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 first draft, I am either going to have to cut a lot of things out, or else I will have to 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 Adams @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:
I highly recommend this book for changing your life and getting things done: Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.