I’m not sure where to begin, with Grief Camp or with finding out that my dead father gave up a son in 1978 and my family knew?! I’m not sure why I haven’t made my life into a book by now, or at the very least a pamphlet, because you can’t make this shit up!
On October 26th I watched as people, in their 20’s and 30’s, flew in from as far as Dubai and as near as Chicago. I was there because I work as a Community Manager for The Dinner Party. But I was also there because I lost both of my parents a few years apart to different forms of Cancer.
Before camp, TDP staff got together for a night of preparing and pizza and talking about our own goals as grievers for the weekend. I wanted to leave having let go of anger towards my father. The morning camp started I made a list of the 4 biggest things I’ve been carrying around.
- When I was 10 my father’s mistress called our house, on Thanksgiving, and told me details about their relationship. I didn’t see my father again for 4 years. He lived 20 minutes away.
- I called my father once from outside my mother’s hospital room and begged him to help me. He told me she deserved it and hung up. He then showed up at her funeral, late, sat in the front row and 2 days later asked me to borrow money. Which I gave to him. I wouldn’t hear from him again.
- A year or so later, I was walking to Union Square to meet a friend for drinks at Blue Water Grill. I see my father, and a woman walking towards me. And as the Universe would have it we are the ONLY people on the street. I stopped and waited for him to stop. She was blissfully chatting away and he mouthed for me not to say anything, shook his head and walked past me.
- The next time I saw him, he was in a coma. The same woman was sitting bedside. And still. I stayed. And held his hand. And told him I loved him. The weeks and months to follow until his death uncovered more lies and more secrets from the lives he had invented with so many different people. But he was my father. And my first love and so I stayed.
After he died, I did what I do. I wrote. I cried. I meditated. I traveled and drank too much. I burned candles and sage and I came out years later feeling like I was GOOD! And then I had a Reiki session. I was fresh off of casually dating a man I knew damn well I shouldn’t have and laid on this woman’s table at The Turnberry Resort in Miami, FL. After the 1 hour silent session, and my being STUNNED by her mastery of the skills, she turned to me and said “You need to heal your relationship with your father or you’ll always have difficult relationships with men.” Ummmm. “You got all that from waiving your hands above my liver?!? ” But I never forgot what she said.
Well now it’s 2019 and I’ve realized months before camp that I was still fucking pissed. Falling in love will do that to you. I pride myself in being able to recognize my own shit. No one deserves your pain. After I threw the 2nd fan in his direction I realized it was time to take a step back lol
So AGAIN I did the work. I realized that half the time, I wasn’t arguing with John. John had simply triggered a memory and my response was to that emotion that was never healed. John is the only man, I’ve ever really loved, and the little girl who wasn’t loved right is a wee bit bananas when she gets mad. And here’s the thing. Other dudes might have deserved my crazy. He doesn’t.
So I made that list. And I burned it at camp. And I cried and hugged and did all the things. I also watched as all of these other beautiful people moved through their own pain and I was reminded that my pain was not specific to me. There were people sitting in that room who I wouldn’t trade my story with. There is always someone who is dealing with more than you. I left feeling lighter and I came back to John feeling proud of what I had released.
And then this shit. I’ve always known my father had had children before I was born. Unfortunately, we didn’t grow up together. I’ve never known the full story but from what I gathered, he had “chosen” to be a dad to only 1 of us and I’ve spent most of my life avoiding them because I’ve felt guilty. We’re in contact on social media but that’s about it and after my dad died I think it almost got weirder for me to begin a relationship. They are older and more mature than I, and have never stopped reaching out. One of them reached out this morning to tell me we have a brother. Thanks to ancestry.com he took a DNA test and found her. He had been given up in a closed adoption in 1978. I was born in 1980. He’s lived in NJ. I grew up in NY. I don’t know the chain of events yet, but my uncle has known. At least 1 aunt has known and so had my grandmother.
My world has been rocked before. And when it has I call on everything my mother and Yoga have taught me. As a teacher myself, I know and believe that there is a lesson here. I think about what I would tell my students and I remind myself to BREATHE. I am good at stepping back and trying to determine what future me needs, because present me is down the rabbit hole. And so I tell myself that there is a blessing here and to not be guided by anger.
But. I’m also a 39 year old woman who deserved the truth. I also don’t believe that family secrets should prevent you from having a moral compass. I am steadfast in knowing that I could have used a brother when I found myself with no one at 31. And that toxic is toxic. Family or not. When I think about what future me needs? I think about a healthy marriage. She needs to be in a loving partnership. She no longer passes down what has been YEARSSS of generational disfunction. She trusts whose around her and love is poured honestly at the table where she sits.
So, I AM pissed. But I’m also done doing the work for now. Sometimes anger aint so bad. I’m deciding, (for my own health) “not my circus, not my monkeys.” sometimes family are the people you choose rather than your blood. I’ve got some AMAZING blood ones (that sounds gross lol) and they know who they are but my chosen ones deserve only the best of me. And sometimes walking away is the best “work” you can ever do.