Father Where Art Thou?
Who had the most disappointing experience with their father? This was actually a topic of conversation a few years ago with girlfriends at a New Year’s Day party.
I won’t give the details of my friend’s experiences with their fathers, but I will share with you a story about mine.
My father didn’t know I existed. I always thought about what he would look like, what traits did I get from him, and if I looked anything like him. I would often dream of him storming into town and saving me from the environment I was living in. Of course, I had the typical dreams and hopes that I imagine most children who haven’t met their parents would have. That my father would be someone in a position of power and/or was rich and that he would solve all of my problems. However, what I wanted most of all was for him to love me. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work? Aren’t you supposed to love and respect your own flesh and blood? I can’t even imagine a single second or situation when I wouldn’t love my children.
In 1994, I met my birth mother for the first time at the age of twenty-four. I had a free plane ticket that I needed to use before it expired so I decided it was time to track down my birth parents.
Not knowing who your parents are leaves an empty feeling inside of you. I always felt like a piece of me was missing. When I made up my mind to get in contact with them, I was simply seeking a connection. I wasn’t looking for lifelong commitments from them, after all, they didn’t know me. However, I had hoped that we would be able to get to know each other and then possibly have an ongoing relationship as they are my parents. Was that asking for too much?
In 1994, I was working for an international hotel company at the time and making over $40K, I had a house and a car. Thankfully, I was financially stable. So, I wasn’t seeking financial reparations or holding any expectations for an inheritance.
Unfortunately, Google didn’t exist in 1994, so I had to search for my mother’s phone number by going through online phone listings. I knew her name, and I figured she might have relatives still living in my hometown of Havana, IL. So I searched for phone numbers with her last name. I was able to find a phone number and I called it. I don’t remember the lady’s name that answered the phone – my mother’s cousin possibly – but I explained that I was looking for my mother Judy who gave birth to me when she was 19 years old. The lady was happy to give me her phone number where Judy was living in Lincoln, NB and wished me luck.
Sidenote: In a future post, I will go into more detail on my telephone conversation with my mother and meeting her for the one and only time as an adult. This post is focused on my father.
I learned from Judy, that she had a relationship with my father when they both were in college. She is Caucasian and my dad is African American. I am probably using the term “relationship” loosely. Pretty sure they just met at a party and hooked up a couple of times. After all, it was college. My mother told me that my dad was engaged when they had their “relationship.” She didn’t want to ruin his future or tie herself to him with a child. (Side note: I believe that every father deserves to know they have a child.)
Judy informed me that my father’s name is Leroy. She was able to get my father’s contact information by searching the phone numbers of people with his name in the town she remembered him being from, Peoria, IL.
She called Leroy to tell him he had a 24-year-old daughter living in Atlanta. She refreshed his memory about how they met and the year they met and he believed her. According to Judy, she said he wasn’t upset or angry about not knowing about my existence. Just kind of accepted the situation matter of factly. Judy then told him that she would be giving his contact information to me and that I would be getting in touch.
I waited a few days before calling Leroy. This whole situation was a lot to take in. I remember calling him on Saturday afternoon after pouring myself a glass of wine to calm my nerves and to be mentally prepared for whatever happened on the phone call. To my surprise, Leroy answered my call and was very cordial. He said that he didn’t know about me until Judy called him with the news a few days prior. (Surprise! You have a 24-year-old daughter!)
He asked me questions about my life and I asked him questions about his. I remember he liked to talk about himself, A LOT. I definitely did not get that characteristic from him as I do not like to talk about myself at all. I prefer to write about myself (this website is a prime example). In writing, you can always go back and edit whereas you can’t take back spoken words.
Our relationship seemed to be going well. We would talk 2-3 times a month and most of the time I initiated the calls. After about 3-4 months of talking on the phone, he said he would like to come visit me in Atlanta. After my experience with visiting my mother in Lincoln, NB (which will be listed in detail in another post as I stated above), I didn’t want to visit him in Peoria, IL – I wanted to be on my home turf.
We talked on the phone and set a date for him to come to Atlanta. The weekend he was supposed to come he called the day before he was supposed to arrive and said that his car broke down and he wouldn’t be able to make the drive. Perfectly understandable, right?
We set another date for him to visit me in Atlanta about two months later. We continued to talk over the phone during the two months. Then, the weekend he was supposed to make the drive to Atlanta he called on the day that he was supposed to arrive and said that he couldn’t make it as he was not able to get his hair done. Yes, you read that correctly – he canceled because he couldn’t get his hair done. He had some type of process in his hair, possibly a jerry curl.
Obviously, this was very odd, but I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Could it possibly be that he was just nervous about meeting me?
We continued to talk on the phone and set yet another date for him to come to Atlanta. We decided he would come the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so we could spend the holiday together. Since I had never met him and wanted to make sure he wouldn’t bring me any harm, I took precautions and asked my friend Rodney (who is now my husband) to meet us at a restaurant and sit a few tables over. I had planned to give him a signal if things were not going well and I wanted to leave.
Wednesday: No call from Leroy and no sign of Leroy. I called his mother which I had talked to a few times after Leroy gave me her phone number and she said that Leroy left for Atlanta earlier that morning.
Thursday: No call from Leroy and no sign of Leroy. I was beginning to get scared something had happened to him. Rodney invited me over to his brother’s house where his family was gathering for Thanksgiving since my plans had been ruined.
Friday: No call from Leroy and no sign of Leroy. I called his mother and she said she still hadn’t heard from him.
Saturday: No call from Leroy and no sign of Leroy. I called his mother and she said that she had talked to him and that he was in Atlanta and will be getting in touch with me soon.
Sunday: At 3:15 in the afternoon I receive a call from Leroy. I know that he is in Atlanta because the location he was calling from showed up on my caller id. At this point, I was beyond pissed off at him. However, I was curious as to what he had to say for himself. He informed me that he was heading back to Peoria soon and if I wanted to meet him I should come to the gas station where he was calling from. I asked him when did he get into town and where had he been? He told me he met a young woman at Caribou Coffee when he arrived in town and he spent the weekend with her. My head literally exploded. However, I was never disrespectful to him nor did I raise my voice. I simply said to him, thank you for acknowledging me as your daughter. This weekend proves that it just wasn’t meant for us to have a relationship with each other. I then told him not to call me anymore and to have a safe ride home.
Verdict: Leroy is Out
My father tried to call me a few times throughout the following year. Thanks to caller id I didn’t bother answering his calls. One time, he called from a friend’s phone and I picked up because I didn’t recognize the caller. His friend tried to convince me to talk to him, but I declined. I changed my telephone number after receiving that call.
The following Thanksgiving, I received the note below from Leroy that squashed any dreams I might have had in connecting with him in the future. During the months I was talking to Leroy over the phone, we had sent each other pictures. He sent the note below asking me to return his pictures that he sent to me in addition to a stack of pictures of me that I had sent to him. Petty, right?
The pictures my father gave me of him, I didn’t send back. I have them in a photo album along with a few letters that he sent. I even kept the envelopes he sent the photos and letters in and have that in the photo album as well. At least I have something of his to show to my children.
The pictures he returned to me, I sent them to his mother to keep. Possibly, just possibly he regrets how he treated me. I thought one day he might want to have something to remind him of a daughter he never met.
In all of my personal posts, I want to share how to help stop or at least prevent child abuse. Details below.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failure to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.
If you see signs of abuse with anyone you know, or are a victim of child abuse, get help right away.
The Childhelp organization was founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Federson. The organization’s focus is on child abuse prevention and treatment.
Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States. It’s a terrible epidemic that we organizations like Childhelp are dedicated to putting an end to. In order to end child abuse, increasing awareness of the issue itself is key.