Growing up, I rarely thought about my birth father. I didn’t want to think about someone that didn’t think about me, someone that could leave my mother, brother, and me alone. When I did think about him, it was in fits of anger: for my mother, and how she struggled to keep us afloat on her own; that maybe our lives would have been better is he was around; that I thought his presence would have somehow made everything okay. My mother did end up remarrying, to someone that was never a father figure to me, but that is another story entirely. My brother was my father figure, but he is absent in my life as well. It’s a reoccurring pattern that I can’t seem to shake.
In 2011, I was 23 and working the front desk of a ritzy salon, scanning the Internet, and I logged onto my Facebook account as quickly as I could before my boss caught me. There it was — a private message from someone that had the same first and last name as my birth father. In the past, there’d been times when I thought of him so little that I forgot his first name, but when I saw it in my inbox, I couldn’t deny that it was him. I stared at his face in that little icon for so long and I had no clue who I was even looking at, it wasn’t the face I remembered. I was about 4 or 5 when he left us for good. I remembered a man who was young. Age had gotten to this person, this person that I didn’t even know.
I reluctantly opened the message and it was one single sentence: “You remind me of someone that I once knew.” I responded so quickly and wished I had said something better than, “If you think I am who I think you think I am. Then yes I am.” Really? After 19 plus years, that was the first thing that came to my mind. After all those years of acting like I didn’t care, I cared so much about what he would take away from my Facebook, what a single webpage would tell him about the person that I have grown to be without him. I wanted him to know that I was fine without him, that I had a good job, was in college, lived on my own, and was in a relationship that wasn’t affected by him abandoning me. But all of that wasn’t entirely true.
I was angry by the next message he sent me. He recited to me everything I had done in the last few years, asking for confirmation that I was okay and that I was enjoying San Francisco. He got all of this information from my mother. She knew where he was all along but she never, not once, told me he knew where I was or that she knew where I could contact him. I was furious. To say that my mother and I (or anyone in my family for that matter) don’t talk much would be an understatement. Our phone calls are literally no more than 10 seconds and months are apart. To this day, we’ve still never spoken about why she never said anything.
So he was keeping track of me. So he cared to some degree. But how much did I care to pursue a relationship with someone that chose a vague Facebook to contact me, when you could easily get my address or phone number from my mother, if you hadn’t already. And so we exchanged messages back and forth for a good month or so. I didn’t like the route it was going.
This is someone that doesn’t know a single thing about me. Doesn’t know that I have been on my own since I was 17, trying to find my way in the world. Working 3 jobs at time, going to school full time, sometimes part time to pick up another job. Someone that has been in an abusive relationship and made it out. Someone that made it without you for two decades. Over 20 years. Nor did he take the time to try to get to know me; he immediately went into father mode. Any Facebook status update I made that could be disconcerting was met with a private message of disdain or disappointment that I should be careful or that I should do better for myself.
I was immediately turned off so I distanced myself. Our messages became few and far between and were reserved for holidays or birthdays. On my 24th birthday, I received a message from him that said, “On this eve of your birth I will be undergoing surgery, I do not know what the outcome will be. Please call me.” Maybe I was cold-hearted but I wasn’t going to call him just because he was in the hospital, I wasn’t ready to do that no matter the circumstance. His family also began to reach out to me to please contact him in the hospital. I was overwhelmed. I was angry. I wish I cared more but I just didn’t.
He was my birth father, but that doesn’t mean he’d been a dad.
So I stopped. I didn’t respond to any more messages and I didn’t look at any of the old pictures of our family that he kept posting on Facebook. I wasn’t the one that left. He did. If he wanted to have a relationship, he would have done more than sent me a message on Facebook. He would have been there.
I did learn that I have a half-sister in Germany. Her mother contacted me after seeing me on his Facebook and told me their story. It was all too familiar. He left them when she was young as well. She is 11 now, and I hope to meet her one day.
I knew that at some point and time, I was going to really have to sit down and figure out how I really felt about him suddenly trying to be a part of my life. Anger aside, this is my father, the man that my mother fell in love with and decided to build a life with. As much as I want it to not matter to me and to move on with my life, as I had been doing, this was my reality now. I began to see how him leaving our family was affecting my life in more ways than I wanted to accept.
I may not be open to talking to him on Facebook, but maybe one day I will. I wonder now why I never asked him what happened. Why did you leave? I had so many chances. He could have reasons that I very well could understand, I don’t know the type of person he is but if it is any indication of how I am now, he must have been a runner too. For now, I will do what feels right to me and if that means I never meet him again in this lifetime, I am okay with that.
I was a runner. I would run away from anyone that had the chance of leaving me first. Whether it was a friendship, another family member or a romantic relationship, no one was going to leave me behind again. I was going to leave them. I would disappear with no explanation at the simple sign of lack of interest enthusiasm of being in my company. I became paranoid that I wasn’t good enough in every way and I tore myself down. I always thought it was because I just didn’t take anyone’s bullshit but I realize now that I was scared. Scared of them leaving me like my father did.
I’m learning to live in the moment instead of making every calculated move to get away first. I’m learning that not everyone is as loyal as I may be or as invested in personal relationships as I may be. I’m learning to accept people as they are and if they end up out of my life at some point and time, that is how it is meant to be.