What not to do at Christmas:
1. Plan too many projects that must be completed before the big day.
2. Plan too many activities that keep you running from event to event.
3. Plan a big holiday dinner with over-tired, over-stimulated children as guests.
4. Find your father who has been missing for 54 years.
This was an exceptionally difficult Christmas. There were some beautiful, meaningful moments--driving around looking at lights with Fred and the girls, the concert at church, our candlelit devotions in the morning, seeing the girls' joy with their gifts and receiving lovely handmade gifts from each of them. But overall, the holidays were stressful this year. And then, a most unexpected gift landed in my lap--the gift of a father. And I'm still asking if this is really a gift or something else.
My parents split when I was a little girl. I never heard from my father again. Was it his choice to never pursue me? Or my mom's choice to prohibit him from finding me? Who knows. And does it matter? I've been curious about him off and on through the years but I assumed I'd never know anything about him.
Right before Christmas I heard from my sons that their dad was researching his own family tree. For whatever reason, he left his tree and decided to go in a different direction and research mine. I think he wanted to give this information as a gift to the boys. He asked one of them what my original maiden name was. (I was adopted by my step-father.) Now here is the eerie part: Years and years ago my mother gave me a silver rattle and silver cup that belonged to my birth father when he was a baby. I still have the cup but the rattle has been long forgotten and lost. At the same time that the boys gave their dad my name and he did a little research, he discovered this rattle on his daughter's dresser. Where did she get it, he asked. She told him she found it at the bottom of his toolbox. He examined it and saw my father's initials and birthdate. He made the connection to recently discovered information he'd found. He asked my oldest son if he wanted him to contact his grandfather. Yes. So he called the home of my father, far away on the other side of the country. The rattle gave him an opening.
Two days before Christmas one of my boys tells me this story. I am shocked, and buried memories and emotions surface. At this point, the boys' dad has only talked to my father's wife, but they decide on a good time to have a phone conversation with my father--Christmas Eve. So he calls my father and supposedly has a long, interesting conversation. (All info is coming to me second hand from my sons.) My father says he never knew where I was all those years. He is interested in finding out about his daughter and grandsons. He is old. There may not be much time.
So I am planning Christmas with all this turmoil swirling inside. I can't concentrate on anything. I can't sleep. Where is God in all this? (For He is in everything.) The boys and I collect some pictures and information to mail to my father, their grandfather. I find an old picture of a young man holding a blonde giggling child on his lap. His arms are tight around her in an embrace and he is kissing her cheek. Father and daughter.
Christmas is over and there is time to contemplate all these things. I have no illusions of a grand reunion. I would just like a little information to fill in the blanks. Maybe some medical history. Maybe my father really doesn't care after all these years or maybe he wonders if I'm after something. Maybe this is the end of it. And that's okay.
When the girls and I were looking through the box of old pictures, I found several of my grandmother, the woman who adopted my mother when she was a tiny girl. No, she is not my biological grandmother. But she is the one I loved and the grandmother who loved me. I tell my girls that blood doesn't matter. This is my "real" grandmother and nothing will change that. Arielle says, "She's pretty." Liana says, "She looks so kind, just like my own grandma." They are right. She was the best grandma a little girl could have.