“Oh my god” I say, without meaning to. I drag the two photos side by side to compare. One is a copy of the photo my mother gave me – labeled ‘bio.dad’ on my computer. The other is the college graduation photo I’ve just found. Both were probably taken within a year of each other, and both are of the same man – or at least I think they are. Doubt still clings to me as I examine the identical eyes, lips, and chin of both photos. Did that really just happen? Did I actually just find my father? After 43 years of mystery, my brain is struggling with this massive shift.
I call downstairs to David but the house is silent. He must be in his office with a client so I send him an urgent text. My mind is whirling and I’m walking in circles by the time he comes up the stairs. I need him to confirm I’m not crazy – that this really is him. He hunches over and peers into the soft blue glow of the computer screen, but my excitement turns to annoyance as soon as he begins speaking. He’s decided to be helpful by blathering on and on about military style facial identification, oblivious to my irritation. So you see here… look at the ear, and the way it curves around, blah blah blah…
“Are you kidding me??!! I don’t need to be wowed by your expertise right now!!! Just tell me it looks like him before I lose my fucking mind!!!”
I’m only screaming on the inside. In reality, I form a more polite request and get the confirmation I need. He hugs me sweetly, but is strangely non-chalante – it’s one of his Asperger-ish quirks. He rarely shows excitement about anything. It’s maddening – especially at Christmas.
He returns to work and I’m left alone, freaking out more with each passing minute. Still pacing around the room, I text my oldest daughter and tell her I’ve found her grandfather. Of course she wonders what the hell I’m on about. She already has a grandfather on her Dad’s side and knows exactly where he is. Her response is just as unsatisfying as David’s. As I try to clear the confusion with frantic fingers jabbing the telephone, my middle child calls from a friend’s house where she’s spent the night. I breathlessly answer and tell her the news. The most excitable of my three children, she explodes with teenage glee as she relays the information to her friend. Both their voices ring in gratifying enthusiasm on the other end of the line.
I need to tell my siblings (or half siblings, as other people would call them). But most of all, I need to tell to my brother. He was given up for adoption before I was born and I didn’t meet him until I was 19. He’s the only one who will understand what this means to me. I open a chat box, type in the news, then haunt Facebook impatiently until my brother’s response appears. He’s skeptical. “How can you be sure?”, he asks, so I attach the two photos and click ENTER. This response is immediate. “OMG. You found him”.
I tell him my father is a musician just like me, and that I look like my grandmother. He reminisces about when we met for the first time, and the chat box trail grows long with our excited back and forth. Of course he wants to know if I’m going to contact my father – it’s what everyone is asking. “No, I’m not ready for that”, I say. But the truth is, I’m dying to know him.
My youngest daughter wakes and I tell her the news. My two younger children lost their father when they were little, and I watch her reaction closely as we look through my father’s Facebook page together. She’s now seeing all the photos I’ve already pored over. She clicks on a video, and for 47 seconds we’re transported through this little magic window. We see him play with his dogs, laugh with his wife, and hear how he speaks. We are spellbound. He doesn’t know his daughter and grand-daughter are watching him. He doesn’t even know we exist. My daughter looks up at me, eyes wide and face lit with awe – still trying to process all this. “Oh my god mom…” she says. “That’s your DAD!”