How I Met My Father, Part II

Part II

I had to stop at the Financial Aid office for some reason. While waiting for someone to be available to answer my question, I saw a manila folder in a vertical storage tray. I noticed the name on the tab was my father’s name. That was shocking, to say the least. I wondered if it referred to my half brother, who had the same name, or if it actually was my father. There was no way for me to know.

My first year passed uneventfully. The second year had started and I had a computer class. There was a computer lab with a student assistant whose job it was to troubleshoot whatever trouble we had managed to shoot into the computer. On this particular day, I walked into the lab for the first time that semester. A young man stood behind the desk. His nametag read that same name that I had seen on the manila folder. I tried to subtly study the young man, searching for any commonality in our looks. He was tall, but not overly so. Too young to be my father, obviously. I thought we had similar-appearing teeth and maybe the same wider hips. Certainly, he was not a dead ringer for me in male form. I asked my question, was given the answer, and that was that. I left the lab and took a few steps down the hall. I had to stop because I was shaking so hard. It took a few minutes to feel steady enough to gather up my things and drive home.

I am the first to admit that I am no techie. Not even marginally close! So I ended up visiting with Jim on many occasions. Mustering a bit of bravery, I asked him, during one visit, if he had gone to school in a certain city. He admitted he had and asked if I had gone there, too, though he did not remember me. I explained that I had not, but I thought I possibly knew his family and that we even may be related. He wondered if we were cousins. I replied, “Something like that.” He suggested we meet in the Commons some time and talk about it. I thought that was a pretty nifty idea. I lost my nerve immediately after walking out of the lab.

The rest of the semester progressed. Jim was ahead of me by one year at college. He was slated to graduate in several weeks. I just didn’t have the courage to bring up the subject again. Upon walking into the lab one day, Jim reminded me that we were supposed to get together to talk about how we were related. We compared our schedules and were to meet the next afternoon, after my last class.

I felt all kinds of nervousness the following day. I shuttled back and forth between not showing up and keeping the “date.” I had stuffed my birth certificate into my purse, along with an order of support my mother had gotten when I was a year old. The day went by far too quickly and then it was time to go find Jim.

I schlepped on down to the Commons and saw Jim sitting next to one of the windows. A woman was sitting with him. He introduced me to his wife and I sat down with them. I told him that I had thought and thought about this meeting and there was no easy way to tell him what I had to say, so I proceeded to show him my documentation. “I believe we have the same father. If this is your father, then this is my father, as well.” He looked at the birth certificate and told me that it was, indeed, his father’s name and he was named after his father. The story, my story, just rather tumbled out. Once I had relayed the circumstances, I felt very divided between relief and anxiety. I did not know how he would react. His eyes grew rather misty and he stood up to hug me. That was an emotional experience, in the extreme. He was gracious and concerned.

I told him that I had no desire to meet my father because he had never wanted to meet me. I had always wanted to meet my other siblings. My mother had mentioned that she had seen birth announcements in the paper, on occasion. We talked for approximately an hour about how we each had grown up. Theirs had not been an easy life, either. He described our father’s appearance a little bit, after I told him what my mother had said he had looked like as a youngster.   I asked if I looked at all like anyone in his family and he mentioned I rather resembled one of his three other sisters. We were to meet again the next day and he was going to bring a picture of our father for me.

My final exam ran nearly an hour later than I had estimated and he was not in the Commons by the time I had arrived there on day two. I had not thought to ask him for his phone number or address. He was finished with classes and was awaiting graduation and would not be back on campus. “Easy come, easy go,” I sadly thought. I had not expected a family reunion, nor did I want one. I had wanted only to be able to put the details on a featureless face that was my father.

I graduated the following year. I saw my brother’s name in the paper for his own children’s birth announcements. I would look in the Saginaw phone book to see if his name was in there, but it was not. Occasionally, I would wonder whatever happened to my other family. I went through divorce and remarriage, relocating to southeastern Michigan. My last name changed and there was no way of notifying Jim. He could not have found me by the name he knew.

Eighteen years passed by. I was working at home one afternoon when the phone rang. It was my aunt, who lived in Saginaw. She explained that she had just gotten back from a tour of Washington, DC. She had turned on the local television station and they were running the obituaries. She saw my father’s name and the approximate age she thought he would be. She found the obituary online and was going to forward it to me. Knowing that I always wondered if I resembled my father at all, she offered to go with me to his funeral service and I could stay overnight with her the night preceding the service. I told her I would have to think about that. So many years had passed and I was so worried about what the reaction might have been if Jim had mentioned our meeting. I had told him it was totally up to him and that I did not want to be an uncomfortable reminder to his mother.

I looked at the picture accompanying the obituary and read the text. I did not see much of a resemblance, at all. Maybe the nose; possibly the chin. It wasn’t at all like looking in the mirror. I noticed that he had raised five children. I had three other sisters and two other brothers. Plus several nieces and nephews and even a great nephew and niece. Finally, I decided that I may regret it if I did not attend and I could not have a second chance. I called my aunt and told her I would agree to go with her. I wrote a letter to my father, explaining my hurt at his disinterest and how it affected me. I also wrote about forgiveness and that I had to surrender the shame and anger. It was a sad farewell by pen that I did not have the chance to voice.

End of Part II

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~ by saginawrobin on April 25, 2012.

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