Thank you to all those who commented here or sent emails expressing sympathy at the passing of my birthfather. In some ways, this has been even more difficult than when my adoptive father passed away in 2005.
Although I loved my adoptive father, sadly he was from a very unhealthy family, and was an alcoholic who battled many demons. Although I have some very warm memories of him in my younger years, as I grew older, his inability to relate in any healthy way left a big void in my life. This brought predictable consequences in many ways. Eventually, as an adult, I sought my own healing and was able to feel compassion towards my father and the brokenness of his life. I loved him, but due to the circumstances, was never able to have anything more than a superficial relationship with him. Although I know in his own way, and to the best of his ability, my father loved me, not once in my life did he ever tell me so. I was sad and grieved when he died, but what I mourned most was the loss of not ever having a real relationship with him.
In contrast, I first met my birthfather 21 years ago this month. The first time he flew my husband and me to Denver (not where he lived) to meet him, we had never even spoken or corresponded. Everything had been arranged and communicated through my birthmother. After we arrived at the hotel, he called the room to see if I was ready to come meet him. In my mind, I was meeting a total stranger and expected to shake his hand and say, “Nice to meet you.” But surprisingly, as soon as I saw him, my heart said, “Daddy!” and I gave him a big hug. And not long into getting to know him, I came to realize that the emotional and demonstrative side of me, that didn’t quite fit with my adoptive parents’ personalities, found its home in him.
Although I can count on one hand the number of times we met in person these past 21 years, those episodes are burned into my memory. In addition, we had countless phone and internet conversations on a regular, sometimes weekly basis. He always sent beautiful birthday and Christmas cards. My birthfather was generous with praise and affection for me, two things I never received from my adoptive father. Obviously, due to his family circumstances, our relationship was less than ideal, but I am still so grateful for the time that I was able to spend knowing him, learning about his life, and discovering some of my personality traits that came from him.
On one of the first visits with him, he took me to my first performance of “The Phantom of the Opera.” (I’ve since come to love this musical, not only for its haunting melodies, but it’s deep, spiritual symbolism.) Sometime later, he sent me a “Phantom” musical snow globe as a gift, and we both felt the song, “Think Of Me,” was a poignant reflection of our relationship. I remember after one visit with him, coming home and listening to it over and over. Below is a rendition with the lyrics (and even more ironic, my birthmother once told me she thought of naming me Christina!)
As hard as it is to lose another parent, I count myself very fortunate. For although I’ve always considered the ones who raised me to be my “real” parents, I’ve been doubly blessed to have been given, as my birthmother affectionately calls it, “A pair and a spare.” The fact that I’ve suffered more loss, just means I’ve had more love in my life – and for that I am truly grateful.