Dear Dad

I’ve spent the last two nights staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. Writing is how I process things, but I have so many things to process I don’t know where to start. First I found out who my dad is, then I connected with relatives and learned so much in such a short time. I was so happy, elated. But also overwhelmed. It’s a lot. And at a time when you have to rely on strangers to help you out, I was fortunate to find some good ones. But then the attacks started. People told me I was wrong and an embarrassment to their family name. A family name I don’t even want. A family name from a family in small town in Kansas. It was a little absurd.

The truth is, I have a family, I don’t want another one. And I know they are trying to cope just like I am. They are angry with me because they can’t write the narrative on this one, but it’s misplaced anger and besides, they shouldn’t get to write the narrative. This is my life, my dad, my story. It shouldn’t be this difficult to be compassionate, but for them it is. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be kind. My family made me who I am, with a little bit of DNA from my dad, and a whole lot of loving from my mom and my sisters and my brother and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

Yet here I am, wishing I could talk to my dad one time about that little bit of DNA. I have no idea where to start tonight, but I have to start getting something out so I figure I’ll start here.

Dear Dad,

I know you are gone. And I’m not sure where you are. I’m not too religious, don’t believe much in life after death. I don’t think we are reincarnated or made to burn in hellfire damnation for our sins, which is probably good, cause it sounds like you were no stranger to a good time.

It’s only been a few days but there is a theme occurring each time I talk to someone new about you: Oh your dad was funny, they tell me. Oh, your dad was so sweet. The best Uncle! The nicest guy. A little rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.

Opinionated. Kind. Thoughtful. Chubby.

Seems we have a lot in common.

My mom said you drank beer. Lots of beer. That you took her to your bar once to eat sandwiches. That you played pool. Do you remember that? You called her a wallflower. Started dating someone else to make her jealous. It worked.

She told me when I was 10 years old that you had a massive heart attack and ran your car off the road. I didn’t know then that you were my dad. She never told me that, I truly don’t think she knew. I think she wanted me to belong to someone else. And I think when we believe something so much, we make it so. But I remember that day. The day she told me, the day she said your name. I remember thinking that we had the same initials: M.M. Like an M&M.

Years later when I came across your obituary in my mom’s old dresser I wondered more about you again. You must have meant something to her, something special to have this old, faded cut out from the newspaper. She obviously still thought about you from time to time.

My sister said you were the nicest boyfriend our mom ever had. She said you called her princess, gave her a ring. She said you wore overalls. Always wore overalls.

I know you knew about me, but I don’t think you knew I was yours. You asked, but you weren’t told the truth. A mom trying to protect her kid, her heart. I’m not mad at her. I’m not mad at you. I’m sort of tired of being mad at anyone.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time being mad at a man who I thought was my dad. A man that I thought deserted me. A horrible cheating man. But it wasn’t him. It was you all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t push more for the truth. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help.

You have a son-in-law. I think you’d like him. I hope you’d like him. He’s kind. Genuine. He can work on cars, he can skin a fish, he can run a budget for a multi-million dollar company. He works so I don’t have to. He supports me in all my crazy ideas.

You have a grandson. He’s 12 years old. He has blond hair and blue eyes and he’s smart. Really smart. He’s funny too. Talkative. Opinionated. The real life of the party, always has been. Doesn’t get that from me or his dad. I think maybe he gets it from you. It’s a funny thing, genetics.

It’s a funny thing, family. Yours doesn’t want me. Don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t have much room in my life for them. They aren’t like me. We are different at our core. But I do want you to know that I tried. I tried and will keep trying, other cousins, there’s so many cousins, Dad! Someone will want to know me, someone will want to know my son, see him grow, watch what he becomes since you can’t.

I don’t know what you look like, Dad. I can’t close my eyes and remember you like other people can because I never met you. I used to dream about you. Not you exactly, but who I thought you were. Who I hoped you were. When other kids at school who would make fun of me for not having a dad, I would tell them that you were dead. I just wanted to stop the teasing. I didn’t know it was true.

I was only nine months old when you died. You were only forty two. Forty two is young, too young. I turn forty this year. I wish you could have made it longer. I bet you would have tried, like me.

I think we’d fight. Over politics, certainly. Over other things too. About you drinking too much. About you eating better. About me living so far away. About silly things, and not silly things. But at the end of the day I think we’d hug. You’d tell me that it will all be alright. I’d say see you later. Drive back home, 1000 miles away. Knowing I’d see you again next time.

I’ve never said this to anyone because I never had the opportunity to say it, but I love you, Dad. I know I didn’t know you, but I figure I won’t really ever have the chance to know you so what is the harm? Or maybe I will. Who knows. Not me.

The flowers are still blooming where I am, the rain still slicing through the sickly sweet air. And I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re happy. Please know that I am. Finally, I am content. I’m the happiest.

M.

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