I was curious about my dad off and on most of my life. Whenever it was brought to my attention or occasionally, I guess, as a kid I just wondered. My mom spoke about him fondly but not so much favorably, which makes sense because they weren’t together by the time I was born. Through the years, in conversations about him, she was kind but honest with me. She wanted me to understand that it wasn’t an easy choice, but it was necessary.
I stopped asking her to find him after high school. I was hoping to invite him to my high school graduation. Surely, he’d want to be there, right? Let me back up and say this coincides with the timeframe in which my younger sister met her dad. I was envious of all the dad/daughter and other family things she could do. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for her but I’m sure at the time I felt like it would be great to have my dad around. I wanted to put a face to a name, to find out who this person was. Did I look anything like him? Did I act like him? Did we have anything in common? What’s my other family like? But I think, maybe more importantly, I wondered how close he was to the imaginary dad in my head. My brain wanted to replace this “?” Dad Card. People were supposed to know their dads, right? All I knew about my dad was a name and his last known location.
When I was older and married with kids of my own, my mom and I talked about him. She found one of the last letters he wrote to her. He asked about me in the letter, so it confirmed that he was real and that at one point he cared how I was doing. It raised questions again about why he never tried to find me. After all, my family has been in the same house since before I was born. We live in rural Oklahoma where everyone knows everyone. But even if you happen to meet someone who doesn’t know everyone, they for sure know someone in our family. So, my guy, what gives?
I’m sure at the time I searched for him online, but I never reached out. It wasn’t until 2020 that I felt like God was leading me to find him. Again, the only thing I remembered that my mom told me was his first/last name, his nickname, and that he was from a small town in (I thought) Oklahoma. Oklahoma has no shortage of small towns, so I decided to ask my aunts what they remembered. It was so long ago that there wasn’t a lot they could offer except for one was able to remember the town in Texas (not Oklahoma) that he was from. From there I did exactly as you’d expect, I Googled him. I typed in First, Nickname, Last Name, and city. I got a lot of offers for paid reports but as I wasn’t trying to spend money, I had to get creative. I found what I thought was him with an address in a town close to the one I searched. It was almost Father’s Day, so I briefly thought about introducing myself via greeting card. “Hey Guy! Here’s what I know. If this is you, Happy Father’s Day! If not, Happy Father’s Day?…” Or something like that. I know that might sound crazy, hence the desire to find out once and for all, which familial side these ideas come from.
Anyway, after deciding against the greeting card route, I went to Facebook. I typed his first and last name and the city from the address I found online. And I found him. And my brother. I couldn’t believe it, but then again, I could. I sent a message to my dad first. Then I sent a message to my brother. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible because I wasn’t trying to blow up anybody’s spot. My intent was pure, but I didn’t know how well received this news would be over 40 years later. So, late June of 2020, I sent the messages. And I waited. I heard nothing back for weeks and then I guess I forgot about it. I wasn’t crushed or disappointed because I felt like I’d done my part. I reached out unsure of why I felt compelled to find him but sure I needed to do so. I knew it would be a long shot and I also knew I would be ok if he didn’t respond.
The week before Christmas, I got a message from my brother confirming everything. I spoke with him and “Pops” (my dad) on Christmas Eve 2020 for the first time. It wasn’t a super long conversation, but it was good. He confirmed things that my mom said and, without any prompting, explained to me why he hadn’t been around over the years. It was surreal but so real. We agreed to keep in touch and get together soon. I called him for his birthday just after the first of the year. He and/or my brother would call or text occasionally just to check in. We kept it pretty casual which was comfortable for me. But, with a lot of prompting from one of my aunts, I finally set a date to meet my dad and brother.
March 2021, I drove about 30 minutes to the little town where my dad and brother lived. I found out during our phone conversations leading up to the visit that they had lived in this general area for 40 years or so. So, most of my life, I’ve been within an hour of my dad and brother. And we never knew. Anyway, on the way there, I was trying to process a lot of feelings and thoughts. I wasn’t really nervous but I felt some type of way. Like I’m still making an effort to meet someone who left me and never came back. And even though I knew him not being there worked out for my good, it was still something to think about. As I was driving and thinking about all of this, a song started playing and grabbed my attention. It’s called “Sparrows” by Cory Asbury. There’s a part that goes, “A heart that’s planted in forgiveness doesn’t dwell in the past; So why should I be?” It was a beautiful moment when those words cut through the noise. I needed that reminder in that moment, that none of what was in the past mattered. I recognized that I was given an opportunity that many people never get and if I say that I live my life by first, love God and second, love people, then none of what happened in the past mattered. I’m definitely a different person, a different parent even, than I was, what seems like a hundred years ago, so I was certain that my dad was too.
So, I played the song for the duration of the drive to let those words continue to wash over me. I pulled up to the house, got out, and hugged my dad for the first time ever. I went inside and honestly, y’all, it felt like family during the holidays. You haven’t seen these relatives in a little while so there’s the excitement of getting together and just enjoying the time. We clowned each other a lot and talked and laughed. They bought lunch and we ate as we played Uno, which by the way, Pops cheats (badly) at Uno and blames it on his age. He talked about my mom and reminisced about some of the times they spent together. Eventually, it was time for me to head back home. The visit, while only a few hours long, was good. We’ve since gotten together a few times and they’ve met Ariel and Nick and started building relationships with them. I would love for them to meet my other two children, and the rest of my family and friends. All in all, things seem to be moving in a positive direction.
Some people wondered why, after all this time, did I look for my dad. After all, I grew up in a very large, and very loving family. My grandma instilled the importance of family in all of us—”you don’t have to like them, but you have to love them,” kind of thing. Maybe this was part of the reason I wanted to find him because family is important. Maybe it was to get answers to burning questions. Maybe it was to see how I would feel. Only God knows exactly why I needed to reach out, I can only surmise. But I want to be clear about one thing, I didn’t feel like I needed to find him to fill some void. Meet my mom’s side of the family and you’ll know what I mean—love, on love, on love (if they like you😊). For real, they’re (we’re) hella crazy, but you’ll know what love is. Anyway, what happened though is that I realized by meeting Pops and my brother that I had an increased capacity to give and receive love. It didn’t make me feel that I was any more complete, I just had more love in my life. They’re hella crazy too, but there was so much love between them. Plus, now I have an image for the Dad card with a whole new brother added to the deck. B T Dubs, Pops is nothing like my imaginary dad, mostly because he’s real. I’m glad he and my big head, little brother are a part of my life. I mean, it dashes any illusions of an escape from crazy, but it promises an even more interesting future.
So that’s the story of how I met my father…at least part of it.