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I found out yesterday that my biological father, Michael, passed away. I still don’t know how to process the news. I have been estranged from him for most of my life but he was always a constant figure on the back of my mind. My mom divorced him when I was a baby and married my step-father when I was three. My step-father is my father, he raised me, he walked me down the aisle and he has always been there for me.

When I was little, I would spend a little time with Michael and I have good memories of those times. As a kid you’re oblivious to the bad stuff. As I got older, I found out about all the bad things and I saw him less and less. He wasn’t a good man to my mom and my brother. He was abusive and mean to them. I struggled with that for awhile because I never saw that side of him. He was careful to only show me his good side.

When I was twelve, he went to jail.

That was the last of I saw of him. It was then that my parents realized he would never change so they stopped letting me see him. I went about my life. I’d occasionally get updates through the grapevine and I was fine with that. I would imagine sometimes that one day he’d be different and we’d be able to have a relationship.

When I turned 18, I tracked him down and gave him a call. I drove to see him by myself and spent the afternoon with him. It seemed like old times but was very awkward at the same time. We didn’t know each other any more, but we tried. We began speaking on the phone fairly often and were trying to get to know each other again.

It was nice, and I thought that maybe he really was a different person from the one my mom and brother knew. Then one day, I saw that side of him for the first time and it scared me. I never spoke to him again.

About a month ago, I received a phone call. He was in the hospital about to pass away.

I was devastated but I don’t know why. He was never there for me. He wasn’t my ‘dad,’ but I was still so upset. My husband convinced me to go to the hospital and make my peace. He came with me. I’m so glad I went, even though it was incredibly awkward. He was skinny and frail. He wasn’t the strong handsome man I remembered from my childhood. I stood and we spoke as if we were acquaintances, we didn’t speak of the past at all. We made light conversation for about an hour and then I left.

That was the last time I ever saw him.

My aunt called yesterday to inform me that he passed away. Apparently, he tried to smoke a cigarette while hooked up to oxygen and it didn’t end well. I feel awful that he went that way. I wish it could have been a peaceful death for him.

Since that phone call, my emotions have been all over the place; anger to sadness and everything in between. I still have the man I consider my father and Grace’s grandfather, but I still feel such a sense of loss. Mostly a loss of the future relationship I still thought I would one day have. I’m angry I didn’t have a ‘normal’ childhood with a regular family and a dad that wasn’t crazy. I have a lot of what if’s and they’re driving me crazy.

There is nothing I can change now. Everything is final. Our relationship will never change. He passed away alone, without me in his life and I feel like it was my fault. Like I withheld my relationship from him to punish him and he didn’t deserve it. The rational part of myself knows this isn’t true. He hasn’t tried to contact me once in the past ten years.

I can’t change any of that, I know, but I can focus on the here and now. I will focus on my daughter, Grace, and I will make sure she never has to go through anything like this as a child or an adult. I will focus on the father I do have in my life and let him know how grateful I am for all the love he has given me and that fact that he has been always there for me. He calls me everyday just to tell me he loves me. He IS my dad and Grace’s pawpaw.

I will chalk yesterday up to a bad day and try to move on with my life.

I can’t change my past but I can let it not affect my future.