Nothing and Everything
You knew, but you didn’t. You suspected something was off - you were somehow different from the others. You joked about being the milkman’s daughter. They said you were crazy, and you learned not to trust your intuition. Self-doubt became your companion even as you grew older.
Then, you got the news.
And suddenly all the pieces came together.
I discovered my father was not my biological father the day after my mother died, a week shy of her 90th birthday. There were clues along the way that I missed, or ignored, but she was determined to take this story to her grave and she succeeded, at least with me. But everyone else knew; my father, my two brothers and one sister, my stepfather, my aunts, my childhood best friend, probably even the family dog knew but no one knew how to tell me the truth about my mother’s secret. I was a love child. The product of a longstanding relationship with a man my mother loved but to whom she was not married. Scandal.
When my family finally confessed the truth, I was sitting on the living room floor of my mother’s house in Arizona, but I swear that floor dropped 1000 feet from under me. I was dizzy. Disoriented. Confused. On some level I had always known, but this confirmation of the truth left me reeling. It’s been over a year since the discovery, and I’m still dizzy. Disoriented. Confused. How can I be this old and suddenly be at a total loss for who I am?
So many NPE’s (those who experience a Non Parental Event) do not make this discovery until they are in their 50’s and older. We are children of a generation that kept such things hidden. We are members of a club that we never wanted to join and the secret hand-shakes we share are the commonalities known only to us: the things that others say. “It hasn’t changed anything.” “You are still the same person.” “Your father is still your father.”
Yes, and no.
Some of us discover new things about ourselves…new siblings, new ethnicities and heritage. And then there is the issue of Nature vs. Nurture. What talents might we have that come from fathers we never knew?
I discovered that my biological father was a painter and so I picked up a brush for the very first time in my life and found that I too have his artistic talent. I still look at my paintings with shock, amazed that this gift I never dreamt existed only now lives because my world was shattered.
I also look exactly like my biological father.
The nose that was a family anomaly is now explained, because it is his nose. My temperament, so different from those of the siblings I grew up with, is his temperament. It makes sense.
And nothing makes sense.
It’s hard for me to believe that at my age I am questioning who I am, but I do. I still struggle with the betrayal of keeping such important piece of my being from me. I hate that I feel like a dirty little secret, a bastard. I cannot stop mourning never knowing the man who was my father, who loved me and passed on so many pieces of himself on through me. And it is hard to mourn not only the passing of my mother and my father, but to also mourn the loss of the man whom I thought was my father AS my father. It was too much to lose in one moment on the living room floor of a house in Arizona.
I have found that the only people who really understand this unique heartbreak are the ones who are also going through it themselves. Friends and family will try to understand, but it’s incomprehensible to them. Be patient with them. Be patient with yourself. You are becoming who you were always meant to be. There will be growing pains, but we who also walk this strange path, will be right beside you.
Nothing has changed. Only everything.