The Daughter of My Heart
By cbishop 10 Comments
|Date||Welcome to my blog:||View:||Attached to Forum:|
|07/09/16||The Daughter of My Heart||(Blog) (Forum)||.Chris Bishop.|
So (big breath) here's the deal: I might have a daughter.
So (big breath) here's the deal: I might have a daughter.
I have been wanting to write this for a long time, but I put it off for two reasons- my mom and stepmother. For years, my mom has wanted grandchildren, and since I'm her only child, I'm the only way for her to get grandchildren. My stepmother has only once ever said to me anything about grandchildren from me, and that was basically, "I've given up on getting any grandchildren from you." So for these reasons, I haven't wanted to tell either of them that I might have a daughter until I knew for certain. As I write this though, I think I may have told mom in the last couple of years, but I honestly don't recall for sure. Either way, I'm putting it out there now, and here we are.
I don't know for sure- we'll come back to that- but I have wanted to shout this from the rooftops for awhile now, and finally couldn't stand it anymore. I asked my maybe-daughter if I could write something about her, and she said I could. As this will come as news to just about everyone who knows me, it kind of necessarily requires that I tell you something about her mother as well, so I also asked her permission, and she said that I could also. She's worried that my family and friends are going to have a judgmental meltdown though, so she asked that I not use their names, which is why I haven't said them yet.
So for the purposes of this blog, the maybe-daughter is "Alice," and her mom is "Claire."
When I was twenty-one, a beautiful woman walked into the plant where I worked.
When I was twenty-one, a beautiful woman walked into the plant where I worked. Yes, it was Claire. It was one of those heart stopping moments you see in movies- that jolt as one sees the other, and they know that they must know this person. I was sure this was the woman I was going to marry. Just like that; that easy. She seemed to have a similar look on her face momentarily. Then I found out that she was married to my assistant supervisor, and I let the thought slip from my mind.
By complete coincidence, I later moved into a townhouse with a roommate, and as I was unloading furniture, who called my name but my assistant supervisor (let's call him "Matt")? It turned out he and his wife lived six doors down from me. Matt insisted on introducing me to his wife. His three-year old son ("Bert") even ran up to me and hugged me around my legs- something Claire said he'd never done with anyone. Honestly, I was mortified. I was extremely attracted to her, and hoping desperately that it wasn't showing on my hides-nothing face. I got out as soon as I could.
I became "the other man."
Things progressed though, and to make a long story short, I became "the other man." Claire became pregnant. I told her if she wanted to do a test when the baby was born we could. They moved just a week or two before the baby was born, and I never heard from her again.
First, let me say that at twenty-one, I was a full on church-going, straight-laced guy. The fact that this was adultery ate me up, and the fact that it was adultery is my only regret in any of this. It was the catalyst that ended Matt and Claire's marriage, and drove Matt's anger towards Alice and even Bert to some degree (the full extent of which is unknown to me). My actions did that. Well, our actions, but...like I have said over the years: it's easier if you just don't do things that break the Ten Commandments.
Over the years, I tried to figure out various ways to track Claire down, to no avail. The Internet was a new thing at the time, social media wasn't a thing yet, and all that was available were Internet phonebooks and pay-for-info online search services that I could not afford. I couldn't remember Claire's maiden name, and I couldn't even find Matt to ask him (I knew they were divorced, so why not ask).
My gut has always told me that ...she was my child.
I knew Claire's baby had been a girl, but I didn't know her name. I cannot tell you how much I thought about her as I got older, wondering what she was like, and certainly wondering if she was my child or Matt's. I told myself that if Claire didn't contact me to do a test, and I couldn't figure out how to find her, then it must mean that the baby wasn't mine. My gut has always told me that I was lying to myself; that she was my child. Without a way of finding Claire though, what could I do?
Then in January of 2011, it suddenly hit me that Claire's baby girl would be in her teens, and Bert was only three or four years older, so they should be right smack in the middle of this social media phenomenon that we call Facebook which I had only been on since 2008. So I looked Bert up, found Claire through his friends list, and through her found Alice - oh my God, her name was Alice; she had a name now!
I contacted Claire through private message on Facebook, basically telling her that I'd been looking for her for nearly twenty years now, had been wondering if her baby girl was also my baby girl, and that I wouldn't contact Alice without her permission. Claire kind of freaked out. I was thirty-nine at the time, and she assumed this must be a mid-life crisis on my part, to just pop up out of the blue wanting to know if Alice is my daughter. It took some doing, but I think I finally convinced her that I'd always wanted to know, and this was just the time I had finally figured out how to find them.
...Alice found out about me for the first time, and...um...she seemed to take it surprisingly well.
She told Alice, because up to that point, I had been a secret. Alice had never known that someone besides Matt might be her dad. So at eighteen, Alice found out about me for the first time, and...um...she seemed to take it surprisingly well. She didn't really know what to do with me though, and who can blame her? She didn't know me, and the only other guy in her life she'd known as "dad" had denied her. So totally understandable reaction on her part. But she did something surprising- she made her Facebook profile public so I was able to see it even without us being friends. I let Claire know just because I felt that I should, but I was really touched by that.
I told a handful of my family about Alice, and several of my friends. I wanted someone to know; I had to tell someone. I was fit to burst about it, so it was like letting some pressure off of a tea kettle.
I got to meet Alice- the only time I have ever met her face-to-face.
By summer, I decided to do something risky. Claire had her address on her Facebook page, so I drove down to the neighboring state to see them. I made sure I knew where the house was, then went to a church down the street, and texted her from there. She freaked out a little- again, totally understandable- but after some text chat she told me I could come to the house. When she asked why I didn't ask her before I came down, I told her, "Because you might have said 'no'." I talked to Claire some, and I got to meet Alice- the only time I have ever met her face-to-face. She gave me one of her senior pictures, which alternates places between being stuck in my Bible and being in a magnet on my refrigerator (because I had been taking it down when mom would come over), and gave me a hug. I talked to Claire some more, kissed her on her forehead, and told her I wouldn't surprise her again.
I'm in love with that kid- doesn't matter if she's mine or not, I think of her as my daughter.
I went home, but I was done. For eighteen years I had held Claire's daughter in my thoughts, not even knowing her name, but knowing in my gut that she was my daughter. Then I saw her on Facebook, and I just broke into little pieces inside as I just knew that I was looking at my daughter. But meeting her face-to-face? Talking to her? Done. Just done. I'm in love with that kid- doesn't matter if she's mine or not, I think of her as my daughter. I feel a responsibility for her that I'm never going to be able to live up to, and that I'll never be able to make up for. How can I?
Alice is amazing to me. When we first met, she was finishing up high school, and she was talking about going into oncology. She did her first year of college, and then I think changed her mind about what she wants to do. She's now engaged to a guy with the same first name as me, and who last I heard was trying to become a police officer (which is funny, because police work is what my dad retired from). She's a pretty good artist, but she defers any praise for her ability by telling you how good Bert is instead. I think she's amazing at it, because the only thing my stick figures are good for is starting campfires.
Alice is amazing to me.
I wish I had a longer list of things to tell you about her, but that's just the thing- I don't know her that well.
That's kind of funny to say, because when I asked her if I could write this, I told her that I was going to post it as a blog. She asked if she could read my blog. I immediately said "yes," and gave her the link to my blogs right away. Why? Because I wanted her to get to know me, and my blog could definitely give her a picture of me. Then it occurred to that it would allow her to know me "warts and all." So, I tried to let her know what she was in for. I still want her to read it if she wants to though, because it really will help her to know me better. I like that idea.
I should also clarify something: when I said that Claire and I committing adultery was my regret in this? Alice is not part of that regret. Going back to my beliefs, something I've heard over-and-over across the years: "What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good." The end of a marriage due to adultery, and the disintegration of a family because of it- that was the evil. But Alice? Alice is how God meant it for good. And the fact that Claire and I are now friends since catching up- that's good too. That saying though- it basically means that God can redeem what the devil meant for evil. So Alice isn't just good- she's redemption; she's an honest-to-God miracle.
Alice isn't just good- she's redemption; she's an honest-to-God miracle.
The time we talked in person, she asked me, "Why do you think that you're my dad?"
I just smiled at her, and said, "I don't know if I'm your dad, but I've always wanted to know."
I still want to know, but Alice doesn't. I don't know her reasons, but it's okay, and it doesn't matter. Yes, I'd like to know for certain, but I've waited twenty-three years. She only just found this out by comparison, so I'm just waiting on her to change her mind someday, if she ever does. If she doesn't, it's okay. I call her "my maybe-daughter," because it's easier and less awkward sounding than "the girl that might be my daughter." Really though, "maybe-daughter" is just me kind of kidding myself. What I really call her is "the daughter of my heart." With or without a definitive answer, that is what she will always be to me: the daughter of my heart.
-cbishop 7/9/16, 5:32AM
Happy birthday, Alice. :}
Update, May 10, 2023: Alice texted me today. Matt was in town, and did a test with her. It came back 99.99% positive that he is her biological father. She sent me a copy of the results. I'm a little bummed about that, but at least we all know now. I still think of her as The Daughter of My Heart. Loving her and Claire has changed my life.