Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Whole New Experience - Father's Day

I haven't been blogging hardly at all the last two years, but every time I tell someone about the developments in my story they say, "You have to write this" "You're blogging about this right?" The internet is so full of cheapened stories. I don't want to cheapen this story or make it fodder for someone else to cheapen. It is still highly emotional for me, but I also agree there is power in our stories and there is healing in sharing them. So, here's a little bit more of this particular story.

Six months ago, I received an email with DNA results in it. I had finally decided I wanted to know more about where I came from. I didn't anticipate finding my dad or finding siblings. I figured I get some ancestral data and use those results to find out if I should be aware of any genetic propensity toward illness.

On January 8th, I emailed my brother, my father's only son and with fear, doubt, trembling, wonder and anticipation awaited his reply. What has since then unfolded has been in a word - overwhelming.

I recently returned from my second trip to visit my siblings and this time my father's widow in what was his home town for the last 30 years. I was in his home. I sat in his chair. I looked through his picture albums. My sister had a candle she found that smelled like dad. She wore one of his shirts as he got prepped for her wedding. It was...profound.

(If you're interested in how all this came to be: http://ignitingwholeness.blogspot.com/2017/02/finding-my-dad.html)

My dad mid-1970s

I began to realize over the course of those five days that a belief I have clung to tightly over the last 30+ years is probably not true. In the deepest parts of my heart, I really did believe that if my dad were to find out about me, if we were to discover each other, either I would ruin his life or he would ruin mine.

I was convinced that I would interrupt his life, cause a tidal wave of disruption and he would resent me for intruding. Or, and this is probably the stronger of the two, he would be yet another figure of disappointment and rejection.

As family member after family member said to me, "He would have wanted you" tears would fill my eyes and I realized there was a huge disconnect. Something was blocking me from allowing those words to penetrate my heart. I could hear it and I believe they meant it. But really? He would have wanted me? Because I can count only a few people who have spoken those words to me and actually meant it. That's painful to feel, painful to write, but it was painful to experience as a child. Let's be real, it sucks as an adult.
The Bishop Family  (Minus big sister Mary)

Growing up in the sick twisted family environment of my mom's family I think added a deeper sting to those labels "illegitimate" and "bastard" than I may have otherwise experienced. My own grandmother never said "I love you" or "I want you" or really...anything positive. On her death bed she told me to leave because she didn't want to see me. Those were her parting words to her only granddaughter who had spent the last two years caring for her, driving her to appointments, taking her to Hawaii for a final trip, "What are you doing here? Get out!" I strain to find memories of any family member actually demonstrating love, affection, or kindness. There was never a feeling of "you belong to us." In God's mercy, there were people who loved me and were amazingly demonstrative. I've written about them countless times and can't thank them enough - they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

As I entered into my father's world, I was careful to keep back and not take what wasn't mine. He was "theirs" and I didn't want them to feel I was "taking" something that wasn't mine. But my siblings, his widow - there are not words for how big their demonstration of love toward me was. Moment after moment, time after time, they invited me in to participate like an actual member of the family. Friends, I was included in family pictures - because I am family. I sat with family in the front rows, because I'm family. That may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but it's those things that are so foreign to me. I've never been included like a sister. I've never been allowed to participate like family.
Dad and sister Chrissy - mid 1980s

I've never had a family. I had hoped that marrying into a big family would resolve some of that, but I was still an outsider and that was made really clear early on. What I've discovered over the last six months is I've always had this family. I've always been my father's daughter and he's always been my dad. My siblings have been there all along, and so was my dad. God has been preparing them and me for this season. I truly believe that at my core. I don't believe that it is coincidence that literally the most kind and generous people (other than my husband) to walk into my life are my biological siblings. I get to claim them as my brother and sisters. I will never take that for granted. Daily, I give thanks for them.

Dad and brother John - shortly before he died 2015

And this Father's Day, instead of not having a dad, I get to celebrate the man who helped create this motley crew that is my family. Instead of thinking I would have been unwanted, rejected and resented, I get to allow myself to imagine him accepting me with open arms. I get to picture his face and hear his voice saying "I want you", I even get I get to allow myself to believe that I wasn't a mistake that has to constantly prove her worth and value.
Dad and sister Ashton - 1990 (?)

I asked each of my siblings (except for Mary who wasn't on this trip) what they missed most about dad, who died 18 mos ago.The answer was similar for each, they missed talking to him. Each of them had a special time they'd call him and talk to him. I think that's incredibly precious - that he was available and wanted to talk to his kids and they wanted to talk to him. And through each of them, I get to know him. I feel his presence in my life, which may sound strange, but I believe he is watching us, I believe he does get to see us and I believe someday I will get to hug him and hold his hand.
Sister Ashton, me, Sister Mary

I have more of my dad than I ever dreamed possible in these people and their memories of him. This Father's Day I am celebrating something new and wonderful - my dad.

Previous Father's Day Posts:

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