Last week, I did something that I have been thinking about for about 10 years now. I wrote a letter. Actually, that's not accurate, I wrote the letter about a year ago, and its been sitting on my hard drive since then. Last week I mailed a letter.
Now I mail about 5 letters a day. Most go priority post, and most are to parties to a file I am working on. Thankfully, the government pays the Canada Post bill. :) This letter was different. This letter was to my biological father.
I've never met the man. He and my mother separated when I was about a year old. He's never had any contact with me, never made any effort to see me, call me or get in touch. But, having been on the flip side of that particular equation, I know just how difficult it can be, and how much pain it can cause to dig up old wounds, to talk about long buried or repressed feelings. How hard it can be to love someone without ever knowing that person.
I am not sure what I was expecting. I think I sort of assumed that my letter, which was a fairly impersonal one, asking only if he was interested in corresponding, would be received with a bit of surprise, followed up with a short letter saying either yes or no. I think I was maybe setting myself up to hear the no part... its my particular jaded worldview coming to the fore, as well as a history of bad relations with the majority of my family.
Last night, I got an email. I get lots of them. But this one was from him. In it he told me that he'd been hoping for years that I would contact him. Hoping that those wounds might one day be given a chance to heal. He told me that he'd been crying and shaking since he got my letter, and that the only reason he'd emailed me rather than calling me was because he didn't think he'd be understandable through all the tears. He wrote that there had always been a hole in his life...
Not what I was expecting.
I am so taken aback that I actually have no idea how to respond. I don't know what to think, let alone what to say or do. Here's a man, my biological father, who wants to be in my life in some way. I invited him. And now I don't know if I want to open that door or not. Of course, its too late now... the door is open. But I don't know what happens next. I don't know how to feel about this.
Part of me is excited. Since my family and I rarely talk (I haven't spoken to either brother in years, and my mom and I talk maybe once a year, though not at all in the last 12 months) I don't have much of a model for family communications. My wife's model really doesn't work with me at all... her family is so involved in each other's lives, so close, so open with each other, that its kinda like watching an alien species at times. I really have no framework to understand how they click. They are great people, and her mom and dad are two of the best people I know, but they just confuse the shit out of me at times.
I know how to deal with my family. Its easy. You just pretend they don't exist.
But now this man exists. He is interested in getting to know me. He's family in a way that I am having trouble grasping - he's part of me in a way that I can't recognize.
There really ought to be instruction manuals for human relations.