence is a blessing and a curse, and I wonder at the resentment that very being has caused. I wonder how my otherness has been the cause for sadness, anger, fear I didn’t understand.
As for whoever my biological father was, I did have the right name now, but I didn’t know whether or not to follow up on it. My heart was so heavy from this whole experience. But again, I was not the one who had carried this knowledge with me for a quarter of a century.
Last week, I finally met Larry. He was exactly what I expected; a man who’d put in a lifetime in the military, came home and became a diesel mechanic, put in his time and did the work. An every man. A good man. There was no question about his motives with me, and it was clear he’d had a hard time letting go of the idea that I was his. I’d become a ghost who, for one day, finally came to life. We agreed to meet again in a few weeks.
Somehow, I held it together for the duration of the conversation. Walking away, tears streamed down my face. I committed to pursuing this course until it runs how it will.
So at the end of this summer, it looks like I’ll be visiting Little Rock, Arkansas and figuring out what’s next in this whole chapter for me. I mean, I’m writing a book on relationships, so it’s only fitting to include something as juicy as going back to my roots and meeting my unknown parent from the south, right? (God help me.)
Regardless of what happens, I’ll have found some closure around this. And who knows? Maybe that 2% error margin was legit. Or maybe, I’ve just met a very important new friend.
P.S. Happy Father’s Day to my not-dad, Larry. You’re still a pretty righteous dude.