Brandi, Danielle, and Melinda, 19 years ago

It’s been three weeks now since I had the surprise of a lifetime, when I sat down to my computer and saw a Facebook notification that I had been sent an email from one of my three daughters whom I have not had contact with for some 19 years. I remember that initial feeling of “Is this a dream?!” that I had as I read the message. The day that I had always looked forward to and hoped and prayed for was finally upon me. What should I do? Do I respond? Do I ignore the email? After all, it had been 19 years, and I doubted that they even remembered me. That’s not even to mention that any role that I could have had in their life was taken away from me, both because of my own mistakes and a system of justice that was full of injustice.

For 19 years I imagined how well they must have done without me in their life. All successful, all beautiful, all so-much-better off than they would have been without me in their life. And yet during those years, I did everything I could to put my name out there, and with the internet I was able to do it more thoroughly. Surely they would be online, somewhere, and one day–out of curiosity, perhaps, they would type my name in and find me.

For 19 years, I second-guessed myself in the whole situation. I had been coerced into releasing my parental rights after trying to fight the system some six months after their mother had signed away her parental rights. I was told again and again by the case worker that she would make sure that I NEVER had a chance, that I might as well sign the papers now, and that if I loved them, I wouldn’t stall another minute.

Every fiber of my being fought the suggestion. I knew that I wasn’t the best parent, and that I had screwed up and was a screw up, but I had been doing everything the court asked of me, and more. And this in addition to all of the drama I was having to go through with their mother, who took off with another guy, disappeared to Florida for like three months, and then came back and threw as many wrenches into the situation as she could, before finally signing off on the girls. I didn’t find out until after I finally relented that she did that to make sure that I didn’t get them either, because the caseworker had been clear from the time she came on the case that a single father would NOT get those girls. So, by Tonda signing off, she had effectively signed my death sentence as a father. I just didn’t know it until after the fact.

And true to her word, she pulled out all the stops, and went looking for anything she could use against me. Mind you that this was not the original caseworker in the case, but she was definitely a man-hater, or at least in no way objective. She came on the case well after I had already established total compliance with the court’s requirements and my having already earned some measure of respect for my efforts to reunite the family. The earlier caseworker was going to request return of the girls, so it was awfully convenient that THAT worker was replaced with this new one, whose agenda was completely opposite.

In any event, the newer caseworker tried to “coax” me into signing away my fatherhood by raising an accusation that I had sexually abused one or more of the girls. And while it’s interesting that NO investigation was ever done, NO charges were ever brought, AND that the girls were checked by a doctor AND a child psychologist and it was confirmed that NOTHING of the sort ever happened, it was still enough to raise the spectre of DOUBT in other people’s minds. No amount of me defending myself or swearing to God on High that I find even the implication of such deviancy ABHORRENT would clear the doubt.

And as the court records attest, it was nothing more than an off-handed remark made by someone to the caseworker, allegedly. But it was enough. Even so, I was, after much effort, once more granted UNSUPERVISED visitation with the girls by the court. Now, if there had been ANY basis to that allegation, would ANY court allow me to have unsupervised visitations? I’m certain that I’d either have been arrested and convicted, or at the least NEVER been left alone with them. EVER.

To make matters worse, I found out from the daughter who contacted me that all three girls had been told repeatedly that I DID molest them, to the point where the girls actually believed and remembered it happening, and that as a result of that instilled memory and repulsion, they want nothing to do with me.

What sort of twisted, evil, demented people would go to such lengths to DEGRADE me and compel my daughters to hate, resent, and despise me for something I never did? Was it not enough that they managed to get my daughters? Was it not enough that I would possibly forever be cut off from ever knowing what became of them? Was it their intention to make sure that the girls NEVER even WANTED to find me by painting me as some sort of perversion who preyed on them–and by doing so make THEMSELVES look as though they were the ones that really loved the girls? I mean, WHY DO THAT?

Yes, I made mistakes. Yes, I was a young, naive (even stupid!) parent. But that’s all. I would never have stooped to such evil. I don’t even have tolerance for people who are found guilty of that, regardless of the reasons. Preying on a child is beyond redemption in my book. Maybe God can forgive molestors and pedophiles: I do NOT.

But what makes all of this even worse is that maybe I could have lived with that accusation hanging over my head forever if it meant that the girls went on to have fantastic, successful, productive lives. It would be worth the personal sacrifice. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s been hell for them, and all I can think about is how to help them…  not out of guilt, but out of a sense of purpose and compassion. And because I have never stopped caring or loving them as my daughters.

But how do you overcome brainwashing? How do you overcome years of being told that your father did such and such to you, blah blah blah? I have the court records, of course, to show my innocence. But what if they don’t care to find out the truth–and think that they KNOW the truth already, because, logically, why would their adoptive parents ever say something like that if it wasn’t true, right? Why would adoptive parents lie–especially about something like that?

That IS the question, isn’t it? And I keep coming back to the same answer: to ensure that they would not want anything to do with me. EVER! To break that initial bond I had with them. And, I’m pretty certain that they accomplished their goal.

As I mentioned at the start of this, I was contacted by one of my daughters–my oldest daughter. I’ve learned that she is going through things that I wish she didn’t have to, and I’ll do what I have it within my power to do to help as I am able, but I can’t help wondering how differently things had gone if I hadn’t been coerced into releasing my fatherhood so that they could all be placed with a family that would spend the next 19 years villifying and painting me as some embodiment of evil.

Things are going as well as they can. I am trying to get to know my oldest daughter all over again, and to rebuild a relationship, but it’s going to be a long, difficult road and I can see that now. But I’m going to put my best foot forward, be open-minded and see where things go. And I have concerns, of course (what parent wouldn’t?), but I’ve already gone off-topic once in this blog.

The friends that have known me and known how long I have waited for this, the tears that I’ve cried, the frustration I’ve lived with, have been SO encouraging through these past three weeks, and describe it as nothing short of a miracle. They are tremendously happy for me, as well. Being reunited with even ONE of my daughters after adoption is something you only get to see in a television show or movie. But in my case, it has become my reality.

Will I ever get to know my other two daughters? I wish I could say. If I could say anything to them, it would be that I am not the same person that I was back then…  that I have spent my entire life bringing myself to a place where–if they ever showed up–they would not be ashamed of me as their biological father, and that I would be able to help them if they needed it. That I’m here for THEM. And that I have missed them more than words could ever convey, and my life has never been complete, not once, in the past 19 years (and counting).

Anyhow, that’s it for this blog entry.

For what it’s worth.