I realized after reading all my students’ narratives that I hadn’t shared my narrative that I wrote several years ago. I haven’t revised it or touched it since. I need to spend some time with it soon, but it’s a moment I cherish a bit too much. Anyways, here it is…
Half Made Whole
I never felt whole. I never understood why I never felt whole. I just didn’t. It felt like I had gotten out of a line for an event, but I didn’t know why and it had been a mistake. Every year that passed, I felt a void. An emptiness I couldn’t express. I showed this emptiness, this void, in my relationships with people. Whenever I had trouble with a friend, instead of facing them, I would run. I would hide. I escaped into the void that I didn’t comprehend. When my husband wanted to get close, I ran to the void, ignoring him, pushing him away. It seemed safer there. One day, however, I was confronted emotionally, and eventually physically, with the void. The “halfness” of me. It changed my life; it changed me.
I barely remember him. My last memory of him was from the back seat of a car. I cannot tell you what the car looked like, or even what he looked like. I was nine years old. Nine is a strange age, I think. I felt like the most innocent little girl. I loved dolls. I loved to dance. I loved to roller-skate. I loved being a girl. Yet, every time, I had to go with him, I felt different. I loved the dolls he bought me, not because they were dolls, but they were from him. I didn’t dance in front of him. I don’t remember roller-skating with him. I wanted to be his girl, but he had moved on to a new family. And I resented that. I was no longer just his girl. He had a new wife, a new son. They were his priority. They were with him every day, every second, every minute. I got a weekend every six months.
Sitting in the back seat of his car (which I don’t remember), coming from a fun weekend of Disneyland and Sea World, he asked me the question that would change my life, change me.
“Do you want Roger to adopt you?”
What did that mean? In my innocent nine-year-old mind, I couldn’t understand or fathom the extent of this question. Looking back on this moment with my thirty-eight year old mind, I ask myself, can a nine-year old really make this type of decision? Should I have ever been asked this question? From this time, I don’t think so.
With butterflies in my stomach, I looked down, a bit pale from the confrontation, and in a soft, almost inaudible voice, I said, “yes. I want Roger to adopt me and Kevin.” I don’t remember his look, but I do remember the deadening silence of the car. No words were spoken for awhile. And, to be honest, I don’t remember his response. Maybe there wasn’t one. Maybe I don’t want to remember it because it may not have been the response I wanted to hear. Did I really want him to allow another man to adopt me? Even more, did I really understand the significance of it? Did I know it would create my “halfness,” my void?
Shortly after that day, we went to court, became “Hunts,” and he left my life.
After the birth of my son, Ethan, I missed him. I had given birth to Ethan a year before and was trapped in wondering about my dad. Even though I had told him as a naïve nine-year-old I “wanted” a “new” dad, I could never understand how he had easily walked away. How does a person walk away from his own “blood”? Sitting at my computer, I typed him a letter, telling him about my life and my brother’s life. When I had completed it, I re-read it to insure I didn’t sound crazy or had made any grammatical mistakes. I made some changes, printed it off, and put it in an envelope. With my hands shaking slightly, I addressed it with his name, my former name, and added the correct postage to it. As I placed it in the postal slot, it felt like I was in a strange dream where I could see myself from above but I couldn’t feel or connect to me. The letter was gone…
He never responded.
August 28th, 2008. I sat looking at his obituary and news articles which described him as a “wonderful father and community leader.” Was this the same person I knew? Was this the man who failed to respond to my letter, or the e-mail I sent two years after the letter? What happened? How could this man, the man who had five hundred people attend his memorial, be the same man who walked away all those years ago because a nine-year-old told him she wanted a “new” dad? In my mind, I did not know him as this “wonderful father.” I knew him as someone who left my mom and eventually my brother and me. That void I felt, my halfness, was highlighted, on fire. I needed to know. I wanted to know this man.
I sat at the computer, pulse pounding, my heart racing faster than a thoroughbred. I began typing. Hello, Beth. My name is Amy Dickinson. For some time, I’ve wanted to contact you, but I didn’t know if I should. I’m still not sure if it’s right. But, I just found and read about [our dad’s] passing, and it’s sent me and my brother into a bit of a spiral. I don’t know if he ever told you and your brother about me and my brother…I hope this message doesn’t bother you too much. I just wanted you to know that my brother and I are here…All my best, Amy.
I knew I needed to contact my half-sister who I had never known and who I wasn’t sure if she even knew about me. As I finished the message, my hands were trembling beyond control. I re-read my message, pressed “send,” and it was gone into the internet ether. What if she didn’t respond like him? How would I handle it?
I grabbed Ethan and my dog, Savannah. We needed to walk. I needed to get out of the house to calm the adrenaline that was pushing through my veins. As we walked down the street about half a mile from my house, my mind was spinning. Would she respond? If she did respond, would she know about me? Had I “opened a can of worms”? Maybe I shouldn’t have sent the message. I had lived the past twenty-eight years without him. Why was it important to know these people now? As we continued to walk, I worried; I also secretly hoped and prayed to God she would respond. Thirty minutes later, we were back from our walk. I wanted to run to the computer, but I was terrified. After putting the dog away, finding other things to do around the house, and holding off the inevitable for as long as I could, I sat down at my computer.
It was there: the response.
My hands were shaking even more than they had when I sent the message. With my heart pounding like a jackhammer; I opened the message. Amy, Thank you SO much for contacting me! My brother and I do know about you and were planning on trying to locate you when things settle down a little. Wow, where to begin!…Despite him not talking about it much, by reading the agreement, knowing my father, and talking to my mom about it, I think he was deeply hurt by losing you and did it more for your sake than his…He was a very devoted father to my brother and I [..] can’t help but wonder if his devotion to us and the youth in the communities (which I’m guessing you read about) was partially fueled by the guilt of losing you two….Please, please be in touch and tell me all about yourself and your brother!!!!! I cannot begin to express the emotions that are going through me right now! Beth
In the moment I read “he was deeply hurt by losing you,” hot tears streamed down my face like little rivers. I began sobbing as I finished the message. The void, the halfness, was filling. Our dad did not tell my sister these things; she knew them from everything he had given her and others. For some reason I cannot comprehend, I believe it. I needed to hear he wanted me, and it seemed in his own way he had.
As the days progressed, our written conversation taught me about him, my brother, and my sister. Each message that came filled a little more of the void, and it taught me about me. Before long, my brother, Kevin, and I met Beth and Patrick in person in Maryland. They too have never understood the decision our father made to stay out of our lives. It didn’t seem to make sense with the type of father he was to them. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter to me. In that moment of meeting them, my half became whole, and I felt like that innocent nine-year old again, who truly loved her daddy.