An Epic Memoir Writing Day: Finding My Father #3

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Yesterday, October 10, would have been my father’s 85th birthday. He died more than 30 years ago. I had not seen or spoken with my father for over eight years, prior to his death of a heart attack at the age of 53.

Last night, I finally found the courage to open the box that my dad’s half sister sent to me last December. The box my aunt sent is full of keepsakes she had cleared out of my paternal grandmother’s home when my grandmother died almost 20 years ago. The box held report cards from when my dad was in elementary school, childish artwork he made for his mom, greeting cards he sent to his mother, most of which were homemade, dozens of photographs, and my dad’s yellowed, 85-year-old birth announcement that was published in the newspaper in 1934.

There are many more miscellaneous items that I am still working my way through. A stack of electric bills from the 1930s is included in the box — their typical month’s bill was just over $1. My paternal grandparents’ marriage license is there, and a newspaper clipping about my grandfather suffering a “serious head injury” on his job in an oil field. I was never told anything about my alcoholic, violent, witchcraft practicing paternal grandfather having a head injury, let alone an injury so bad, it was written up in the local paper. But I’m thinking it could explain a lot.

Most of the items in this treasure box were my dad’s. It is surreal. Childish drawings and report cards and pictures of a tiny boy who grew up to be my father. Very, very surreal.

My father, a church pastor, was hospitalized after his arrest for almost murdering my mother when I was 12 years old. Eventually he was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, and he definitely was more than one person. There was a good, loving, honorable, and righteous ‘daddy’ personality. But sadly, this personality vanished forever when I was 12.

My dad’s worst personality was abusive in every sense of the word. He was a very sick man, that’s for sure. Was he so sick that he could not help himself? Only God knows.

But 85 years ago he was a brand new, innocent baby. And then a sweet-faced little boy. Then a grim-faced teenager. Then a handsome young man. Then a husband, father, and a hellfire and brimstone fundamentalist minister. And then… he was a stranger.

For most of my life, I believed that my dad wasn’t my actual biological father. There were many reasons why I believed this, beginning with my mom taking me to meet her old boyfriend when I was five years old and telling him, in so many words, right in front of me, that I was his child. And, with all the insanity, trauma, and abuse in my childhood home, I honestly did not feel like I belonged in that family, after I reached a certain age.

But his half sister is my closest DNA relative listed on 23andMe. This discovery happened last December when she had her DNA tested, and then she reached out to me when she recognized my name as her closest match. So yes, my dad really was my father.

As I look through his childhood things, I am seeing a different side of the man who caused so much division that, at his funeral, my maternal grandmother showed up and loudly announced that my father had “ruined all our lives.”

The truth is, in my crazy, dysfunctional, narcissistic family, no single individual “ruined all our lives.” The whole truth, as usual, is far more complex than this.

Today marks the 400th day in a row of me writing in my memoir, without missing a single day. After more than four decades of trying, and failing, to write this crazy story, I started all over again at the beginning on September 7, 2018. By setting a “mini habit goal” of writing a minimum of 25 words in my memoir every day, I now have enough words to fill at least three books. And I am only up to age 13! After I finish this very lengthy rough draft of Growing Up CrAzY, I am either going to have to cut a lot of things out, or else I will publish my memoir as a mini series.

Yes, my childhood really was that crazy. I honestly don’t know how I survived it. But writing my story every single day, beginning with my first memory — a 6.6 earthquake — has been both very hard, and also incredibly enlightening. I am seeing my life, myself, and my family, in a whole new way. And now this box of keepsakes from my dad’s childhood is giving me an even deeper understanding of his side of the family.

What I am learning is not to be afraid of the truth, because truth, seen through the lens of God’s mercy, grace, and love, brings enlightenment and, ultimately, it brings healing. I am also learning that it’s true what they say: broken people do broken things. And in this fallen world, we are all at least a little bit broken.

Thank you for stopping by. Please accept my apologies for leaving everybody hanging about my recent hospital tests. Almost all of the tests came back within normal parameters. Apparently, most of my worrisome symptoms were caused by allergies, and the antihistamine my doctor recommended is helping a lot.

Kind comments are very welcome. If I don’t approve your comment right away, please understand that I am probably writing — or tearing up the miles on my exercise bike for stress relief. 😁

With Hugs and Love,
Linda Lee @LadyQuixote

In case you missed it, here are the links to my previous posts on this topic, Finding My Father, Part 1, and Finding My Father, Part 2:
https://ablogabouthealingfromptsd.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/finding-my-father-part-1/

https://ablogabouthealingfromptsd.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/finding-my-father-part-2/

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I highly recommend this book for changing your life and getting things done: Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.

Finding My Father: Part 2

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TWO WEEKS AGO TODAY, I wrote a post titled Finding My Father: Part 1. In that post, I explained some of the reasons why I believed, for many years, that my mother’s first husband — the man whose name is on my birth certificate — probably wasn’t my biological father.

In fact, for years I have believed that my mother’s old boyfriend, a fellow she dated before she met and married her first husband, was probably my biological father. As I explained in part one, my mother took me to meet her old boyfriend when I was five or six years old, and she told him then that I was his daughter.

Yet another reason why I thought that the man I called “daddy,” my mother’s first husband, couldn’t possibly be my biological father, was because my mom’s first husband told me that he was 1/4 black. This meant, of course, that I should be 1/8 black, if I were his daughter. But when I had my DNA tested a few years ago, twice with Ancestry and once with 23andMe, all three of my DNA profiles came back saying that I am only 1% African. Nigerian, to be precise. And there is a big difference between 1/8 black and 1/100!

Both Ancestry and 23andMe gave me a list of over 1,000 DNA relatives, and not one of them was an obvious relative of my mom’s first husband. But there were several distant cousins listed that I quickly recognized as being related on my mother’s side, both at Ancestry and at 23andMe.

I resigned myself to the possibility that I might never learn the identity of my real father. But last month, on December 13, the mystery was solved when I got an email through 23andMe from a relative who had just had her DNA tested. She is now the closest relative I have listed on 23andMe. And she is my dad’s half sister.

Which dad? The man I called “daddy” as I was growing up. The man whose name is on my birth certificate. My mother’s first husband. He really was my father!

I don’t understand the discrepancy in my racial profile. Maybe my dad wasn’t 1/4 black, like he believed. I have researched this and I’ve learned that, because we only inherit a random 50% of our DNA from each parent, entire races can eventually fall out of our DNA. In fact, if my mother hadn’t told her old boyfriend, right in front of me, that I was his child, I might never have doubted that my dad was…. my dad!

My dad and I had a rough history, though. Almost as rough as the history I have had with my mom. He died 31 years ago this month, on January 16, 1988. Prior to his death, I had not seen him or talked to him in over eight years. And the last time I saw him alive, way back when I was in my twenties — it wasn’t a good visit.

My emotions, since learning the true identity of my biological father, have been mixed. It’s a relief to finally KNOW. And the truth is that I really did love my daddy, even with all the drama, the trauma, and the occasional abuse. He was my dad, and even with his diagnosed multiple personality disorder, at times he was a very good father and I loved him.

But there were all the things that happened when different personalities took over, things that were absolutely devastating. So yeah, my emotions have been mixed.

And yet, it’s been wonderful, emailing back and forth with my dad’s half sister. She was born two days after me. When we were children, we were more like sisters than aunt and niece. (Back then, she hated being two days younger than me. She used to say: “I am your aunt, I should be older!”)

When my parents’ crazy, violent marriage finally ended, I lost touch with that side of the family. My dad’s little sister and I were twelve years old when her brother and my mother divorced. This was more than half a century ago, so we’ve had a lot of catching up to do. It’s been great, though. I really like the person she grew up to be!

A few days after my half-aunt and I connected through 23andMe, she told me that her late mother, my paternal grandmother, had saved a lot of things from my dad’s childhood: cards he had sent her, artwork he made as a child, school papers that he had written, and even some of his report cards. “I never knew what to do with these things, but I couldn’t bear to throw them out. Would you want me to mail them to you?” she asked.

I told her I would LOVE that! So, about three weeks ago, shortly after Christmas, the box that you see in the picture at the top of this post, arrived on my doorstep.

And I am still trying to work up the courage to open it…..