Haunted

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.

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15 thoughts on “Haunted

  1. That’s a lot to carry around and for a long time. Maybe now that you’ve put it out there you can let it go. Peace.
    Visiting from Mama Kat’s

  2. You are certainly not to blame for deciding to take your step-dad’s name. For allowing the man who was taking part in your upbringing to be your father. I hope you can let this go because in my opinion, if your birth father was any kind of good man, he wouldn’t have cared about the name change & would have made time to be with you throughout your life, not just once when you were 15. Maybe I’m jaded by my own absent birth father, I don’t know. I do know that my step-dad is my dad & he did more for me in my life (that mattered most) than anyone else. Maybe the thought of another man being your dad hurt him, but he did that to himself by not being present in your life. Period. Please don’t blame yourself or allow yourself to be haunted because none of it is your fault.

    • You have a very good point, and that’s how the adult part of my brain wants to see it. The kid in me, though, still just wants her daddy to love her. I’ve talked to him on the phone a few times..once when I had my son. I haven’t seen him in a long, long time though.

  3. I’m sure somewhere deep down, your father is content to see YOU happy, no matter who adopted you all those years ago. There’s always time to make peace…

  4. Your post is the reason I blog and read blogs; the honesty and courage to write about something so close to your heart, to tackle trying to figure out the truth and writing about it. It brought tears to my eyes, to read show a truly honest story about you and so well-written. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. I agree with everyone above. I’m having my own family absenteeism debate right now. Think about it. If your birth father had really been that involved you would never have had that dream scaring you that you’d have to live with him.

    As for what haunts me? When I was in high school my grandmother went into the hospital because she was having trouble breathing. I went to visit her, she’d had a small procedure, and was doing well. She was moved to a less serious wing of the hospital. My parents were going to visit and asked if I wanted to come. I said no since I was tired and she was doing better. The next day she had a stroke and three days later she died having never regained consciousness. It haunts me that I didn’t get a chance to see her one last time.

  6. Great blog!! I loved the thought provoking choice and good for you for putting it out there. Talking about it makes it easier to sort out, be proud of yourself!!

  7. You should not be haunted by a call you made when you were young. Specially since this was to big of a decision for a child to make. Let go, please.

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