Guilt, or Not Guilt

Yesterday I had a chance to spend a little time with one of my sisters and one of my fathers, but I didn’t.  I made a conscious choice not to, and that kind of bummed me out.  Not because I feel bad for the choice I made, but because I don’t feel bad.

The Reader’s Digest backstory
My family tree is pretty confusing; think banyon tree.  I’m a reunited adoptee, and the child of divorce parents, and my dad is remarried, and I have step siblings, and… lets just say that Hallmark loves me.  Unfortunately, last year my my birth-father had a stroke and is currently in an assisted care situation.  Wait, I need to back up further…

Almost 15 years ago I started looking for my birth-parents.  I first found my birth-father and along with him his daughter; my half-sister Rachel.  At the time, Rachel was 17 and kind of anti-social.  My birth-father and I hit off okay, and when he finally met my dad (that raised me) they got along okay as well.

Prior to my finding him, my b-father didn’t even know that I existed.  According to him, he was never told that I was born.  He shipped off to Vietnam a couple of months after I was conceived without being told that my b-mother was pregnant, and when he returned from the war nobody told him that I had been born.

Jump ahead to a couple of years later.  Rachel was now living with some guy in a trailer outside of Barstow and I wasn’t in touch with her. My b-father and I were still in contact, and I was able to use clues he had provided to track down my b-mother.  Then things seemed to get weird.

Remember that night when we… you know…
The story that my b-mother told varied slightly from my b-father’s story.  According to her, he did know that I had been conceived but flat out refused to acknowledge it.  He went so far as to have his friends — she was 16 and he was 18 — go to her house to tell her to “stop spreading lies and saying that he got her pregnant”, and telling people “she’s lying just because we broke up and I’m seeing someone else”.  When I asked him about this he acted like a little boy that had been caught in a lie, and he retracted away from a bit, but not completely and we still occasionally spoke.

Although he lived in the Los Angeles area, she lived up in Seattle.  At one point, she came down here to visit me and my family, along with her sister and mom.  When he learned that she was in the area he asked her to meet him for dinner.  It had been around 30 years since they had seen each other and he just wanted to catch-up.  Turns out, not so much.

…You know.  Let’s do it again.
My b-father hit on my b-mother.  (Without the “b-” I keep hearing “my dad hit on my mom” in my head, which is just weird.)  Not a huge deal I guess, except for the fact that she’s married with two other kids.  Happily married at that.  And not a simple “what are you doing after dinner? wink wink”, more like wink wink nudge nudge touch wink scoot closer touch touch nudge… you know, the icky way.

After that, he disappeared.  He and I stopped spending time together.  Stopped talking on the phone. Essentially stopped all contact.  I was okay with that.  He had lied for no reason than to conceal something done years ago as a teen, and then got creepy.  Oh, did I mention that he said the dinner flirting never happened…I mean she started it…I mean…

I was okay with his absence.

Wouldn’t wish it on anyone
About 2 years ago I got a call on my voicemail at work from my b-father; he was looking to reconnect.  I was over it and never returned his calls.  I just didn’t feel like it and I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything.

In September of last year I got a call on my cell phone and the caller ID was his name.  I let it go to voicemail.  When I checked the message about an hour later I found was his girlfriend, calling to tell me that he had had a stroke.

I called back and spoke to her.  He has had a stroke in the past, but this one was much more severe.  It caused long-term damage and he was still in a coma.  I told her to give Rachel my number if she wanted or needed to talk to me, but I didn’t feel overly concerned.

Something good came from it
Our first conversation was very solemn, but Rachel and I hit it off and we were able to make a connection that she was in no place to make years before.  Over the following months we spent a good deal of time together whenever she came from Vegas to the LA area visit her dad…our dad.  Although he was essentially out-of-it, she was still his only next of kin (legally) and had lots to deal with.

Over the past few months she and I started bonding; sharing our experiences, meeting each other’s kids, explaining to them exactly how they’re cousins and we each were an aunt or uncle.  She also shared with me that our father was essentially as much of a dad to her as he was to me.  (Keep in mind, he and I didn’t meet until I was in my late twenties.)  In all this time, I never went to the hospital to visit, nor to the home he was transferred to and where he is now living.

Maybe I should find time
Recently, Rachel and my b-father’s girlfriend had let me know that he probably doesn’t have a lot of time left.  He is ever so slightly coherent, but not really.  If I wanted to visit before… you know… then I should do it soon.

After thinking about it and talking to friends about it, I decided to go visit.  But, I would want it to be on a day that Rachel had come down to visit/take care of stuff; so I wouldn’t be there alone.  I didn’t know his girlfriend at all, and he really wouldn’t be there.  This visit would be for me; “closure”… I guess.

I talked to Rachel about it and she understood why I’d want her there.  So I decided to meet her there yesterday; a trip she planned, and her last visit for over a month.  The problem was, I didn’t go.

I’m not heartless, really I’m not
I didn’t have any reason for not going.  Nothing that had to get done yesterday.  I simply didn’t feel like it was worth it.  It’s a 2-hour drive to get from home to where he’s at, then 2-hours back.  I would only be able see him for a couple of minutes since Rachel was coming down simply to help transport him from the home to a doctor appointment and back.  The “visit” wouldn’t be that long, and, I just didn’t see the need.

So why do I feel this way?  I really don’t feel bad that I didn’t go, but I’m wondering if that’s wrong.  Should I be feeling something?  Rachel understood.  She’s actually a little envious.  She feels like it’s an obligation for her whereas I can simply say “no”.

I know that I made the right choice for myself, and I know that my b-father doesn’t know one way or another whether or not I was there.  I don’t care.  I just don’t know if I’m okay with not caring.

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About Fresh Start Dad
Early forties, divorced dad of two teenagers, surviving back in the single world. Here to share stories and any survival skills I pick-up a

3 Responses to Guilt, or Not Guilt

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I don’t think you should feel badly for not caring; you’re only human. “Only connect…”

    I wonder if I will ever get to that stage. My mom split with my biological dad when I was 2 or 3, and once in a while, when important life events occur (marriage, birth of my children, my separation/divorce), I feel the urge to contact him. I just want to know how can he, how can anyone, walk away from your child like that and not want to know what they are up to, or if they are even alive?

  2. My main motivation for seeking out my birth-parents was that my wife (at the time) was pregnant with our son and I wanted to get as much medical background as I possible could.

    The question of walking away from children has crossed my mind many times, but not because of my birth-parents. I can understand my b-mom putting me up for adoption; she was 16 in the ’60’s and unmarried. My b-father…well maybe he really didn’t know. But my ex; she remarried and then relocated with her new husband for a few years willing to see her flesh and blood only on 3-day weekends and a few weeks in the summer. I’ve never been able to understand that.

    Adding to this complexity of a family tree: my daughter used to be (17 years ago) my step-daughter. Her b-father just walked away and wanted nothing to do with having a child. He signed away all parental rights and responsibilities prior to her birth. I just don’t understand that.

  3. Pingback: Hurting A Friend Sucks « Fresh Start Dad

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