Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Road Trip Journal Day 11...Luke, I AM your father...
Remember that line from Star Wars? Well, I like the one from Toy Story even better, so here's the link to the clip...pretty funny parody of the Star Wars version! I can relate to that whole line/scene because I have never known who my biological father is.
From the time I was a little girl, my mom has told me several different versions of the "father story." I have asked her repeatedly, as an adult, to enlighten me on the situation and she refuses. She tells me she can't remember, but I don't believe her. She has, over the years, told me who my father was several times...first, he was my sister's father (remember Popeye in this story?) Later, she told me he was Dudley DoRight (not his real name, but the one I used for the story above) and finally, she told me he was a married man who owned a car dealership in Jacksonville and that she hadn't told me the truth the first two times because my real father was married and she had been afraid I would try to contact him. She said that the reason she was telling me the truth this time was because he had died and it was safe to tell me. But the twist to the last version is that she can't remember what his name was. Yeah, the married man she had an affair with and produced me...she couldn't remember the guy's name. Um, would you believe her at this point? I'm having a hard time believing anything she says to me.
For a time, because she had been so illusive in the whole matter, I actually thought that I had been kidnapped as a baby. There were no infant photos of me, my mother wouldn't tell me who I was and, well, if you knew my mother, you would understand why I would think that. I mean, aside from the fact that she hated kids (her words) she had a record of committing crimes (click here), I was nothing like her. I don't resemble her physically and our personalities are and were worlds apart. I just didn't think I belonged to her. I later found out this wasn't the case...that she didn't kidnap me.
So, you say, that's all very interesting and a little pathetic, but what does it have to do with your road trip, Diana? Well, just this...
Yesterday, I went to visit Dudley DoRight and the rest of the family in Nashville, TN. As I mentioned in the story I linked to earlier in this post, I have had an ongoing (albeit sporadic) relationship with Dudley over the years. When I was 9 years old, my mom took me in her room and told me that my sister's father was not my real father. Up until that point, I had believed that Anna and I were full sisters, that Popeye was my father too. Aparently, when he and my mom had gotten married because she was pregnant with Anna, my mom had urged him (and he had agreed) to adopt me so we would all have the same last name. So I had no reason to think anything other than we were all one big happy family (well, not really one big happy family, but you get the idea.)
So that day, I found out that my sister was a half-sister and that my dad actually lived in Memphis, TN and that (surprise!) we were going to pack up all our stuff and go to Tennessee just so I could meet him! (and also, well, it was time to move on from the place we were living cause the rent was due so it all worked out perfectly!)
I was excited at the thought of meeting my "real" father since Anna's dad had been gone for years (first in the Viet Nam war and then because my mom had divorced him.) So off we went to Tennessee. When we arrived, Dudley welcomed us with open arms and lots of love. He told me stories of my birth and made it clear that he loved me regardless of the fact that he was remarried and had other children with his new wife. They let us stay in their home (yes, even my mom) until mom decided she would live in her own apartment and let us live with Dudley.
Anna and I lived with Dudley for a while. We attended school and felt really normal. Their home was beautiful and large and full of friends and family. It was great! And then mom decided it was time to leave (probably because Anna and I were so happy) and we just disappeared. She didn't say a word to Dudley. They didn't know what had happened to us. We went to visit my mom at her apartment and then we were just gone.
Dudley told me yesterday that he and family and friends searched for us for months with no luck. He never knew what happened to us until one day when I was in my 30's I tracked him down again. I had been trying, as an adult (who happened to be a police detective at the time) for years to find out who my father was. I was also trying to figure out whether my kidnapping theory was valid or not. I felt like Dudley might have answers for me and tried to track him down in Memphis for a long time. Eventually, I spoke to a sympathetic phone information clerk who listened to my story (cause I was frustrated and couldn't figure out how to find him and they needed a city because there was no listing in Memphis) and she suggested that we start looking for listings in major Tennessee cities. After a couple of minutes, she said she had a couple of listings for the name in Nashville and she gave me the numbers.
I called the numbers and eventually, found the right one. In fact, Dudley's wife had answered the phone that night and I quickly told her who I was and who I was looking for. I got chills when she said, "Diana, we've been looking for you for so long! Wait, here's Dudley, he'll be so glad!" and that's how we reconnected. In the ensuing conversations, it seemed like Dudley wasn't my actual father, but he felt and acted like a real father. He cleared up the kidnapping issue and gave me information about my birth. He loved me. So I decided to adopt him as my dad anyway. I have operated as if he was my father and called him Daddy and my kids have called him Grandpa. All from a distance because he still lives in Tennessee.
It has been many years since he drove down to Florida and visited us and saw the kids. Yesterday, we had a mini reunion and got reacquainted. During our time there, I was able to talk with him about the blog and read him some of my stories. When I read him the story I linked above, he was adamant that Clyde is not my father and there is no chance of it at all. In asking him how he was so sure, we worked on the timeline for conception and what was happening with regards to his relationship with my mom. Long story shortened (cause I know this isn't short!) he thinks there is a chance he is my real father.
Aside from the fact that I am 48 years old and have never KNOWN who my father is (and it would be huge to know!) Well, actually, there IS no aside. I want to know. If there is a chance of finding out, I want to take the chance and find out. So I suggested that we do a paternity test so we can KNOW. He was concerned that if a test comes back negative, I won't want to have anything to do with him because then I will know for a fact and will move on in my search. That is just not the case. I am operating NOW on the assumption that he's NOT my real father and yet I call him Daddy and I love him as if he were my father.
So that's the news. Dudley and I are doing a paternity test. We followed instructions for a mail away test and I have the swabs in my car and am getting the package ready to mail off. In less than 2 weeks, I may have an answer to the mystery. I am being cautiously optimistic at this point. There are so many similarities between me and Dudley that I think I'll be really surprised if he isn't my father, but I guess we'll see. In the next week or two, I may acquire a father and two brothers and a sister in law I didn't know were mine. MINE, not borrowed from someone else. People who belong to me. History. Stories. Family. I can't help but be excited at the prospect.