I must start this post off with an apology to my readers. I am sorry I left you hanging two years ago with the post, I'm Leaving On a Jet Plane which chronicled my nerves about flying out to meet my birth father and his extended family for the first time. I even promised an article, post-visit, but shortly after I took what turned out to be a two year hiatus from my blog.
So, here it is. My very much overdue recount of that trip.....
My Mom was awesome and went with me so I didn't have to go by myself. Also, she wanted to thank them for giving her the opportunity to raise me, which she got a chance to do. My nerves were heightened as we touched down on the tarmac, and I admit to popping into the bathroom for about five minutes to take a deep breath and steady my nerves before exiting the security area.
My Birth Father and his Mom were coming to pick us up. They were running a bit late and I was strung as tight as a drum by the time they arrived. But, amazingly, the minute I spotted them, I knew it was them. I will be completely honest, I knew he was a combat war veteran but I was still taken a back a little when I met him. In many ways he is literally held together by steel bars and screws. While something I hardly even notice anymore, I was thrown off guard initially. (This reaction is important to the following events).
They asked if we wanted to grab something to eat and we stopped at a little local restaurant for a late breakfast/ early lunch. We sat there talking and getting know each other. The conversation was easy, but it was obvious all four of us were nervous and hoping the visit went well. My birth dad was obviously feeling self-conscious about my initial reaction to his appearance because he was trying to explain how he obtained all of his injuries. Because he was excited and nervous he was doing so fairly loudly and periodically his Mom would lean over and ask him to bring the volume down.
I don't remember all the exact details, but he was talking about various combat scenarios he had been in and all the places he had been stabbed or shot. In describing all of his military missions, including the people he had killed and the many times he came close to dying, somehow the conversation turned to a time when he and a date walked out of a McDonald's moments before it was "shot up." At this point his Mom put a hand on his knee and mentioned that he might want to turn the volume down and change topics. So, the conversation went back to other things and the meal continued.
Then suddenly two cops show up and approach our table. They escort my Birth Dad out to the parking lot and start talking to him. My Birth Grandmother was horrified and tried to go talk to them but they asked her to remain in the restaurant. After about 15 tense minutes (and my vaguely wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), they finished searching him and came in apologized to us. They explained that someone in the restaurant had called 911 and said that someone was bragging about murders he had committed and was planning to shoot up the place. My Birth Dad then said to the policemen, "I think you owe her an apology. This is my daughter and I am just meeting her for the first time. Thanks for helping me make a great impression."
After this I could tell they were both extremely anxious as to how my Mom and I were going to react, but quickly relaxed when it became obvious that we thought it was pretty funny. Here we were, less than 90 minutes into meeting for the first time, and already the cops have shown up. It turned out to be a fantastic ice breaker and we all laughed about it for the rest of the weekend. I am actually grateful it happened, because I think our nonchalance about the whole thing helped illustrate my Mom and I better than hours of talking could have and afterwards we were all totally easy and nerve free.
We went back to my birth dad's house where his Mom dropped me off and offered to drive my Mom to see the sights while we had a chance to get to know one another. It was incredible. He pulled out boxes of pictures and practically went through his whole life (although meeting as adults, combined with a life in the army led to an uncomfortable level of over-share when it came to romantic exploits).Turns out he had a whole bunch of trophies for cooking. He became one of the top chefs in the army and was even responsible for holiday meals for the officers. He even had the pleasure of cooking for one of the presidents (although I admit I can't remember which one, George W. Bush, Sr. I think). Since cooking is one of my favorite hobbies I thought that was a rather fun discovery. He cooked lunch for me and after watching him I have never made bacon the same since. His were magazine level perfect.
He had pictures of my birth mom too (if I ever met her face to face she would have an awfully hard time denying me as we are spitting images of each other). After spending the day together it literally felt like someone had taken a cable cord, plugged it directly into my brain and downloaded an entire database of information. I was on overload, but I didn't want to quit.
I think the thing I took away from that day was the fact that, despite his often violent life experiences, he absolutely has a very big, and very kind heart. It was obvious to me that the things he had been asked to do in the military have affected him profoundly and the disabled veteran label almost fits more emotionally than physically. I think the things he did in defense of our freedoms both make him proud and eat him up at the same time. But, the thing that has remained untouched is his level of kindness. Everyone in his small housing community stopped by at some point that day to meet me. They all had wonderful things to say about him. He was obviously well-liked and that some of his PTSD and agoraphobia quirks were just because "he [was] a crazy veteran," as one of his neighbors put it. They just took it in stride as part of who he is. It made me proud to be his daughter.
After about six or seven hours our Moms came back and we visited for a while. Then they took us to a small property that they owned nearby that was in between tenants. When it was just my Mom and I we talked about the day and all the things we had learned. Then she turned in while I sat up processing all of the information I had just ingested.
Coming up Next...... Day 2: More Amazing Discoveries