There is no blueprint to building relationships with family you never knew you had

As I am working to build relationships with some of my birth father’s family, I have come to realize there is no blueprint for how to do this. Some in the family are quite comfortable with me being in their lives, others still wonder why I came around in the first place.

Each visit is emotionally draining. I have come to learn that I come across as a calm, collected person even when my thoughts are racing, making it vital for me to take time after each visit to process what I am learning. Aside from my first visit with my grandmother, there haven’t been a lot of tears shed when we are together. Instead, a lot of laughter has been shared, stories exchanged and a growing knowledge that our paths needed to cross for me to feel whole.

Meeting after he passed away adds a layer of complexity to our conversations. They are all learning how to live in a world without their beloved son, husband, brother and uncle. The family secret that everyone knew but did not talk about is out in the open now, and he cannot help them navigate how they should interact with me.

Thankfully, I am building those relationships and learning about him, even without a blueprint. Our foundation is being built slowly, through phone calls, texts and the occasional visit. Through these interactions, I am learning family folklore and my birth father’s place in his immediate family. His wife shared many pictures with me and a plaque he received from his employer for a patent he received. For my birthday, my grandmother baked me the German chocolate cake she would always make for his birthday. She was able to attend my graduation ceremony from Michigan State University last March, too, because a cousin of mine dropped everything to help.

As we are learning about each other, I know I take time after each phone call or visit to think about what our conversations and shared experiences mean. How does it fit into what I already know about them or him? How does it fit into what I know about why my mom and birth father agreed it would be best that she raise me? How does it fit into my role as a son? How does it fit into my role as The Kid’s papa, and how will it impact the way I talk about birth families with her? How can I use what I learn to be a stronger advocate for adoptees?

Gone are the musings that he might not want to meet me or that I would somehow be wrecking his life by reaching out to him. While I wish things were different, I have also been at peace with the timing of things knowing that God has a reason for all of this. I might not understand it right now, but someday I will. And when I do, I will be glad that I have worked on building these relationships, even if I am lacking a blueprint.

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