I have shared here on my blog about my adoption and the search for my birth family. And I shared how I found my family and the reunions with them. (Finding the Missing Pieces part 1, part 2 and part 3). I am an adoptee and that is a part of my life story and a part of who I am. And though I have found my family, there is still so much to learn, so many to get to know…. the journey continues through phone calls, in person gatherings, laughter and tears. This month marks 8 years since I met my siblings and birth father in person. In Finding the Missing Pieces part 2, I shared about meeting my birth father, how I forced my way into meeting him after he denied being my father three times.
The first denial was in the form of a letter, returned to me. It was September 2002 and I had been waiting with breath held for an answer to a letter I had sent in August to the man I believed was my birth father.
And then I received this letter in the mail. An envelope addressed to me with his return address. I held my breath…. Could it? Would it give me the answers I was seeking?
And then opening it, my heart fell, hard, crashing into a million pieces. Inside that envelope was my letter and my envelope, returned to me. And on my letter was written-
I was devastated. I cried. And then I got angry. My gut told me this was the right man because he did not want me to contact him again… and that was underlined to emphasize his wishes. But my gut knew he was my birth father. Why? Because if he wasn’t he would have let me know in a kinder way and wished me well in my search, as others had done during my long search. Underlining those words and sending me my letter and envelope told me there was much more to the story.
And I cried more. The feelings of abandonment returned. The feeling of having done something terrible came back in full force. I was again that little girl who thought she had to have been horrible in order for her father to leave her and to not love her. It had to be my fault.
It took me a really long time to get past this let down. But I moved on. Mostly.
And I continued to search for my siblings and my birth mother, while stopping the search for my birth father. What was the point in searching for him, when I already knew where he was and that he wanted nothing to do with me?
My reaction to that letter was not a positive. Despite finding a way to move on, the pain stayed with me until that day, May 9, 2011, when I finally met my birth father and he acknowledged me.
After finding my birth father, he called me many times. We talked and he answered the questions I had. He sent me pictures of my grandparents and of him as a child. He sent me birthday cards. He called on the anniversary of our meeting. He said he loved me. It was nice to have a relationship with him, even if it meant I could not call him and had to wait for him to call me. He had a difficult marriage situation and he hid his relationship with his kids from his wife, calling from a cell she didn’t know about and using a post office box that we could send letters to so she wouldn’t see them. I was okay with it, because I had a chance to meet him and the communication we had was a bonus. Something I never expected.
Those few years of contact gave me time to heal. I was still angry about him not giving me my birth mothers maiden name in 2002 when I first asked in that letter that he returned to me. I was still angry because had he given me that info first time I asked, then I would have found my birth mother before she passed away. But I couldn’t change what happened, so I learned to let it go and forgive him.
A lot had changed in me between the time I had received that returned letter and the day I met him. I was healing and growing and learning to let go of what I could not control.
Eventually the calls from my birth father stopped. It has been a couple of years now since I last heard from him. The last few phone calls I had had from him were short and filled with questions about my older sister… had I heard from her? What was going on with her? And then he would have to go. The calls to me stopped about the time she told him to not contact her any longer.
And it didn’t bother me. I didn’t even notice he hadn’t called until a few months after my birthday a couple of years ago. But I still sent him letters, Christmas cards and birthday cards. I just wanted to let him know I was still here. But I didn’t worry about and even wait for those calls or letters anymore.
I was okay without him.
And then this past Christmas I sent him a card, like I have done the past few years. And a couple of weeks letter it came back to me, marked return to sender. Another returned letter. But this time I didn’t cry. I actually laughed. Okay, I thought, he is finally done with his kids and moved on. Instead of crying, instead of my heart crashing to the ground in a million pieces, I was fine. I was okay.
My reaction to this second returned letter was a complete 360 from the first returned letter. I was different and in a different place in my life when the second returned letter showed up in my mailbox. I had finally realized that this was his issue, not that of any of his children. I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t horrible, I wasn’t unlovable. He had the issues. And he was the one missing out, not me. He was missing out on knowing his daughter and his grandsons. And I was not the only one he was missing….. he was the one missing out on relationships with his six children, all wonderful, unique and amazing individuals. And he was missing out on the opportunity to know and enjoy ALL his grandkids. THAT was his loss. Not ours! NOT MINE.
I am very grateful for the relationship we had while we had it, and grateful for the answers to my questions. I will always have a place in my heart for my birth father, for the man who took care of me along with my mother, the first year of my life. And I am thankful, every day, that he gave me the information I needed to find my birth mothers family… my family. I am happy that I got to know him and that I was able to get those missing puzzle pieces from him.
And more than ANYTHING I am at PEACE with this last returned letter.
Two returned letters….. two different responses. And a grateful heart!