I don’t remember him. But based off the photos, he was tall, tan and hairy, with dark hair and a big 80′s mustache.
I’m assuming he’s the one I should thank for the brutal leg hair I’m forced to tackle with a razor on a daily basis.
He left when I was around two. Or, to be more accurate, my mother cut him out of my life for my own sake when I was two. She was only 19 when she had me and they were never married, but still, she decided to try and do it on her own after she gave him the ultimatum of your daughter or the drugs.
And for a long time, that’s all I had. Just little tidbits passed down to me from my mom. He was handsome. He did drugs. He had two sisters. His dad was a geologist. Since his last name was Noel (pronounced NOLE), they used to joke that I was the first Noel (pronounced like the song).
There was never any child support. No birthday cards. No letters. But as a kid, it didn’t matter. I had aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and a strong, loving mom. To be honest, I hardly noticed.
Although I did used to make up stories on the playground when my classmates asked me about him. He was a firefighter in California. Sailing on a ship around the world. One time, I even said he was dead, just to stop the questions.
But I got older, as children are wont to do. And I started searching.
I thought I had found his address when I was in college. I sent a letter. Within a week I got it back. Unopened. With a giant “Return to Sender” sticker.
In my early 20′s, I thought I had found his phone number after an online search while I was living in Texas. I called. The man on the other end was sympathetic but ultimately told me “Sorry, sweetie, I’m not him.”
And then this past fall, my husband found an obit for the grandfather I never knew. My father’s father. He had died in May. All the pieces were there. It was them. The family I never knew. And a quick Google search later, I finally had a phone number.
Not for him. But for his sister.
Surely she would want to know me. Dads leave all the time. Abandon their kids. Hell, without deadbeat dads, the stripping industry would crumble. But an aunt or an uncle…well, they love you unconditionally, right? At least, that’s the way it has always been in my case.
It took me four months to finally work up the courage to call. But curiosity and dreams of being welcomed with open arms as tears of joy ran down our faces finally got the best of me.
I got ahold of her husband, Al, who to his credit handled my somewhat bumbling story well. Hi, my name is Aprill Brandon. You don’t know me but I think your wife is my aunt. Her brother is my dad. And I’ve been searching a long time for any of you. Here’s my number.
He assured me he would pass on the message. And after we hung up, I sighed a sigh of relief that was 30 years in the making.
There was just so much I wanted to tell her. Or anyone in that family, for that matter. That I was prom queen. That I played sports and was in the top of my class. That I graduated college with honors and with two degrees. That I’m an award-winning journalist and columnist. That I had traveled the world and lived all over the country. That I married a wonderful man in a beautiful ceremony and who now works for the Boston Globe. That we’re thinking of having kids and that if my brother, our nieces and my cousin’s babies are any indication, they will be beautiful as well.
And so I waited.
It’s now been about three weeks. And the pain, I think, is worse than if it had been my father rejecting me. I’m used to him rejecting me.
But now I know that none of them really want to know me.
So, I guess the moral of the story is, it’s not always like it is in those cheesy “reunion” TV shows and even cheesier Hallmark movies. Sometimes you’re just a bastard.
Sometimes you’re just a black mark on the family record.
Throughout this process, demeaning and heart-wrenching as it has been, I keep asking myself, “Why am I even bothering?” There’s a million reasons, of course, the most personal being they’re my family and everyone should know their family and the most practical being I should know my family medical history.
But in the end, at least I did what I ultimately wanted to do, which was to let at least someone in that family know that I exist.
I exist and I turned out great.
So for now, I think I’m done searching.
Because with my mom’s family (going on 70 members strong now) and my husband’s family, who adopted me as their own right away, there are a whole hell of a lot of people in this world that know I exist.
And that I turned out great.