My Biological Father.
When I was almost 3 years old, my biological father went to prison. He was convicted as a child molester. Wow. I said it. It's a story that I share bits and pieces of because the entire story isn't mine to tell. Not sure if that makes sense but there are so many moving parts to a story like that and someday I hope to be at peace with all of the truths and share it with the world. So this blog isn't about what my biological father did to hurt people. It's a blog about strength, perseverance, the unbreakable bond between a brother and a sister and how to overcome VICTIM mentality and step into survival.
I'm going to skip ahead 10 years. My mother had made a very tough decision to move us to a new small town from the city. The city we were growing up in wasn't showing much promise for our future. I'm not knocking that city at all, I still have amazing friends there that are thriving, but for us... it wasn't it. I remember being so nervous on my first day of 8th grade to walk into a school that was full of new kids. My anxiety was quickly calmed as I met friendly faces that would eventually become my life long friends. When I was put into my classroom my last name was listed as the top of the alphabet. Starting with A. You know how that goes... attendance, your first. I went home full of hope and excited to return! My second day, that was a different story. I remember being called into the guidance counselors office and learning that my last name, was in fact, not what I thought it was. It was Yates. The COMPLETE opposite letter of the alphabet. All of the friends I had met the day before, now thought my last name was something false.
That day was the day that I found out about my father. At 13 years old I can remember sitting in my brothers bedroom listening to the gut wrenching story my mother had tried to protect me from my entire life. I understand why she gave us a different last name, but never legally changed it. She did it to protect us from a man that didn't deserve us in his life. It was one of those ugly cries that didn't stop. I'm talking, I had foam in my throat because I just couldn't stop crying. It was tough, but I truly believe that day started to shape me into the woman I am today. Some people may wonder why my mom held that for so long, but to me, I couldn't be more grateful. I got to have a childhood that was NORMAL, not one that had a stigma attached to it. And at 13 years old, I could process the story of my biological father. I'll always be grateful my mom chose to wait to tell me that story and protect my innocence.
Let's skip ahead another 6 years. Because, again, a lot of this story isn't mine to tell. And I refuse to let a man who caused so much hurt allow any more. I was 19 years old and my brother was living in Florida at the time. We had been apart for a few years. I had just moved home from California and I was concerned. You see, Alan didn't handle everything as well as I did when it came to my biological father. He is a boy. A boy needs a dad. Not always the father that created him but a male figure. Alan always lacked that, for one reason or another. Again, not my story to tell. But what I did know, as his sister, is that he needed closure about the man that created us. My brother and I have always been best friends. Not matter what happens in life or where it takes us, we are each others constants. I actually just called him for permission to share this. Because when it comes to this story, we share it. And we made a pact a LONG time ago that anything involving this story, we would make decisions together. So came the day that I met my biological father.
Now this was no easy task. This was before the days of easy access to find a person. I didn't have a cell phone or a computer so I had to do this the hard way. I felt like life was time sensitive at the moment because of how my brother was struggling. I needed him to know that meeting a man didn't define his life and that it also wasn't an excuse he could carry anymore. There is only one life we are given and I was damned if I was going to let him waste it. So I went to my public library and started searching. I knew my fathers name and I knew that he lived in Massachusetts. I asked for access to MA phone books and was shown into a room. I can still remember the smell of the stale phonebooks. A cross between an old book and a musty basement. I got to work. I hand wrote every single person with the last name Yates onto a yellow legal pad. There were dozens.
I lived with my friend and her family at the time and that night we sat there and dialed every single number. "Hi, my name is Kelly and I'm calling to see if you know Mr. Yates" (leaving his name out of this) I got no after no after no. Until the next to last phone call. "Kelly, is that really you?" a woman's voice answered. "This is a prayer answered! I can't believe after all this time!" As a 19 year old girl, it was almost everything you wanted to hear.
In the days that followed I learned that I had reached his second wife, and that he was now married for a third time to a wonderful woman (in her words) and has two step children. And that he was living 20 minutes from where I stood on that phone call. I now had a decision to make. Was I really going to go through with this? Was I going to throw my world upside down? Was my brother going to heal from this or break even further? Talk about a life changing moment. I felt this immense responsibility. And for the first time, I didn't stick to our pact. I decided to meet my father first. I didn't make this decision lightly. But I needed to know what kind of environment I was going to be walking into. And boy was it NOT what I thought it would be.
I dialed the 7 numbers and when the other end picked up my stomach dropped to a different realm. It was him. The man I never wanted to meet. We talked for what felt like forever and we made plans to meet. And right away, he told me... It wasn't true. All of it was a lie and he wasn't the monster that I was told he was. I think in that moment I was a small, little girl, who never had a daddy and believed that. In the moths to come, I'd quickly learn that was a lie. Monsters do exist, and a mothers instinct is always right... trust me on that one.
I bought my brother a plane ticket and flew him home from Kissimmee, Florida and had somewhat of a home coming. We met the man that was never there and spent a few months trying to build a relationship with him and that side of the family. A relationship that this universe had told us time and time again wasn't meant to be. I'm still grateful for the experience, and maybe the details of those few moths are for another blog but I know what DID come out of it. The strength of my family. It was in those days that my brother fell in love with his now wife. I remember the day I met her. She came up the driveway I was washing my car in and was holding the cutest baby boy I had ever seen. Her smile was as big as it is to this day and when she left that day, I told my brother she was the one. I met my cousin, Mark. Who to this day is one of my favorite people on the planet. We get to raise our babies together who are around the same age! It's amazing how the universe brought us back together after so many years apart.
What I didn't leave with, was a father. I never knew what it was like to go to a Daddy/Daughter dance. Or to be a Daddy's girl. But in this experience, I learned I didn't need it. I always had it. Between my mother who played both roles and my brother who has always been my protector. I was blessed all along.
A few years later I was driving on my way to work when I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. It was my cousin. He called to tell me that my biological father got 6 months. The first thing that came to my mind was... "in prison"? But it wasn't that at all. The man had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer and wouldn't survive. I wasn't sure how I was going to process that information. And I probably seemed cold on the other end when I simply said, "Ok, thanks for letting me know." My cousin grew up with an uncle that he loved and a different story than the one that I lived. To me, I almost felt a wave of relief.
My cousin was the same person to deliver the news of his passing. It honestly took me by surprise. I had forgotten our previous phone call and wasn't exactly prepping myself for his passing. I was standing on a porch of a house that I was sitting. I can envision it to this day. They had such a gorgeous coy pond, and I went to sit by it. Just listened to the sound of nature around me and let it settle in. That chapter of my life was... officially closed. It was over. I didn't have to carry that story with me any more. But I needed to tell my brother. I think his reaction was the same as mine. And together we decided that we would attend the funeral so that we could have complete closure of this part of our life together.
My sister in law was pregnant with my niece when we showed up at the funeral. I remember being so nervous, yet so angry at the same time. It was an odd mix of emotions when you throw a touch of relief in there. The gentlemen that was giving the service came up to Alan and I. He held my hand, looked me in the eye and said... "Your father was a good man, he loved you." What happened next, I'll NEVER forget. That same man, turned from our conversation, walked up to the altar, and spoke these words... "(Insert my biological fathers name here) was a loving husband to _____, A loving father to (insert his step children's names here), a brother, uncle and son." I. Couldn't. Believe. It. Here we were. STANDING in the back of the room, and not a mention of our existence. Nothing.
I immediately looked at my brother and said... "You good?" and he said "Yup!" and out we went. And never, not once, looked back.
That was 13 years ago. In that time my life has taken a DRAMATIC turn for the better. I never would wish someone dead. But when that news came, it was a relief. There, I said it. I know that plenty of people grieved that mans loss, and I respect that. But that was something I watched my mother carry for 25 years. I watched my brother struggle in life because of someone else's choices. I know that there is someone out there that is a survivor of his abuse. I don't know them, but I wish I did. I wish I could give them the gift of the mentality that I have. I would love to tell them that they aren't alone. I wish I could give that piece of life back to them.
I'll forever be grateful for that season of my life. It taught me a lot about life. Instead of walking away from it with anger, I chose joy. Instead of being a walking statistic, I learned what to allow into my life and what not to. I learned that family is everything and even though mine is small, it is mighty. I learned I don't have to shut out the world in fear of them knowing my story. I learned that my voice is a powerful one and if it can reach ONE person then I was meant to walk through that season.
I'll live my life giving my boys a different story. I hope that they experience life in the way the universe has it set up for them. It's ok if there is pain and heartbreak. My heart is big enough to help heal theirs if they need it. I'll protect them without hindering them. And I'll love them with my whole heart. The fact that they have a home with two loving parents in it is all I could have ever imagined.
Love and Light,
p.s. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time that they are 18. 90% of the time they know their abuser. This statistic is only from documented cases which means the survivor had to be brave enough to speak up. Having an open dialougue with your kids is key in communication. For tips on how to do that visit www.defendinnocence.org.
If you, yourself, are a survivor and are reading this, consider visiting www.youniquefoundation.org to start your journey of hope and healing.