DRIVEN. PERSISTENT. DETERMINED.
I was three years old when my dad left, and when he was gone, so was any link I had to his family. No one came looking for me, to see how I was doing. No birthday cards or Christmas presents ever came in the mail. Little did I know back then, history was repeating itself.
I missed my dad, Mr. Sherwood. And from the time I figured out how to operate the yellow rotary phone in the kitchen, and use the Bell Telephone White Pages, I called every Sherwood I could find a listing for. None of them were ever my Sherwoods. This was a cycle I repeated for over thirty years.
Then came the Internet. I searched the little tidbits my tight-lipped mother let slip over the years. While I searched for my dad’s family, I began my own, always wondering about my family history and what countries we hailed from.
Seeing me pregnant prompted my grandmother to share family history. She’d been adopted, and hadn’t been told until both of the only parents she’d ever known died. She spent a tidy sum on a private investigator in the 1980s, trying to find her birth parents. Which is ironic because she believed her second daughter, my aunt, did not have the right to know she was the product of an affair. My aunt learned her father wasn’t her biological dad when she asked for family blood donations prior to a surgery, and neither of her parents’ blood matched hers.
Shortly before my grandma died, she told me her mother had just visited. Had I seen the woman in the hallway on my way in? I’ve wondered ever since, was it her birth mom or her adoptive mom who came to usher into the next life.
To continue the family legacy of question marks in the family tree, during my second pregnancy, my mother told me I had a half sister. My mom relinquished her baby, born in June 1965. After living in an unwed mother’s residence to spare her family the shame of her scandalous love affair, my mom relinquished her baby to Catholic Charities.
If you’re keeping score of the misattributed parentage experiences in my tree, sharpen your pencils, because we’re going to add a few more. Thanks to finding his half brother, my half-uncle, I finally learned more of my family history. Wait for it . . . it turns out my father wasn’t a Sherwood afterall. His birth father abandoned him and his mother. I learned my paternal biological grandfather was a Ryder. That’s the name I should’ve been looking for in the phonebook when I was younger.
My father was a regular Johnny Appleseed. After submitting my DNA on 23&Me and Ancestry.com, my dad’s behavior came to light, generation after generation, more of the same. In a series of relationships, he fathered at least six children: Stephen, myself, Jesse, Eric, Andrew, Ryan. I am so happy I was able to meet my older half brother. Sadly, my younger half brother, Andrew, died before we could meet. We lived in the same city for 35 years. Jesse still lives with our mother. Before my half-uncle’s death, he shared how many jilted women sought him out, looking for my dad who’d run out on them—just like my mom and me.
I spent many years feeling not just the pain of abandonment from my dad, but anger at him, that he repeated this behavior leaving woman after woman and child after child behind. He learned this from his own father; my grandfather Ryder was a serial groom too. I refuse to pass on this family “curse.” I’m still searching for my siblings. Each one I’ve found grew up feeling disconnected, unwanted, just like I did. This isn’t what I want for them. I want them to know their sister wants them and I hope they find me. I’m registered on every major DNA site. You are wanted and you are loved. I have a beautiful family tree