It was August 19th, 2005 that I finally built up the courage to make that fateful phone call. Who would have ever believed one, little, phone call could be such a traumatic, life altering, and eye opening event that would completely turn my life upside-down, and inside out. I remember that day like it was yesterday, the fear, the unexplainable feelings inside, and the self-doubt. It took me three tries before I finally found the courage to keep from hanging up the phone after I dialed the number, and on the third try I finally asked the receptionist if I could speak to him. Who, you ask, is “him”? He was the man I believed to be my biological father, otherwise known in the world of adoption, as my birthfather.
I had spent the previous week in emotional turmoil. What exactly triggered all this, I couldn’t quite pin point at the time. I had been reunited with my birthmother for almost 15/16 years. I had just spent a long weekend, a “Girls Get-Away”, as we were calling it, with my birthmother and all the females in her family. It was a nice weekend, which I enjoyed. It was something about that weekend, something about my birthmother’s dramatic, as Oprah would call it, “Ah, ha” moment, after she and I had a brief conversation about my birthfather, that began to eat at me inside. Apparently, and according to my sister and cousin, whatever it was my birthmother and I had discussed, had, somehow, “changed her life”, and miraculously, “erased all those years of self-doubt and shame” or something like that. My birthmother claimed that she had, not only been relieved of a heavy burden, but her self-esteem had been miraculously restored, thanks to whatever it was I had said to her.
Apparently, everyone was witness to my birthmother’s epiphany and tear filled revelation but me. I never realized it before, and honestly didn’t connect it at the time, as to the fact that my birthmother’s dramatic, emotional revelations and confessions, always seemed to occur in front of an unsuspecting audience of sympathetic family, usually caught off guard by the coming from out of nowhere, for no foreseeable reason, emotional outpouring, minus one thing; the other main character, me. I never seemed to be in the right place at just the right time in regards to my birthmother, starting with my conception and subsequent birth.
When my cousin asked me what I had said to my birthmother. All I could say was, “I have absolutely no idea.” It was the truth. I never had any idea when it came to my birthmother’s moodiness. I usually just felt sorry for her birthmother pain, or guilty, like it was all somehow my fault. This time was different. This time I felt angry and confused. Don’t get me wrong; if I had indeed said something that helped my birthmother, I was happy for her. I was glad I had said whatever it was.
Considering the conversation with my birthmother was about my birthfather, and she had responded in her usual apathetic manner, it all seemed a bit strange and very suspicious. I can’t explain why, but I think I felt threatened in some way.
I don’t recall how my birthfather had even come up in conversation. She had asked me a question about something I had found out about his family. Other than that, the conversation lasted only about 5 minutes. Other than asking the question, she hadn’t commented on anything I had told her. My last remark, of the conversation, was as to how I felt that because he had turned his back on me, which is what I believed at the time and what my birthmother had, basically, told me, that I felt he didn’t deserve to know me, (Side note: Isn’t that a typical statement of an adoptee, experiencing feelings of anger and loss, but doesn’t know it?) Something was wrong with this picture. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I couldn’t help myself, and my curious nature began to take over.
When my cousin, next, thanked me for whatever I had said to my birthmother to cause such a transformation, I became even more alert to the strangeness of it all. I couldn’t think of anything I had said to my birthmother that would have relieved her of any burden she carried, much less miraculously restore her fragile self esteem. My cousin’s “thanks” was the first in several “thanks” to come from birth family, both maternal and paternal, for things I had done that were quite unintentional, on my part, and seemed, to me, to be strange things to be getting thanked for, when whatever I had done, or said, really had nothing to do with helping my birthparents, much less, intended for their benefit. That and my reunion with my birth mother are another story; so before I get too far off track, back to my birthfather.
I can’t really explain it, but my birthmother’s performance, which I missed out on, and the conversations she and I had that weekend, seemed to just eat at me inside. I didn’t realize it at the time, but, through, writing this, I think that my birthmother’s revelation, due to whatever I had said, of having all her years of shame, guilt, pain, and wounds erased, as well as, her self-esteem restored, made me angry because, it seemed to me, she was really putting the blame for her problems and life, on my birthfather, my relinquishment, and thus Me. Thinking back, I think I had just reached my limit. Years of eggshell walking, and repressing my feelings was about over. I had no idea that the volcano inside was about to erupt, and, at the time, really had no idea as to why.
I spent the next week obsessed with thoughts of my birth parents, especially my birthfather. I couldn’t really put it altogether. Something just wasn’t right. I knew my birthmother had never told him when I was born, or that he had a daughter, but she said he knew that she had been pregnant and refused to take responsibility. Something just didn’t make sense. After all the years since we first met, it was finally sinking in. Something about her story was not adding up. It is my nature, when things do not make sense, to find out why. It’s a trait that has benefited me greatly at times, and gotten me in a bit of trouble at other times in my life. This time, it would do both.
I started reading all I could find about birthfathers. I just couldn’t get it out of my head, that most men, even If they didn’t want a relationship, would at least give, medical information, and be curious about their offspring. Wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they, at least, want to know they had a child, a daughter? After reading all I could find in a day or two on birthfathers feelings etc., I convinced myself they would, so back to the phone call we go.
With my heart pounding so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest, I was put through. Oh my, the relief I felt, when my call went to his voice mail. I had spent hours, agonizing over, and trying to decide on just what I would say. How do you tell a man, you have never met, and who may or may not know you even exist, that he just might be your father? I can tell you for a fact that it is not an easy task. I sit here thinking about the cryptic message I left requesting he call me back. It went something like, “Hi. I am Shadow. I’m looking for so and so, who is the son of so and so, and was stationed in Texas in 1964.” I think I added, “I’m the daughter of someone you knew back then.” Along with my phone number and the best time to reach me. I hung up the phone in a state of numbness, which I would equate to being shell-shocked. OH, my God, what had I just done, and why?