This is going to be as much of a hard letter for you to read as it is for me to write. If you hadn’t already guessed by the name, it’s me – Allan. I’m your son and you are my biological father.
If you had asked me a few months ago whether I wanted to get in touch with you or not, I would have said, “No. I’m not interested in someone who has never been interested in my life.” In fact, if I’m honest with you, I’d go to the point of saying I was angry. The thought had never really played on my mind like it does with other people I seemed to see on TV or hear on the radio about how much they wanted to find their father – like they felt they were missing a part of themselves. I don’t feel that way at all. I’m an adult now and I could sit around wondering what life would had been like if you’d stuck around or I could get on with it. I chose the latter.
What changed my mind and why now? Okay, it sounds stupid but recently I was listening to a song by a country singer called Mary Gauthier. The song is called “March 11, 1962”. It’s the true story of a phone conversation she had with her birth mother who abandoned her at an orphanage and when she was 40, she decided to track her down. She called her. Her mother still didn’t want to know her because she was so ashamed of what she did, but Mary finishes the song by saying, “I guess I just had to thank you once before this short life goes by.”
And those words have been ticking in my head ever since. After I listened to that song, I burst into tears. It touched on a nerve that I didn’t know I’d been concealing all this time. I didn’t realise that there was any pain, curiosity or heartache in me about this issue and it turns out there was. I think I just repressed it all this time because there was no other choice for me. I didn’t allow myself to think about your existence because of how much more complicated it would have made life for mum, for my sister, for the person my mum married who I know as ‘dad’ – the new family we had built together. In many ways it still does, so you have to appreciate how much courage it took to post this letter.
I have to say this is one of the hardest things I’ve done. I spoke to mum about it and she didn’t seem to understand how difficult it was for me, but she told me to do whatever I had to do. I think it was something I had to do by myself as a grown man in order to put the past to rest and all those secrets and dark shadows over my life. I’m sure you have them too – I imagine you might have a new partner and you could have told them about your children that you don’t even know. I have no idea how that feels for you, or how you even feel about the subject. Perhaps you’ve kept the information to yourself to make life easier. Perhaps I even have half brothers and sisters I don’t know about. Whatever the case, I want to assure you that I don’t want anything from you and I have no expectations of what kind of relationship we will have.
I don’t even know if you know what it’s like growing up without your biological father – I can only tell you what I have experienced. From my perspective, I have very little idea about who you are or what you were like. Mum was very honest with me – she told me that the dad I had been living with was not my real dad when I was 5 years old. It was after a friend’s birthday party. I don’t think I really understood what she meant at the time but as I got older, it sunk in. Whenever I asked questions about you, the answers I would get in reply were very vague. “Do I look like him?” “No, not really.” “Where is he now?” “Oh, I don’t know – driving taxis and still living.” Mum only told me teeny bits of information from which I have a sketchy picture. I know you have a twin brother and a sister too… Mum also said you had a really creative, musical and intelligent family. Am I right in thinking your mum was a piano teacher? Perhaps I made that up…
Part of my anger stemmed from the fact that you weren’t there throughout my childhood, or even tried to have a minimal level of presence. No birthday cards, no calls, no help when I was down or at my worst… I turn 28 this month and to date there has been nothing. But now I understand that there is also awkwardness there: when something is left for such a long time, it’s more scary thinking about what would happen if you do do it rather than the consequences of what you will happen if you don’t. It becomes very easy ‘not to’ bother and then it just eventually fades away over time. As an adult, I can now say that whether you were scared of confronting the issue or whether you genuinely didn’t care, it doesn’t matter to me. The fact is that we have an unquestionable genetic link and to keep on going through life denying that you don’t exist to me is foolish. One thing I have never been is a coward and I think it’s finally time to confront an issue that has hung over me – as much as I have tried to pretend it didn’t exist for so long.
I want to say from the off that I’m not looking for a ‘sorry’ or to place blame on anyone. I’m not looking for any ‘answers’ from you or discuss what happened in the past. The past has passed now: neither you nor I can change what happened, so there’s no point in us trying to even broach that or talk about ifs and buts. Whatever happened between you and mum is none of my business and I’m sure you both had your reasons. Whatever happened after then is also your business. I can imagine having two kids at 21 was a really tough deal. I’m 28 years old now and I’m still not ready to settle down. Both you and mum were young – I do understand that. These things happen in relationships and I hope you don’t begrudge mum either. It has been such a long time that whatever happened, I’m sure it’s water under the bridge now. I’d look forward to meeting anyone you had built your life with and hope that they would embrace me equally too.
I am also not looking for any father replacement either. I have a dad who is the guy who brought me up and he can’t be replaced. It would be nice if we could develop some kind of friendship, though. I’m not expecting a gushing emotional reunion – I’m just looking to stop denying a part of my past that’s so fundamental to how I came to exist on this planet. I don’t even know if we’ll have a bond – we could be worlds apart. I think the most important thing is to banish all the cobwebs from the closet and… Who knows? Maybe we’ll learn to be friends or maybe we’ll decide to both walk away from it. Either way, the closure on this issue will be there.
I have no idea what your feelings are – perhaps you’d rather not know and you’d like to forget the whole thing, which I would totally understand. I have no judgements or expectations of you at all. But it would be a shame if when I’m 50, 60 and then you could be gone, we would never have known each other, never even spoke not even once. Even if we didn’t speak, what about your mother – my paternal grandmother? How would she feel? And then there’s the regret factor; that if it doesn’t happen – if one of us doesn’t have the courage to break the silence – we might both miss our chance. I didn’t think it would be me who would do it, though. I always wondered what I would do if you turned up unexpectedly or called me, as you have probably wondered 1000 times what it might be like to get a letter like this. Well, now you know. How does it feel?
I want you to know that I grew up to be a very wise, intelligent, creative and diplomatic man. I’ve lived in London for the past decade. I first moved down here when I was 18 to study my BA in Drama with a Psychology Minor and I graduated with a 2:1, and two years ago I graduated with merits in my Master of Arts degree in Contemporary Performance. For full time paid work, I’m a journalist and I write for a local magazine, though it’s always been my aspiration to be a musician/ performance artist/ playwright/ best-selling author/ [insert other ‘head in the clouds profession’ here]. I do perform across the UK a bit, mainly self-made theatre pieces.
You should also know that I’m gay. However you take that news, it’s just to avoid all the awkward conversations about marriage, kids, etc… There won’t be a white wedding (which even Mum has difficulties with). I hope you can accept this – I know learning all these things about someone you last saw as a baby is a lot to take in. But I’m not your stereotypical gay guy: I love indie and electro music (Bowie, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, MGMT, Bat for Lashes to name a few… Am mad on music), I play guitar and synths, I’m really well read and you would not catch me dead at a Kylie concert! Well, maybe if I'd had a few drinks...
I’m sure there is a lot more to say. If you never reply to this letter, it doesn’t matter so don’t feel pressured. I understand this is a huge bombshell. This is just my way of saying, “Hello, I’m fine and I’m alive.” More importantly, I’m saying I don’t hate you and I’m not a big bad scary beast who is going to dredge up horrible memories. Like I said, it’s not productive and it happened a long time ago now. Plus, if you ever did see me, you’d know that it’s not my style to dwell on things if there is a good time to be had. I’ve enclosed some photos of me so you can see how I turned out, as well as a card with my contact details on it. Feel free to drop me an e-mail (if you’re tech-savvy!) or you can write me back if you desire. Maybe we could have a pint next time I’m back (I believe it’s your round. Hahaha…).
There is no right or wrong thing to say in this situation. I’ve pushed all my old feelings aside to write this letter and now I think it’s time to stop hiding from the past and to confront whatever it is we’ve both been ignoring all these years. We’re both strangers to each other, I know that, so you don’t owe me anything. Nonetheless, we could be civil to each other and look back and say, “I don’t know what I was so scared of in the first place.” I would like to approach this as a positive, proactive experience rather than an emotional melodrama. If you’re feeling shocked or confused, then I say let’s just pretend we’re two old friends who haven’t seen each other in nearly 30 years and take it from there.
It would be good to hear from you, even if it is to say you would rather not maintain contact. I’m a big boy and I can take it. As long as you’re honest, I can’t fault you for that.
Take care and give all my best to your family.