Monday, October 13, 2008

Katy’s Family Forest, part 14

I was completely unprepared for Frank to be that close. Only two hours away. In Columbus. Our state's capital. Home to Ohio State University, Jon's alma mater. Oh, and coincidentally, only about 30-45 minutes from Jan, my birth mom. They hadn't seen each other or spoken in over 20 years, and they lived less than an hour apart!

I sat on that information for a while. I chewed on it. Now that I had found him… what should I do? What if he had been wondering about me all these years? What if he was waiting for me to contact him? What if he was praying that I didn't? What if he never thought of me at all? And what if, by some chance, we had the wrong guy? A little "Guess what! You're my dad!" letter to the wrong man could really wreak havoc!

Finally, in the middle of my last semester of college, amid finals and honors projects and wedding plans and roommate issues and everything else, I wrote him a letter. I told him who I was and where I was, that I wanted to contact him but needed nothing from him. I didn't need a family or money or… anything else. I just wanted to make contact. I found a recent picture to toss in, and with shaking hands, sent it off to Columbus.

I decided that I had fulfilled my birth-father-search obligation. I had sought him out, found his address, and made an attempt at contact. The ball was now in his court, and whatever he did or didn't do with it was up to him. I was done.

In the meantime, I was developing a wonderfully odd relationship with Janet, the woman who had helped me find him. She was helping me get to know a man I had always wondered about without having to go through the awkwardness of, you know, meeting him.

Through Janet I learned that Frank's wife at the time of his affair with my birth mom had been his third, and that he and that woman had a child just about a year older than me. They were divorced before he and Janet were together, and though he and Janet never married, they lived together for a time in California. They'd had a child together with a rare birth defect, and he had died when he was only a few days old. One could say that Frank didn't handle the loss of his child well—he left Janet the day of the funeral. Of course, he'd also had multiple affairs when they were together—she even caught him in bed with another woman just a few weeks before their child was born.

He sounded like a real peach.

The child they'd lost was actually the reason that Janet had been trying to contact him. She had remarried and now had several children with her husband—some biologically and some adopted—but one of their children had also been born with the same birth defect that her child with Frank had. This child had lived longer—until he was 14—but eventually succumbed to the illness. (I know you're curious, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the illness was.) Anyway, she now lived in Illinois and wanted both of her children buried together. She needed Frank's approval to move their son from California to Illinois. So she searched for him online, found him, then found us! By the way, he refused permission.

I was starting to wonder why I had even tried to contact him. It made the silent response to my letter a little easier to bear.

Through Janet I also got the only real look at Frank I'd ever had. She sent me a picture of him holding his daughter Kristen—the one who was just a year or so older than me—when she was about 3 years old. She also sent me an old slide of his parents, and told me a little bit about his family. They were from Pennsylvania… his dad had died years ago, and his mom was alive but suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. I believe he had a younger brother maybe, too…

Janet was a real God-send. It was wonderful to have this connection, and yet feel very protected from the harsh reality that seemed to be my birth father. And she was thrilled to feel that her child with Frank had another sibling, and welcomed me as part of their family. By e-mail I heard all about her husband, her children, her job… It really was like we were family, as though my lineage weren't complicated enough.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Wow, what a blessing to talk to this woman and realize you have another sibling. Whether you met Frank or not, she either spared you or prepared you and that is wonderful!

Can't wait to hear the rest.