I wish I didn't know that a few of my friends fathered children they do not acknowledge but it's true. I always find it disturbing when they reveal the truth to me because it's something I don't want to know. Call it TMI. There's the father whose child was adopted and when the birth mother called him asking for help in finding the son, he said no. He didn't go into the details, but I assume she was asking him for money to hire a searcher. This is a man who could have afford a thousand bucks easy. We've never talked about it again. He has a strong and
opinionated wife of many years, and they have a son, and I'm probably correct in saying that this son doesn't know about his big brother. What happened, I don't know. I don't ask.
Then there's the man who called me out of the blue one day about ten years ago--we had not been in touch for a decade before that, but friends who had once hung out in the same crowd--to tell me that he recently found out that he was a birth father himself. He said something to the effect of: "All those years, when you talked about adoption, wrote that book--there I was, involved too and I didn't know it."
He hadn't known he was a birth father until the mother, a one night stand or nearly so long ago, called him to inform him a few months earlier. He said he was blown away with the news, but he did remember running into her once at Grand Central Station in Manhattan and she didn't want to talk to him, she just ran away as quickly as possible. He said he had a funny feeling that day from her reaction that maybe...she had gotten pregnant. But since he knew nothing else, since she never told him anything, she just disappeared from his life, he put the encounter in the back of his mind. Now, he said, he had met the young man, and to him it was a kind of miraculous event: the young man had gone to the same university as he had; had majored in the same subject, not only resembled him but shared interests and mannerisms, and in one of those weird synchronistic occurrences--smoked the same kind of cigarette, a brand once popular but today has a limited following: Kent. My friend loved that touch. He kept repeating it: He smokes Kents. He loved meeting his son. They had a bang-up time at lunch.
My friend was married now, with a daughter and a son, and he too had a strong wife. She was against telling the other children--they were adolescents then--and against telling my friend's father, saying that the news might be a shock to him, and somehow--well, you know, that lead to a stoke or heart attack, was the implication. Give me a break, I thought, she just wants to make sure that this extra grandson--the first born son who resembled his father so much--was not included in the will of the grandfather. This was a prosperous Irish family. Wow, I thought, we have not come any distance since feudal societies with bastards and legitimate children, and first wives and eldest sons and all that implies. Ignore the illegitimate! Keep them out of the will! Off with their heads!
There was the man who called me up because he was a friend of a friend and he knew he had fathered the child of a stewardess years ago, but now not only did he not know her name, he was trying to see if there was any way he might find his child. Like, really? I don't have a crystal ball. There was the man on a vacation in the Galapagos who told me his story and how he would like to find his daughter because he could now afford to pay for her schooling, make sure that she had everything monetary that she needed. There is the good friend who got his high school girlfriend pregnant, but her father made him promise that he would never reveal the truth, that he would leave and never contact his son, and my friend feels bound by that promise of four-plus decades ago. The boy was not adopted; my friend has watched from a far distance; he is a good man; he does know what occupation his son chose; it was one he himself tried but left. Do I agree with his decision to honor that old promise to a man who is surely dead by now? No, I do not.
WHEN DADDY LIVES DOWN THE BLOCK
Where is this all going? Several weeks ago I read in The Ethicist in the New York Times Magazine a letter from a biological father wrestling with the ethics of letting a neighbor's daughter know that he is her true father: I didn’t find out for years, but I fathered a child with a woman in my neighborhood who was, and still is, married to another man. The girl does not know about any of this. Neither does the husband. At the mother’s request, I have had nothing to do with the girl, though I offered to tutor her. Does she have a right to know her true parentage upon reaching adulthood? Sooner? Over the objection of the mother? Only when the husband dies? Who can make these decisions and when? NAME WITHHELD, NEW YORK
The Ethicist's advice: talk to the girl's mother and try to reach a consensus (in other words, convince her if you can to tell the truth, and then you have to tell the purported biological father as well), but do not act alone, as that would be analogous to jumping out of the bushes with a sign that said: “Surprise! You were created from my sperm!” I could understand all that, but the part that made me upset was this line: Even when the girl becomes an adult, an out-of-the-blue, unilateral disclosure would still be the most destructive approach.
What if the mother never agrees? What if she stays married to the girl's father, as far as she knows Daddy, and so the mother never wants to spill the beans? Is it going to be any less shocking news if the mother agrees to tell the secret of paternity?
I know news like this will always be shocking, but damn! I am a firm believer in everyone's right to know the truth of his or her origins. It's not always pretty, it might not be the news you were expecting, but who wouldn't rather know? If the father who raised someone was a good parent, I assume one would go on loving that person and relate to him as Dad. But truth? There's nothing like the truth. We are human; we deserve nothing less. --lorraine
Maybe this father business came to mind today because the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints recipient of Demons of Adoption Awards And we know LDS is not in favor of the truth, or single fathers when it interferes with LDS doctrine.
For more, see
Utah rules against natural father. Again. And again. Adoption is big business there.
A Child of War Discovers 'Dad' Killed Her Parents
Is it a 'Birth' Certificate or Certificate of Title?