I could hear an older gentleman’s soft-spoken voice on the telephone ask, “How can I help you?” In searching for my birth father, Victor and I instantly became friends. If I hadn’t put myself out on a limb, our paths in life would have never crossed.
“Hey, listen. I recently received your letter inquiring if by chance I knew the identity of your biological father,” Victor explained. He shared with me that, although presumably both he and my father had worked as geologists in the same mining community for many years, he couldn’t come up with any possible leads to add to my trail of clues. But this obviously compassionate human being wasn’t just going to hang up the phone and say, “I wish you well; be on your way.”
We were several generations apart, but my new friend seemed to understand the void in my life. Not only did I have an absent birth father, but also several other father figures had walked away throughout my life. Victor believed in me. He sincerely wanted the desires of my heart to come true. Occasionally, we chatted on the phone about my progress and set-backs on an often-discouraging journey, as I attempted to give my father a name.
Small-town recollections from the old-timers turned out to be quite beneficial in helping me to find more pieces to this complicated puzzle.
Finally narrowing down my search to one particular individual, I wanted to scream out in protest about life’s unfairness. Feeling defeated, I sighed to Victor on the phone, “Why did my birth father have to die only a few years before I began looking for him?” I may never know if my father actually knew about me, or if he chose to not be a part of my life.
Weighing out my only other options, I cringed every time “his son” came to mind.
“I don’t know if your father is still alive, but I do know he has a son,” I heard more than once in my contact with people who had remembered the age-old story.
I longed to know even the tiniest bit of information about my biological father. For me, a simple photograph to call my own should be my birthright and his legacy. It would be amazing to actually see the beginnings of my heredity, instead of it seeming to come from nowhere. To be able to mirror my father in myself, as well as in my daughters and grandchildren, would be my lasting connection.
However, worrying me the most was that I might hurt someone if my information was only hearsay. I had no idea what kind of relationship the two of them had as father and son. And, I truly didn’t want to cause my father’s son any unnecessary shame. In the same way, I didn’t want to be viewed as only the product of some affair. It was important to me and my feelings of self-worth for others to see that even from a past wrong that I am the good that came from it.
Part of me felt selfish for my need to finally be brave enough to call this stranger—a possible half-brother. Disrupting innocent lives was never a part of my agenda in finding out answers about my biological father. Trembling, I dialed his phone number, anticipating the worst. But, amazingly, the man on the other end of the line didn’t tell me to take a hike.
I listened to the pain in his voice as this once-little boy described his dad as being unfaithful to his mother near the time I would have been conceived. During our phone conversation, perhaps my saving grace was that he seemed to have no doubt that I was his father’s daughter. I couldn’t have asked for him to be more cordial. Under such a difficult set of circumstances, I respected him for taking the time to talk with me, which is more than one could have ever expected.
Before hanging up, I told him about an upcoming trip I would be taking close to where he lived and left it open for us to possibly meet. I followed my daring words by saying, “I will understand if you change your mind.” He didn’t appear to have any reservations about talking to me one more time.
Victor was very happy for me to have made this connection with my father’s son. But my practical, caring friend who had much more life under his belt than I, then said, “You know, if this doesn’t pan out, we can still keep trying to find you a picture of your biological father.”
During my travels, it was also going to be the first time Victor and I would see each other face-to-face. Although from the goodness in his heart, I felt like I had already known him for years.
In the motel, I was getting ready to meet with my half-brother when the phone rang. Running to answer it, I was caught off-guard by the disappointing words, “I won’t be meeting with you today.” As if a curve ball hit me smack in the pit of my stomach, I barely had time to swallow while my father’s son continued with his relentless spiel. “I don’t want, by chance, for my mother to ever find out. And you are never to contact her,” he added.
Mouthing the word, “What?” I nodded yes with the receiver still up to my ear. Why did he think I’d ever talk to her in the first place, I wondered? It felt as if I were being scolded for a cruel joke that I would have never had the heart to play on anyone.
His voice trailed off as my father’s son then randomly mentioned, “There’s probably some kind of test to prove this.”
Although he left the door open that some day we may meet after his mother passes away, that was no consolation. Feeling as if there was nothing more that could hurt me, I asked him, “Can I please have a picture of your father?”
When he responded with a flat-out, “No,” I knew my chances were slim of him ever changing his mind.
With my tail between my legs, I mumbled, “I understand.” Our thirty-second ‘you talk, I listen’ conversation then ended abruptly.
Throwing myself onto the bed, I tried to hold back the tears. “Please God, how can I handle one more rejection?” I cried out. At that moment, I was sure that I was to blame for all the injustices in the world.
Closing my eyes, I replayed his unforgiving words over in my mind. Thinking to myself that I wanted to tell him how sorry I was for the intrusion; the phone started to ring again. Just maybe I would have that chance, I prayed. But, instead, it was my friend, Victor, checking on me. His timing was perfect. I was barely able to spill out the words, “He had a change of heart!”
When Victor said, “I will be right over; I am taking you out to lunch.”
We needed no introductions as I met him at his car. With such a comforting smile, I saw years of wisdom in this grey-haired, gentle man. I felt sheltered from life’s pain.
Looking over at him in the restaurant, I asked, “Why are you not my father?”
He appeared flattered by such a notion, but I knew by the pensive look on his face that he was searching for a way to take away my hurt.
After leaving no stone unturned in hopes of finding at least a picture of my birth father, Victor and I gradually lost touch over the years. I knew he would always be there for me if I needed him. Over time, our friendship continued with occasional hit-and-miss Christmas cards. However, one year, I unexpectedly received a special, thoughtful gift from Victor. It would turn out to be our last correspondence. Tucked inside a large white envelope addressed to me, was a calendar with black and white pictures of old stomping grounds, locations where he and my birth father had both lived and worked. Touching with my fingers months of timeless history, I could finally see a glimpse of a part of me—my father.
There was no way Victor could change how crushed and disappointed I felt as to the way things turned out with my father’s son and me. But what will always be close to my heart is how this kind old soul just listened without making any judgments, while I tried to let go of my regrets and sadness. It was a season in my life that I had most certainly needed, and had been blessed with, a true-to-the-test friendship. God certainly didn’t want me to “go this alone” as I desperately tried to find closure and healing. As once strangers, I believe it was more than destiny that briefly connected us.