The Disowned Devil

Things have been crazy weird lately and I’m not really sure which end is up and which is down. I wrote about finding my biological father’s family in my blog, but on Facebook, I only had said that I met family I’d never known before from my biological father’s side and that I have older siblings. The other night, I received an intense phone call from my grandmother (my mother’s mother). I was answering a call from the high school at the same time as she was calling, so initially it went straight to voicemail. Because I detest listening to voicemails, my recorded message requests that callers hang up and text me.

The voicemail she left started off with her sternly saying, “I will NOT text you. . .” and I knew immediately that things were headed downhill.

“I am SO upset with you right now over this taking up with that puke bastard’s offspring. I wonder if all of them are legal, and if any other people out there have been raped by him. I am FURIOUS.”

Tears instantly sprang to my eyes as I felt the blood drain from my face. I knew there had to be some kind of fallout somewhere from all of this and it looked like I’d found it. I didn’t want to have any confrontation at all, but I didn’t want to disrespect my grandmother by not calling back either. I took a deep breath and redialed.

She began to yell as soon as she answered. She was upset for all that my mother has gone through. She talked about “her baby” and all the bad that she had endured. I tried to defend myself. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking for a relationship with my father (which is impossible even if I was since he is deceased). I tried to explain how I just wanted information and I didn’t set out to have a relationship with anyone. She didn’t care what I had to say and told me that I have to choose—either them or her.

My grandmother mocked me crying, refused to listen to what I had to say, and then told me, “You know, Niki, you have to think of someone other than yourself for once in your life.”

That touched a nerve. It is very much in me to care about others around me. It is very much in my nature to bend over backwards for others, and I would give the shirt off my back to a stranger if need be. To be told I’m so selfish and need to stop thinking about myself was a slap in the face. On top of just who I am in general, I had agonized over all of this for all involved. I didn’t want to step on my mother’s toes. I haven’t wanted to step on my new siblings toes. I haven’t wanted to stir up negativity. I have spent hours thinking and worrying about it all, thinking about everyone, and thinking about everyone’s feelings.

I ended the phone call there. There was clearly going to be nothing positive from continuing to talk and I was no longer in control of my emotions either. I cried. Hard. During the conversation, my grandmother claimed that my siblings couldn’t be good—they come from the Devil. She refused to acknowledge that they had not done anything at all personally against my mom or anyone else involved. I felt defensive on their behalf, but even more, I felt stunned because if they are bad simply because of their DNA, I must be bad too. I’m his child too. Am I the Devil???

Then, things got even worse when I got on Facebook and saw that my grandmother had commented on the status about finding my siblings. My original post had said, “. . . Most people don’t know that I’ve never known my biological father and that while all the surrounding details aren’t public business, I can say that my heart is truly happy to have found that I have 2 brothers and a sister. . .”

My grandmother commented, “And if all the details were made public who would be so proud. I used to be your grandmother but you go with that new family now and leave me out of your life.”

I was so embarrassed and hurt. That comment had been there for 30 minutes before I saw and deleted it. I didn’t want to delete her from my profile because I was hoping she would just be temporarily upset and would calm down. I’m also not a fan of social media drama and deleting and re-adding people. Less than an hour later though, another comment appeared, “You can go with that my granddaughter but cross me off the list of your family. You know why.”

Again, I deleted the comment and cried some more. I then shared a poem I’d written about being a strong woman, and she then commented beneath that saying, “Bull.”

What was I supposed to do? My own flesh and blood was angry at me. I never in my life thought I could do anything to make my family disown me. Isn’t a parent’s (and grandparent’s) love supposed to be unconditional?

When I was finally feeling like I was starting to recover from the crazy emotional roller coaster of all of this, this event set me reeling again.

I don’t know what is going to happen from here. I don’t know that my grandmother will ever forgive me (even though I feel I’ve done nothing wrong). What I do know though is that I’m going to just continue on with my life. I’ll keep going to work every day, parenting my children every day, and just living life every day with some faith and hope that everything will be just fine. I also will continue on knowing that I am indeed a strong woman, and all of this will be all right.

*Update: A few months ago, I received a call from my grandmother. She had apparently started to worry that some health problems were maybe going to take her life, and she feared that she could suddenly die with my thinking she hated me. She called to tell me she loves me and that nothing I could ever do would make her not love me. We’ve only talked once since and my heart still feels like it is recovering from this event, but I am grateful to know that she is not standing by her original “we’re no longer family” stance.*

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Feeling Raw

I feel pretty raw lately. I’ve been trying so hard to climb out of the funk I’ve been in, but I seem to only be sliding further down into it. I feel lonely. I feel misunderstood. I feel like I’m the source of others’ frustrations. I feel like I’m not supported. I feel stretched thin. And did I mention I feel lonely?

This funk has been tough on those around me. I would say it’s also probably accurate that it’s pushed others away. I feel so lost and unsure of how to find myself again. I have been living a hard life for a long time and while it’s hard, I think that people tend to continue with what is hard because it is familiar and change is hard too. It’s hard and scary.

Sometimes all I want is for those closest to me to hug me tight and just remind me of their love and support. Lately, that seems to be in short supply, and the more I want it, the more I notice the absence of it. I just want to feel connected to others. I want to feel that I truly matter. I want to know that someone looks at my face and thinks, “Gosh, I sure am lucky to have her in my life.” I want these things because at the moment, I just feel like life is slapping me across the face every time I turn around.

I need to figure out what to do to help me. I have to figure out what changes need to be made and figure out a plan for them. I have to figure out how to let go of the negative forces—whatever they may be. And mostly, I have to figure out how not to forget that no matter who has let me down or hurt me, that’s not my fault and doesn’t affect my worth. I ~am~ worthy.

Her Rapist’s Eyes

***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.****

I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.

There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.

Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.

Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line, but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back; therefore, if I lost my original and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity.

After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would I be shunned? Would he ever face me? What if………?

When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. 13 years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigation company to find him. I gave them the details I did have, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links  of his 3 children, and the phone number for his youngest child.

I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:

“Hello, XXXX,

I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sister. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX..

Thank you.”

I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.

Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).

“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXXX’s daughter.”

There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.

“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”

“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”

I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.

I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised, He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.

I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.

We talked for 30 minutes and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape, and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.

That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.

***

In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her. Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.

Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still does, and it will matter the rest of my life.

Through all of this though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she loved me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.

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Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.

Connectedness

How have we as a society lost the connection with others so much while we also live in the time of convenience to be connected? We have phone calls, texting, email, instant messenger, Facebook, and a variety of other forms of social media—and yet, we seem to be less social than ever before. How is it that there are people on my Facebook friend list that would also walk by me as if I was a stranger in the grocery store? I feel like we are headed downhill as far as personal connections go and I’m often just as guilty as the next person. I tell people I miss them, I say we should get together and hangout soon, and then I often don’t follow through and actually make plans.

I woke up thinking about this stuff this morning. I think that as soon as my feet were hitting the floor, my mind was going 90 MPH thinking about such deep subject matter. I don’t know where it came from or even why really, I just suddenly felt like I should be talking about something real on Facebook. My feed every day is filled with selfies, memes, people complaining, and other content that lacks in substance. If we are going to be so “connected” through social media, I want to be as connected as possible with realness. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people post pictures of their families and share happy or funny memes, but there’s only so many pictures of people’s dinners, vain selfies, and Vaguebooker statuses I can handle before thinking that Facebook is really only a tool for narcissism and not a tool of connectivity.

Let me give an example of my own personal needs. Last night I had to do a quick run to Walmart for a few things before I could make dinner. I was a little stressed and in a big hurry, but as I was waiting to check out, I saw a Facebook friend of mine. I know that she works, goes to college, has a handful of children, and has many busy similarities to my life. She looked like she was in a hurry too and probably had a lot on her mind. But you know what she did? She walked over to me. She said hello, she asked how I am, and she hugged me. While to many, this may not seem like a big deal, to me it absolutely was! She could have just walked by and gotten away with a wave as she passed and I wouldn’t have judged her at all. We are busy. But the fact that she took that moment to personally say hello and to reach out and hug me had an impact. It made me feel good. I loved that she cared enough to make that personal connection, especially when I know her and her family have been going through so much lately that no one could blame her if she’d just kept walking. It made me truly realize just how much I don’t just want personal time with my friends and loved ones, my heart ~needs~ that.

I don’t want to ramble forever here, I just wanted to share some of those thoughts. Normally I would put this into a blog, but my blog is fairly anonymous and I wanted those “around” me to read this and know these thoughts. If nothing else, can y’all do me a favor? Reach out to at least one person this weekend, stop by and have a cup of coffee, make time for a backyard BBQ, or call someone you love that isn’t nearby. Do something. Just please make a personal connection that has nothing to do with Facebook or any other social media. If even just one of you does that, that will make my heart happy.   

**This was adapted from a long Facebook post I wrote a few months ago. I left it unedited because I felt it should be whole for y’all to really understand, even though my blog is no longer anonymous like this post states.**