What a strange, surreal December it has been.
Back on the night of the 10th I had a very vivid dream. In it, I was approached by an elderly woman who claimed to be my mother. She said that she had asked the family to tell me she was dead because she had been in prison for murder. Now she was out and wanted to have some sort of relationship with me.
I woke up with the most unsettled feeling, one that stuck with me all day and wouldn’t leave me alone. The next evening I talked with Bill about it, and he said, “You know, that’s something your family not only could pull off, but would pull off.” To say that my family is secretive is a very severe understatement. I was raised among the members of my mother’s side of the family – all good, stalwart folks who just weren’t into the whole “sharing” thing. I know there are secrets. I’m 40 years old and I know that I’m only aware of the smallest portion of the secrets in my family. Some are certainly none of my business, and some most certainly are my business. I was raised in an environment that made asking questions awkward. I’m sure information was withheld in the spirit of protecting me. When I left home at 19, some of the questions didn’t seem to matter anymore.
One subject did stay on my mind, the truth of which I wanted to know – details about my father. He and my mother divorced when I was around three years old. If he was granted any sort of custody or visitation arrangements, he didn’t take advantage of them. Whenever I asked about him, I was summarily shut down. There was even a point in time, before anyone would tell me what had taken my mother’s life, and with the continuing redirection whenever I asked about my father, that I honestly thought I must have been adopted.
Over the past handful of years, I have asked both my sister and my uncle what they thought about me contacting my father. They were both against it. They told me that even if they thought I should, they didn’t know where to find him or how to get in touch with him. They said I was better off without him, and to leave well enough alone.
So, with all of this secretiveness in mind, I talked with Bill about contacting my father. We both agreed that the perspective in which I was raised, regarding him, was held by the side most firmly in support of my mother. The limited amount of information I received was by my mother’s mother, my mother’s brother, and the sister with which I share a mother but not a father. So I started to wonder about the “other side of the story”. I started to wonder about the whole side of my family that I’d never been in contact with. I started to wonder what it would be like to be able to talk to someone else closely tied to my beginnings. It was time to start finding out some answers for myself, rather than waiting for someone to give them to me.
So, I decided to see if I could find my father. I started with an internet search of his name, which came up with several possibilities. I believed he still lived in Maine, and I thought I knew the first name of his wife. One address came up with both of their names, so on December 12th I wrote a carefully worded letter, which included all of my contact information, and sent it out into the universe.
Then I freaked out just a little bit.
I honestly thought it would be weeks before I heard anything, if I heard anything at all. I had visions of the letter being tossed out with the junk mail or otherwise just discarded if it reached the wrong recipient. It was a shot in the dark, one that I had to take on faith would work out if it was meant to work out. If it didn’t, well, I could know that at least I tried.
On the evening of Tuesday the 16th, Bill and I were enjoying a tasty beverage at our local watering hole. I was fiddling with my cell phone, and noticed that I had a voicemail message. My cell doesn’t get reception in the building where I work, so it’s often the case that I notice missed calls hours after they occur. So I stepped outside to listen to it.
“Hello, my name is Carol Tripp. I’m calling because I received a letter about you trying to find your father, and I’d like to talk to you about that.”
I almost had to take a knee. You see, my mother’s name is Carol Tripp. She died when I was eight. Barely a week before, I’d had that strange dream about her being alive, which prompted me to try to find my father. And there I was, standing outside a tavern, listening to a voicemail message from a lady named Carol Tripp.
I freaked out more than a little bit.
(Here is the point where I would normally slap down a “to be continued”, as I have in the past. But I won’t do that to you this time. You’re welcome.)
I went back into the bar, told Bill about the message, and vehemently agreed with his uttered, “NO. WAY.” Then I had a shot of whiskey.
The next morning I worked from home, trying to sum up the courage to call the lady back. I’ll let you all off the hook right now – she’s not my mother, back from the dead. She married into the Tripp family (a cousin of some sort, we worked out) and just coincidentally shares the same name as my mother. But you guys! Holy shit, right? It just floors me that a dream about my dead mother lead to me sending a letter out into the universe, to be received by a woman who shares her name. I swear, I’m not making this stuff up.
Anyway, Carol was SO nice and SO excited to be able to help me. She said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got a father for Christmas? What an incredible Christmas present!” She didn’t know my father, but she was in contact with a woman who was putting together a Tripp family genealogy. She’s already done quite a bit of research before I even called her back. Based on my father’s first and middle name, we narrowed down the search to a single person. And she had that person’s phone number, all ready to give to me.
I hung up with Carol, after promising that of course I would let her know how it all worked out. Then I just sat there, staring at that phone number for a long, long time. I got ready for work, drove in, got myself settled, and remembered nothing of my morning routine. I knew I wasn’t going to get a darn thing done until I called that number.
So I went into one of the “phone booths” that AcronymCo provides for private conversations among the sea of cubicles. I shut the door, sat down, picked up the receiver and just dialed. I had no idea what I was going to say. My brain was muffled by white noise. After a few rings, a man answered. I said, “Hello, I’m trying to reach Sidney.” He said, “This is he.”
I stuttered, I stumbled, and I apologized for the upcoming awkwardness of the conversation. I said something to the effect of, “Hi, my name is Tiffany, my mother’s name is Carol, and I’m trying to locate my father. I think you might be the person I’m looking for.”
There was a very long pause. And a bit of confusion. Some clarifying questions and answers. Then he said, “You’ve reached him. This is your father, dear.”
Well. Well, then. Holy cow.
We talked, for nearly an hour. He was THRILLED to hear from me (thank goodness, because who would expect to hear from their grown daughter like that, so totally out of the blue?). We both got a little emotional more than once. He learned some things about me, I learned some things about him, and I got some additional perspective with his own accounting of events that occurred during my childhood. My eyes have been opened a bit wider than I thought they would, let’s just put it that way.
He’s been carrying a photo of me in his wallet, this whole time. Queue waterworks when he told me that.
I told him that I harbored no negative feelings toward him, that I was never angry at him for not being present while I was growing up, and that I’d had a wonderful childhood and good upbringing. I just wanted to contact him and know about him. He was very happy that I took the initiative to do so. I promised him a long letter with some pictures (I wish he was on the internet but he’s eschewed computers), and he promised to send a letter of his own. So, just one week after sending my initial letter, I sent another. Three pages, with a handful of photos, to the correct address this time. A few days later, he called to tell me he’d received it, and we had another lovely conversation. Then I called him on Christmas and we talked a bit, and he called me the day after Christmas and we talked a bit more. I’m planning on a trip back to Maine in late May or early June to see him, and other members of his side of the family. I’ve become Facebook friends with an aunt, an uncle, and a cousin.
It’s still really strange, very surreal, to be in contact with my father. I’ve viewed myself as parent-less for nearly my entire life, and the only family I’ve known is from my mother’s side. Every time I see his name on my caller ID, I get a big old grin. I put him in my contacts under “Dad”. So cool.
Oh, ha. This is funny. The day that I reached my father, I was messaging with Amanda about how I’d had no idea what I was going to say when my father picked up the phone. She responded with,
“Hey, I just met you,
and this is crazy.
But I am 40,
and I’m your baby.”
She cracks me up.