My biological father died a few months ago.
The messy history of my parents’ divorce and subsequent battles is long, and not something I want to remember. It’s something I wanted to hide from my younger half-brother and sister for years, until my mother suggested that perhaps it would be better if they knew.
It was a throwaway line, here and there, when my sister was old enough to understand, about how her mother had been married to another man before, and they had had me.
I realised with each passing comment that my sister didn’t seem to care – it was her reality – and it didn’t change our relationship in the slightest. Outside of that, we didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want to. The issue disappeared from our minds, only rearing its ugly head every few months or so when the topic was unavoidable.
And then I was pregnant.
The thought of him knowing terrified me – just as much as it had done when my mother had fallen pregnant with my sister. I begged her to hide her swollen belly, convinced, in my very young years, that he would take her away like he did me.
I was paranoid that he would turn up on my doorstep, after all these years, expecting to see a child that – beyond his tenuous genetic links – he did not know. My fear was not unfounded – my parents to this day have never moved – and I had seen him drive by the house once when I was a teen.
If impending motherhood taught me one thing, it was that it wasn’t about me anymore – it was about my unborn child, and I couldn’t put him through what I had experienced.
In the end, my Step-Mother proved that it really wasn’t that difficult to find me.
I wish she hadn’t.
Her desire to let me know of his death wasn’t borne of some willingness to do the right thing, no. It was borne of resentment, bitterness and pain – a pain that makes people do horrible things. It only affirmed my conviction that removing both of them from my life was the best thing I could have done – for me, my son and the rest of my family.
But, after all of this, I keep coming back to the difficult question of whether I should tell my child – when he’s old enough – about the man who had been, biologically, my father. I don’t want to – that man is not the man who raised me, who queued at midnight to get me the latest Harry Potter, or wrote me a Valentine’s Day card each year and slipped it under my door. He didn’t take me to rugby games, or scold me when I did wrong, or dunk me in the sea as a terrible joke – no. The man I consider to be my “real” father is the man who adopted me when I was 14. He’s the man who’s loved my son from the moment he knew of him, and dotes on him like any grandfather would.
I know, one day, that it’ll be an unavoidable conversation – a painful recollection of half-forgotten memories, but I owe him that much. I owe him the truth.
I just hope he understands.