Requesting Relations

Michelle Stephens essays

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I have tried. I have fought against every particle of my being and tried. I have swallowed an immense amount of anger and tried.

But this, this one thing that should be meaningless, this one thing that should not have any effect on me. This was the final straw.

Our relationship began rocky. I was a 7-year-old girl who had never had a father. At least not that I could remember. Then my mom introduced us to this guy. I heard her say she loved him. I heard they were getting married. That we were moving away from the only town I ever knew. Away from my family. Not far, but far enough.

I didn't know how to feel. I was sad. And angry but she seemed happy. He was ok. I never felt especially close to him. He was my mother's husband. I could comprehend that. Then they said he would adopt us. My sister and I would be his daughters. He wouldn't be our step-father. He would be our dad.

I watched from our car as my absentee father, a man I did not know, signed the papers to allow the adoption. I cried silently, never letting anyone see my sadness. I had a photo of him. Taken before I was born. I would spend hours staring at a man I had an uncanny resemblance to but didn't even know his birthday. My emotions were jumbled. Hatred and love coexisted. I longed for what I never knew.

The adoption was finalized on March 7, 1989. Everyone seemed so happy. So, I did my best to be happy. I had a chance to have a father. I was a little excited and a lot terrified. I didn't know what it meant to have a dad and I was pretty sure he had no idea what it meant to have a 9 year old daughter. I daydreamed about us figuring it out together.

As the years went on, we did not figure it out. He would bark orders and make arbitrary and rigid rules. I would rebel and scream. He would yell and swear. I would dream of leaving. Nine years after becoming father and daughter I did the best thing I could for our nearly non-existent relationship and I left. I moved out, never to look back.

With the lack of literal common ground our paths hardly ever crossed. Only a few times a year at family gatherings. Maybe a random phone call. We had nothing in common besides a last name and even that was just on paper. Conversations were awkward at best. I had nothing to say to him, he seemed to be forcing himself to speak to me. I asked him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. He on one side, my maternal grandfather on the other. Our only commonality was about to end at a ceremony he escorted me to.

My daughter was born a few years later. I had my own family now. One without tension. One I loved unconditionally, something I could never give the man who became my father 21 years earlier. I watched as my daughter and her father fell in love. I shed tears of joy and tears for my own longing for something I would never have.

Eventually the phone calls stopped. We stopped exchanging niceties at family gatherings. The silence that stood between us was a relief to me. I no longer had to push away feelings and offer an olive branch to him. I no longer had to play the role of adoring daughter when all I wanted was my birth name back. I found comfort in his absence. I had my own family.

Then, one day while checking out Facebook I saw that he had created an account. I saw that he had listed my siblings as his children. The familiar yearning for family, for a father washed over me. I didn't hesitate and I clicked “Add Friend” and waited. Days turned to weeks. Weeks to months. I still waited. I saw him interacting with my mom, my siblings. Conversations with the rest of my family that I was not involved in. I was on the other side of the digital window looking in. Maybe he hadn't seen the request?

I waited. It has been 3 years this month that I have been waiting for him to approve my friend request. I am done trying. There is only so much a person can take before it takes over them. Clearly family is more than a shared name and common relatives. More than bloodlines and heritage. More than a common address and parental rights.

A family is about unconditional love.

I will no longer wait for him to accept my request.

About the Author

Michelle Stephens

Michelle writes from the home she shares with her husband and their two daughters. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her family is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the bumbling sidekick. She can be found all over the web including on her own blog and as well as in the upcoming HerStories Project anthology, Mothering Through The Darkness.

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