L-R - My sister Jolynn, our bio dad JB, me, my sister Chris, my brother Patrick, and my husband photo bombing our cute family photo. 8/15
I had heard nothing good about my birth father. I knew his first name, knew that he was Swedish, but in all honesty, that was all the information I had that wasn't laced with some sort of anger and pain. He and my birth mother had three children together and kept one - my biological brother, P.
My birth mother, J, had said she wanted to keep my sister but asked me, over the phone, in tears, if I had ever seen or read "Sophie's Choice", and that was why my sister had been adopted. The story she told was devastating. My birth father, J.B, had threatened to throw my brother off a bridge if she didn't give up the new baby.
One night nearly two years ago, I was finally able to summon the energy to give him a phone call. My sister had sent me his phone number in a Facebook IM with a simple message that said, essentially, that he would like to get to know me too, when I was ready.
A girl's first love is supposed to be her father. My relationship with my dad has always been fraught with conflict. He's a realist, I'm a dreamer. He is a far right conservative Christian who proudly voted for Trump and loves Fox News. He is a complete neat freak who wants things just so.
That's not me. I'm a liberal Christian who followed my proudly Democratic maternal grandmother's footsteps. I live in a constant state of chaos and clutter, avoid cable news like the plague, and consider Donald Trump to be a festering sore on America's rear end that we'll be stuck dealing with for at least the next four years.
The only thing we have in common is our faith and our taste in music. I cut my teeth on Dad's LPs of Simon and Garfunkel, CCR, and BS&T.
When I reached out to J.B that cold night in late January of 2015, I was scared to death. I left a rambling, disjointed message saying who I was, leaving my number so that he could call me back, ending with "go Seahawks!" because I had no idea what else to say.
I wanted to have that kind of father-daughter connection with him that I didn't have with my own dad.
I wanted him to be patient and understanding.
I wanted him not to be the kind of person who bragged about his sons when bumping into a high school friend at a pizza parlor but completely ignored his daughter.
I wanted him not to be the kind of person who talked loudly over the phone about my "FLIPPED FINGERS", an OBVIOUS sign of the MILD CEREBRAL PALSY I'd been born with.
I wanted him not to be the kind of person who would threaten to put me into a group home because my apartment wasn't clean enough for his specific standards.
I wanted him to think that I was amazing and wonderful despite the fact I'd been broken time and time again by a well meaning but domineering and condescending father, glued together by my mother's soft words until my father broke me again. And again. And again.
And with all those thoughts bouncing around in my brain like popcorn kernels in a hot pan, I drove to Trader Joe's and bought a cookie butter cheesecake.
And I texted a friend from the Trader Joe's parking lot. "OMG I just called my bio-dad and I am freaking out right now."
When I got home, the voice mail icon was on my phone screen and I knew that he'd called me back. Hysterically, I hurried into the house, frantically put away my groceries, shoved the cheesecake I'd just bought into the freezer, babbled some nonsense to my husband, and listened to the voice message.
He sounded nice. Kind. Not at all like the red-eyed cartoon monster I had envisioned due to J's dramatic story about my brother and the bridge.
I called him back. We talked like old friends for half an hour, and he told me about his life - three kids with J, an older daughter, twice married, once divorced. He'd retired from the mill at Pend Oreille and when he got bored, began working on cars. Chevys. He told me a delightful story about his older sister from Arizona tearing around town in a red convertible he'd fixed up.
"Just like the little old lady from Pasadena," I laughed in delight. I couldn't wait to meet that aunt. She sounded like a fireball, full of piss and vinegar.
We met on March 1st in Washington State. I'd flown in for my best friend's wedding - I was maid of honor. He was exactly the way I hoped he would be - kind-hearted, funny, caring. Over the loudly raucous dinner table at Tomato Street, he shared stories with us about the only time he called out of work, and the time he did what is now known affectionately in family lore as "pulling a JB" on a broken fridge Sears was replacing.
I was scared to death that he wouldn't want to be a part of my life, because of my own baggage of self doubt and insecurity. I wanted him to accept me for who I was.
And he did.
And that night, as my parents waited in the parking lot of the restaurant, listening to music in their car, he thanked them for doing such a wonderful job raising me.
All my quirks and flaws didn't matter. The only thing that mattered at that moment in time is that not only had I accepted him, he had accepted me.
I wasn't afraid anymore.