What haunts you? What a question.
I am haunted not by ghosts, not by spirits, and not by people.
I am haunted by memories of the decisions I have made and how I have changed and shaped other people’s lives. In particular, I am haunted by my decision at age 10 to let my step-dad adopt me. We need a little background info, here.
My parents were married when they were 19. When my mom was 22 she had me. When she was pregnant my father joined the Air Force. He was in basic training when I was born. After a few months we moved to California to join him. We lived there until I was about 18 months old when they divorced.
I only remember seeing my real father a handful of times in my life. He came on birthdays and Christmas-sometimes. He called-sometimes. We never really knew where he lived, he didn’t pay his child support, and on the rare occasion that I did see him, he always had a different woman with him. I loved him because he was my father and I have always sought his acceptance and love because I always wondered what I was doing wrong that he didn’t love me. Sure, he said he did, but he didn’t love me the way my mom did. He wasn’t there. When I did talk to him, he would tell me some silly stories about what he had done, promise to call the next week, and then I wouldn’t hear from him for several months or years. He never asked how I was.
I’ve told you about the age difference between my siblings and myself. When my mom was pregnant with my sister I had a nightmare. Not about scary monsters. Not about a murderer. I had a nightmare that my mother died and they made me live with my real dad. I woke up drenched in sweat screaming. I told my mom about this, and apparently she did not dismiss it as a childhood nightmare. She looked into it. It was true, even though my stepfather was the one around since I was 3, if something happened to her and my real dad wanted me to live with him, I would go. So she called a lawyer.
I remember the night they sat me down and asked me if I wanted to be adopted by my step-dad. I was confused. I was terrified that my real dad would be mad at me. My step-dad explained that nothing would change but my name, and that I was still welcome to see my real father if he came around. I eventually said yes, with much trepidation.
It turns out my real father didn’t want me to be adopted. He fought back. The lawyers said if he hadn’t been to see me in a year then they could proceed without his signature. After about 11 months he signed the papers with a note telling my mom that he always thought he had more time to make things right.
After that I didn’t hear from him until I was 15. He called on my birthday. I managed to keep it together until we hung up and then I cried.
I am haunted by thinking that maybe I sabotaged any chance of a relationship with my real father by deciding to be adopted by the man I have always considered my dad. Now that I am a parent, I can imagine the hurt that that must have caused him, even if he was selfish. I am haunted by wondering if I did the right thing.
I’m haunted by a decision I made when I was 10, even though I can’t undo it now.
This post was written for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.