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Losing My Biological Father (Twice)

On February 4, 2018, I received a text from my birth mother that the man responsible for my existence was dead. The words were void of any empathy and were diminished further by her description of plumbing issues before the death announcement. The man I was told was my biological father was abusive and mean-spirited to everyone. At least, that is the sentiment expressed since I reunited with my birth mother's side of the family. I believe I began to internalize her constant disdain for him. As I got to know her and discovered our shared characteristics, I rationalized that I must have some of his. I wondered if she hated that part of me, as she hated him.

"I️ sit confused by the tears that come to my eyes over someone I️ never knew and would never know me. I️ feel something that forces my head to bow and pray that in the finality of life may you know I️ can't judge you for what you didn't know. I don't understand why tears fall or when others fill my head with the horror of who you were to them; tears falls for who you could have been to me."

The following week I tried to determine if I would go to the funeral of a man I didn't know, who had lived in another city and had only heard terrible things about. I waited for the obituary to be posted and read it intently. There was no written portrayal of him as a monster.

After finding my birth mother, I felt guilty for not actively seeking him out. With the stores told about him, I feared rejection. I rationalized not pursuing him because he was not aware I existed from what I was told and was diagnosed with dementia. He died, not knowing he had a daughter. Maybe that would have made a difference, made him softer, or made his eyes light up like my adoptive dad when he saw me.

I did not go to the funeral. I sent a flower arrangement with a card that said, Please accept my condolences. I thought about signing it "your daughter" instead of using my name, but I did not. I couldn't give him his flowers in life, but he deserved to be acknowledged. On the day of his funeral, I said a prayer and allowed the Peace Lily arrangement I sent to represent the peace I felt and the peace I hope he found in death.


Fast forward to December 2020, and ancestry DNA confirmed an underlying suspicion I had that who I was being told was my birth father was not. My birth mother, birth brothers, and first birth father were tall. Even though I know characteristics can skip a generation, I was skeptical. Not only was it the height issue, I still believed that the narrative contained in non-identifying information I received years ago held the truth. I had grieved a man who was not my birth father. Through a DNA match, I discovered a 1st cousin match. Through a couple of emails and details about what I knew about my birth father, he did some searching on his end and had a good idea who my bf was. I was informed that my birth father had died but had several other kids in the Denver area, if he was correct. As an adoptee, the first thing that came to mind is I hope I did not have an intimate relationship with a sibling.

I sent him a picture of me, and he replied, "Omg, I know you are his daughter now." To have someone I had never met look at one picture of me and instantly see the resemblance to what would be his uncle was strange. He sent me the obituary of my birth father, and although I could see traces of my face, I felt like I was looking at a picture of my youngest son. There was disbelief and closure. Unlike the photos shown of my first bio father, looking at this man's picture felt familiar.

Since confronting my birth mother with the information, she expressed that she thought the other man was my father but was glad he was not. The contrast between him and who I first believed was my dad left me feeling relieved. There was not a secret monster hidden inside me but someone who seemed funny, kind, and caring. Weeks after putting the last piece in place about my parentage, I visited my biological father's grave five days after my birthday on Christmas. Like my adoptive dad, my birth father spent time in the military and was laid to rest in Ft. Logan National Cemetery. That cemetery is 214 acres of land, and although they died 16 years apart, one thoroughfare would lead me to both gravesites like pinpoints on a map. A 10-minute walk away from each other, even less by car.

I stood at his gravesite and said, "Surprise." I was sad that he never even knew I was his daughter. I have a 2D image of who my birth father was. I will never know what his voice sounds like, and the thought of him will always be shaped by someone else's narrative. I felt like we both had been deprived of something. If it was nothing more than him being able to see my kids and see the resemblance he passed on to strangers. I thanked him, kissed my fingertips three times, once for each of my children, and placed them on the top of his headstone, the same way I always did at my adoptive dad's headstone. I often visit the cemetery and lay flowers on both of my fathers' graves.

Outside of the cousin who helped me identify my birth father, I have not pursued contacting anyone else on my father's side to date. Why? I call it adoption exhaustion! I am not emotionally ready for any other family reveals at this time!

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