Question: Dear Luise: 18 years ago I had a child with a woman in a different state. We had tried to understand our lives at that time but the chemistry wasn’t there and we went our separate ways and she took custody of my daughter. It was a no legal matter as I bowed down and did not try to fight her knowing we could not live together. She at that time financially had all the upper hands on me and I didn’t want to fight her so I just let go and lived on with my life for the last 20 years. I’ve thought about my daughter all these years and wished I could see her and know about her but I have been intimidated by her mother and have let the years slip by. I have tried to find where she lives and found the town in her state. She has an unlisted number as I have searched the phone directory. I lived all of my life with out my mother and didn’t want my daughter to go through the pain I felt and that’s my excuse. I have changed and am 50 years old and just lost my father who was my last immediate family member. I now feel alone and would love to talk or maybe get the chance to meet her for I have family pictures for her and want to leave some of my belongings to her when I go. A picture of her would be fantastic and to know if she is a musician like her father. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Can I just call or drive there and try to talk to her mother? She needs to know who I am and where I am, as I need to know her. I’m her father and we should be in touch now. If it’s any concern I teach handicapped people to ski and live with a woman with adoptive children. Please help with any advice. Thank you. M.
Answer: Dear M.: This is, as you know better than anyone, a touchy situation.
And good for you for using the word “excuse” instead of “reason.”
I think I would carefully draft a letter to the daughter with a copy to her mother. Send the mother’s a few days later to be sure the original isn’t intercepted by her.
Since they don’t live at the same address; that should work. A call after almost two decades would be a big shock. Well, a letter could be, too, but there’s room for recovery when something comes in the mail. Of course the letters could both be dropped into a wastepaper basket just the way a phone call could be immediately terminated.
You say, “She needs to know who I am and where I am, as I need to know her. I’m her father and we should be in touch, now.” That’s a perception. Your daughter may have always wanted to know about you or she may not be remotely interested. Children who grow up with one parent missing can make up a lot of stuff. If you didn’t pay child support while she was growing up, that might be an issue no matter how well fixed her mom was. You need to face the fact that there could be issues coming out of the woodwork.
I’m with you, I think any clarification and any chance of reconciling is worth whatever it costs, emotionally, to initiate it and follow through. You may be blindsided but if you don’t try you will never know if you might have been well received.
I just want to add that I have a deep respect for the kind work you do.
Try to keep an open mind and not count too much on a positive result. Better to be pleasantly surprised than acutely disappointed. Blessings, Luise