There is a whole story leading up to how I figured out who my father was. It mostly boils down to me trying to get back child support payments or a payout from the man I thought was my father, who was completely absent from my life, only to find out it was someone else. I was 27 when I discovered who my father was.
He was living in Austin, TX at the time, working as a prison nurse. I decided to reach out to him after my mom contacted him initially. I remember being so scared, wondering what he would think, whether he would like me, and if we would have a chance to connect.
In our initial e-mail exchanges, we were both excited. I couldn’t wait to meet him, but to be safe we decided to get a paternity test. I’m sure in hindsight that it was his idea. He had me pay for it, too, which at the time I didn’t think was weird, but now I kind of do.
My boyfriend was playing in a band called Team Abraham at the time, and they were going to play at SXSW in Austin. The timing was really good, so I decided to tag along with them to hitch a ride to Austin and meet my dad. They played a show in New Mexico along the way, and I have good albeit terrifying memories of flying down the freeway in the van trying to make it to that gig on time from San Diego.
We got stopped crossing over into Arizona, as ya do, but it had been so long since I had driven thataway, that I totally forgot and had weed on me. The dudes pulled us all out of the van and started going through our stuff. Luckily, my bag was in the back with all of the musical equipment. There was a police dog going crazy, but they stopped short of opening up the back of the van. Whew. Crisis averted, and me ruining their whole tour averted, as well. It was close.
But we made the gig in New Mexico, barely, and after crashing out in a motel we drove the rest of the way to Austin.
I had my father meet me at a bar where we were watching a band play, and he showed up after work in his scrubs. We looked EXACTLY alike. I have his eyes, nose, the shape of our face, same kind of hair, everything. People don’t really think I look like my mom, but standing next to my dad the resemblance is unmistakable.
We were in Austin for a few days, so I spent some quality time smoking weed with my dad and catching up on our lives. It turned out that I have a half-brother (!!!) named Clint. He’s much younger than I am. I really hope to meet him someday, but I feel like that is unlikely now.
A few things bothered me about my father on that trip. First off, he told me he was playing a couple ladies, which kind of bothered me. He was texting all of them and lying to ALL of them. What a jerk, right? But I was his daughter, it would be different with me, right? No. Also, when I borrowed his truck, it had a breathalyzer thing on it because he had had a few DUIs. Okay, everyone makes mistakes.
Anyway, I learned a lot of bad stuff about my dad on that trip, but a lot of good stuff, too. I was happy to have him in my life and I wanted to get to know him more. About eight months later, I got pregnant. He and I had stayed in touch with texts and emails, and I really started to think that maybe I should move to Austin and raise my daughter there.
It took some convincing, but I got Neil to agree. I had spent my entire life with my mom, it was time to get to know my dad. Plus, Austin was cheap and I figured my mom could always move back to be close to us once the baby was born.
While we had been gone, my dad had met and moved in with a nice lady from Louisiana. Neil and I went over to their place to watch a football game. (See how hard I was trying?!) Ronnie (my dad) made us sweet tea and we all sat on the couch and watched the game. He showed me his new Harley and his leathers, and the pool table they had in the front room.
Neil and I had just eloped, and hadn’t told many people yet. As we were getting ready to leave, I told Ronnie that Neil and I had just gotten married. Our last name was Gutierrez, and when I said that to my dad, he lost it. “You’re not taking that beaner last name are you?!” Silence. He had also berated me for wanting to have a natural childbirth with a midwife. I told him about my terrible experience at the ob-gyn in Austin, and he laughed. He said he had been L&D nurse and that so many things can go wrong that I *better* go to the hospital. It was basically a threat, like I was endangering his daughter.
I was starting to get a little scared of him. One of the things he had told me before was that he had tried to set a woman’s house on fire after she rejected him. I already knew he was a misogynist from how he was treating his previous girlfriends, but now I knew he was racist, too.
In his younger days, my father had been an enforcer for the Bandido biker gang. He had run meth up and down the west coast on his motorcycles. Never caught, but not a good person. But my mom had been a meth addict, so I thought maybe he had deserved a chance. I was so wrong.
When we left that night, I was crying. Neil was furious. We decided to leave Austin and go home. I couldn’t believe I had wasted so much time and energy on some old racist son of a bitch. When I e-mailed Ronnie and told him that we were leaving Texas, and why, he lost it on me. He sent me abusive e-mails, texts, everything. I changed my number and blocked his e-mail and blocked him on FaceBook. I had added Clint, too.
I felt bad, because I had wanted to go to Clint’s high school graduation in a few months. While at Ronnie’s place one day, he had called his sister. He let me talk to her on the phone. I had an aunt! And a brother! And all manner of cousins and the like.
My mom is adopted, so I had never been around family that looked like me before. I wanted to meet them so badly. But when I left, Ronnie refused to give me any of their information. I don’t even know their names. Clint unfriended me on FaceBook and hasn’t talked to me since, so god knows what Ronnie told him.
I was scared through the rest of my pregnancy, and sometimes I still get scared. What will happen if he ever finds us? Will he demand to be in my daughter’s life? Will he apologize? I really don’t think he is capable of the kind of change necessary for me to let him play grandfather to my little girl. I don’t think I even care. He was so mean to me, made me cry, everything.
So for me, meeting my father was a pretty overwhelming experience. I am glad that I know now who he is. I wish that I had thought to get some health history during our brief time together. I really wish I could find the rest of my family, and see if they are like him, or not. But for now, it is enough that it happened. My daughter doesn’t ask about her grandfather, probably because my mom’s boyfriend pays her a lot of attention and treats her as his own. And I am glad.
Maybe someday when my daughter is older I will tell her all about this, I think I will, just because I know how it feels to be left in the dark about your own family. It hurts. But I don’t blame my mother. She has had such a hard life, and she did the best she could raising me. I am glad that I came back to California, and am near her again.
I have my mother and my chosen family, and that is more than a lot of people have. I am so lucky to have the relationships that I do. For anyone out there trying to find your family, I would encourage it. It is better to know. I just hope it turns out better for you.