Your father, your real father, is dying. He wants to see you. Call me. Mom.

At 5:21am on a bright Tuesday morning, that fifteen word text changed my life. Why did the man (or BD as I have labeled him) who inseminated my mom and vanished suddenly want to see me? It’s the old story: Girl gets pregnant in college, child is born, and no one talks about the person who supplied the other half of her genes. In all my years, Mom never spoke ill of him, never mentioned his name—she airbrushed him off the face of the earth and returned to her studies. Then nearing graduation, Gary, a shaggy haired brainiac, swept her off her feet and, rather haphazardly, at first, given that he came from a long line of eruditions who regarded their children as genetic achievements rather than actual humans in need of affection, grasped the reigns of parentage and hung on.

Back then, he was imperfect but I never doubted his love for mom and me. He had gotten the hang of things by the time Miko came along and he and Mom were good parents when they were around. Both anthropologists, and living from dig site to dig site most of the year meant they were often away. In hindsight, they never seemed that far. Stranger still, neither did my biological father. He was always there but not there. Nowhere – yet now, here.

For years, I have denied my curiosity in the void lurking in the dark corner of my mind because I feel doing so would open up a door of vulnerability that I’ve put great effort into keeping sealed. However, the pangs have grown to a fever-pitch especially when there are slivers of personality unattributed to my maternal parentage. I often wonder if my paternal traits are coming out of hibernation. And if so, what the fuck!? I didn’t even know his name.

I don’t need this right now, I kept telling myself as I wrestled my emotions into submission. I wanted to delete the message and act as if I had never received it. Try as I might, I couldn’t hit the delete button. I rolled out of bed, showered, made breakfast, drove Miko to her therapy session, and came home. I paced the floor, a terrible habit I picked up from Bishop, in a vain attempt to summon the courage to delete the damn thing. I couldn’t delete it. I didn’t resent him enough. In fact, I was curious as if seeing him would somehow unlock some secret door of greater understanding within myself.

But my curiosity was also spiked with a fear that BD would look like something that crawled from a hollow tree—a drunken waster squatting in a burnt out building sustaining himself on a stew of nail clippings and shoelaces, and who, in a fleeting moment of lucidity, contacted Mom to announce his imminent demise. I didn’t know if I could handle it. In my mind, he lived in suspended animation: The young college guy. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to discard the father of my imagination with the genuine article. He is, after all, half of me. And, as any child who has never known their birthparent, I found comfort in not knowing his true character. I couldn’t be disappointed. I couldn’t hurt. But at the same time, I was curious and the same question kept popping up: If his absence made me who I am, who would I be afterwards?

On Thursday, Mom gave Brit BD’s contact information, then, as if we’d come to some unspoken consensus, he told me to grab my coat … it was time. An hour later, Miko and I were sitting stark still in an immaculate living room in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, an affluent county in the New York metro area, while Brit spoke with a tall, handsome, well dressed gentlemen whom I assumed was BD’s caregiver. However, after closer examination, his confident demeanor spoke of higher birth, and his cynicism was a trait I recognized in myself.

This certainly wasn’t the made-for-television family reunion complete with bone crushing hugs and sobs of remorse and forgiveness I had dreaded. Frankly, I felt indifferent until I deduced from a picture seated on the expansive marble top table that his children, my half siblings, and I attended rival academies. Knowing he had been within close proximity all this time hurt and begged the questions why hadn’t he contacted me? Did his new family know of his past, about me? I decided immediately to hate this man. Gary wasn’t perfect in the beginning but damnit he was there. Miko took my hand. In her small way, she understood the dissonance swirl of intense and conflicting emotions screaming around the thick silence.

Brit and Miko stayed behind while Leon, the tall guy, led me through a maze of corridors. Leon wasn’t the caregiver. He is my half brother. “Our father’s eldest child after you, of course.” He laughed casually and told me about our two younger sisters, twins, Amelia and Averell both veterinarians who moved to NYC after their mother passed away last year.