Son's reunion with two fathers - a time for forgiveness


June 19, 1994|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,Sun Staff Writer

I am the son of two fathers. Yet both are strangers to me.

The man who gave me life I saw once in 33 years. The other, the villain in a divorce drama witnessed by the 12-year-old boy that was me, I saw twice in 26 years. The last time was in 1978.

I became a man without them, but was never free of them.

Time and again I played with the idea of seeking out the one whose face I could not remember, even if I tried. But I never took that first step. Fear held me back.

I wanted no part of the other, the one I once embraced. I remember standing in front of my second-grade class on show-and-tell day and proudly proclaiming: "I have a new daddy." My anger over that marriage's unraveling cast him out of my heart. I dropped his last name and reclaimed my natural father's.

Then, within the space of one year, my fathers found me. And I still wonder what it all means, what I am to make of their re-entry into my life.

It began with a phone call.

My mother called to say Mickie Thompson had called her. He was having a family reunion and wanted to see my brother and me. We are his oldest children. I am his first-born son. I carry his name. She did not give him my number, and I did not ask for his. I'd be damned if I was going to make the first step.

There was safety in that decision. I'd spent a lifetime with him on the outer reaches of my mind, achieved an emotional peace, settled accounts as best I could. Why open the door, for who knew where it led?

Looking back, it seems it didn't matter what I did. Fate, or something very much like it, was at work, sweeping me along.

I came home from work one day last May to find two messages blinking on the answering machine. Nothing unusual in that. I pushed the replay button and strolled around the kitchen, listening.

"This is for a Michael or M. Dion Thompson. My name is Diane Amos. I'm Mickie Thompson's daughter."

What! I went into full alarm. His daughter? My heart pounded. The second message came on before I could replay the first.

"This is Mickie Thompson. I'm his father. Please ask him to give me a call if he gets the chance."

By now I was hyperventilating. I replayed both messages once, twice, a third, fourth and fifth time, walked around the kitchen in ,, total confusion, talked to myself, waved my arms, stopped to listen to the recorded voices. His daughter? Not once did I ever think my brother and I weren't his only children. She sounded matter-of-fact. He sounded hesitant, as if my recorded voice had caught him off-guard. He was brief and to the point.

"I'm his father. Please ask him to give me a call . . ."

He'd flung the door open, and all I could do was smoke Marlboros, pour glasses of Chivas Regal over ice, babble to myself and pace around and around. I played the message again. Michael? His daughter didn't even know I was named after him!

I called my mother, frantic and out of breath, no longer safe in my isolation. Should I call him? I asked. She said I should. But when? Now? Tomorrow? Maybe I should wait until the weekend. I'd have settled down by then. Call him now, she said. I forced myself downstairs, stared at the phone, played the message again and wrote down the phone number, my nervous hand shaking, my heart hiccuping. I dialed the wrong number. The false start drained off some of my anxiety. I dialed again, whispering each number to myself.

It was one of the most surreal conversations I've ever had, cordial, pleasant, without rancor or pain. I found myself asking questions, giving answers, all the while thinking: This is too weird. I was talking to my father. My father? The word felt empty on my tongue, foreign, devoid of any emotional resonance.

I was relieved to learn he hadn't completely abandoned us. Part of his pay went to child support. He was retired from 20 years at Reynolds Aluminum. He has a grandson named Deon.

"I'd really like to see you," he kept saying.

I held back. Just because the door was open didn't mean I had to enter. I'm a busy man, I said. There's this and that going on. I stalled.

He said he would call again. I didn't believe him. He'd passed through my life once before, come to our home after my mother's second divorce, then disappeared. Why should this time be any different?

I was a child then. This time I was a man, unsettled by childhood yearnings, memories, the faint, dim remembrance of a father who brought his two little boys a firetruck and cars you could crash into walls and put back together.

This time there was a chance to get answers to questions never asked: Where did you come from? Where did you go? Did you ever think about me? A chance to see his face. I could lay it all to rest, but not really. One door only leads to another.

I stepped through the open door.

'We have found each other'

My letter began: "So, we have found each other." I sent along a photo of him holding me a lifetime ago in a Los Angeles forever lost. He responded with photos of his own, group shots of him and his current wife, his friends, his family. I knew him on sight.

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