It took me 20 years to work up the courage, but I finally did it. And I am so, SO thankful that I did. I did it in stages to make it easier, and each step gave me more courage to keep going.
First, I mailed my dad a package with two compartments. The first contained just a letter. The second, which I sealed separately, contained my written story of confession. My letter explained that I planned to fly down to visit with him to talk about something, that that something was written out inside the second envelope, and if he wanted to read it first he could, or if he wanted to wait and hear it directly from me in person first, he could choose not to read it as well.
After I got the package mailed, I waited for his phone call. I was careful to keep my phone on me at all times, fully charged. When he called I had just parked at a restaurant where I was about to step out of my car to attend a retirement dinner. I got back in the car, closed the door and answered my phone.
“Hi Daddy,” I tried to say in my most normal voice.
“So when you comin’ out?” was his response, straight to the point.
“Oh next month some time,” I answered, wondering if he would ask me any questions over the phone. I’m sure my eyebrows were raised in wondering anticipation, my eyeballs nervously hopping around in all directions as they are now while I type and remember this interaction.
“Very good. Let me know when you buy your plane ticket,” he seemed to finish the entire conversation with this statement.
“Ok, I will,” I answered. And with a tiny bit of courage I asked, “did you open the second envelope?”
“I did,” his simple answer. I waited for more, but he was done.
“Did you read my story?” I asked with a little more courage.
“I did. We’ll talk about it when you get here,” he definitely concluded our talk now.
“Oh, ok,” that’s enough, I thought, I won’t pry any more.
“I love you honey,” he said in his most normal voice.
“I love you Daddy!” I joyfully answered and hung up the phone.
He read my story, and he loves me anyway. He read my story, and he still loves me, he loves me . . . is all I could think about as I hung up the phone. If I’d never made the trip to see him, that right there would have been enough for me. I could have bawled my eyes out right there, but I had to keep myself composed to head into the restaurant for that dinner. It was indeed a special night of celebration, for the retiree, and an intimate internal joy that I could not even share with anyone yet.
When the time for my trip finally arrived I walked through the airport with such incredible peace and joyful anticipation. I wondered about the purposes of the other travelers, and I couldn’t imagine anyone’s trip having a more profound meaning than mine. I felt like the hard work was already done and over with and now I was about to be reunited with my long lost father, when were never even estranged. But my secret had caused me to feel estranged on my end of the relationship. Who knows, maybe he felt it too. I don’t think I even realized this effect of my secret until I was walking through the airport that day feeling so high.
Once I got to Arizona, I found my dad watering his fruit trees. We went for a drive, then to lunch, and then back to his house for our sit-down talk. A most bitter-sweet twist resulted from me opening up to my Dad. He opened up to me!
I started out by saying, “I’m sorry that I had an abortion, and I’m sorry that I didn’t come to you for advice. I was so scared.”
He forgave me and tried to console me by reminding me how young I was at the time, only 18. By this time I was 38, married for 18 years and had three children. He took me back to that younger me with his forgiveness and kindness.
“Well, now that we’re talking about it, what would your advice have been to me if I had come to you back then?” I asked in great curiosity.
“To have a baby,” was his plain and simple response. But then he surprised me and went on, “Your mom was going to do that with you guys [my twin and me].”
I was shocked, not by this news, but by the confirmation of this very rumor I had heard before but didn’t know if I should believe [I could not ask my Mom since she died when I was young]. I instantly turned into hypocritical mode. “How could she even think of doing that to me???” I thought in my mind, and then I was instantly crushed and humbled and reminded by my very own conscience, “You didn’t just think of it, you did the very thing you’re condemning your mom for thinking of.”
Before I could battle this out in my mind my dad had more to say, “She made an appointment in New York [1972, it wasn’t legal in every state yet]. She called a travel agent and got flight information and asked me to go with her. I said no.”
Oh my goodness, my Dad saved my life! In an instant, my entire life flashed before my eyes, and years and years of family mysteries were suddenly solved while more mysteries suddenly appeared. I spent months afterward reviewing my memories and recalibrating my brain according to this new information. So much was beginning to fit into place.
But the question I will never have an answer to is this, if abortion had been legal in our home state at the time, would my mom have gone through with the abortion of me and my twin? [She didn’t yet know she was carrying twins.] Would she have sought out support from my Dad if she didn’t need to travel so far?
In the end, the answers to these questions don’t matter, because I am here now. What I focus on instead is trying to help other women who are faced with this situation and this decision to make. I try to help anyone who has already had an abortion begin to recover from all that results. And now I’m trying to help people understand some of these results. Abortion causes immense immediate pain and trauma, and years upon years of ripple-effect results that we don’t even recognize for a very long time.
If I hadn’t taken these steps to confess and reconcile with my dad, I would have missed out on so much depth of knowledge about my own personal history, and I would have missed out on the depth of my relationship with my dad. He died two years later, a year ago now this week. His health became so poor in the end that he could not even speak. If I had waited until his last days to finally confess to him, I would have missed out on his precious words of forgiveness and love. But instead, in his last days, because of our previous conversations, I did not need words from my Daddy. We were able to share a depth of interchange through our eyes alone. His eyes spoke volumes to me in a language all their own. Oh how I thank God for giving me the courage to step forward soon enough.