The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Reconciling With My Father
Chimore Mack
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Names have been changed.

One October day, when I was 10 years old and living in my grandmother’s home, my sister and I were playing Monopoly. There was a knock. I opened the door and saw a tall man with reddish brown hair dressed in black. My grandmother announced that it was my father. I felt awkward and shocked. I had no memory of him. I hadn’t seen him since I was a baby.

I had heard good as well as bad things about my father from my mother’s relatives. He had travelled to many different countries and was a teacher, so he was accomplished. But my aunts and uncles told me that he was abusive to my mother.

My mother had her parental rights terminated when I was 4 and my brother was 6, due to her mental illness. We went to live with her mother, along with my two younger siblings by a different father.

I still don’t know why my father showed up that day, and neither did my grandmother; it was a surprise to all of us. He told us about his travels. He told us he’d married another woman and they had three kids.

I was angry because I was in the picture first—why didn’t he take care of me and my brother? I wanted to ask him why I was in foster care, but I didn’t because my grandmother was strict and didn’t allow us to ask “grown folks’” questions. He stayed for two hours and then he said that he would call. He gave each of us a hug and a kiss before he left.

He never came back, never called, never sent a letter.

I cherished that visit for the next 14 years. His coming over was a good memory, even though I was mad at my father for missing my youth. He missed my high school prom and graduation and all my birthdays.

Over the years since then, I asked my grandmother if she knew where he was. She always said she didn’t know. I decided to do my own searching after I left to go to college in New Hampshire. I went online and put his name in Google but I got different people with his name. I was thinking of trying to find him on MySpace (a social networking website that was big back then), but to no avail. I then tried going online to sites that charged a lot of money to track people down. I stopped, though, because it was expensive and I thought it looked a little like a scam. Plus I felt a little funny digging into his business.

Father Figures

Then my Uncle Larry passed away. Uncle Larry was a father figure, and it was hard when he was struggling with diabetes. Larry wasn’t related to my father, but he was friends with him. I didn’t want Larry stressing when he was sick, so I never told him that I was looking for my father. Larry’s illness and death made me depressed and I failed some classes. I stopped searching for my father.

image by YC-Art Dept

When I aged out of care, I began searching again. I wanted closure and to heal. I withheld myself from people and didn’t face my problems. I was always angry and starting arguments instead of looking inside myself to find why I was angry. I think not having a connection with my father was partly why.

I thought that finding my father would put some of the puzzle pieces of my life together. I wanted to know more about why I was in the foster care system. My mother and her family members said my father was an abuser and an alcoholic. My grandmother had explained that my mother was mentally ill and couldn’t take care of us. So it seemed like both my parents were responsible for my brother Saul and me going into foster care. Still, I wanted his side of the story.

Last year, Saul told me about a website called US.search.com. It only cost me $4.00 to get my father’s e-mail, phone number, and address. I e-mailed my father a message about how I’d been trying to reach him over the years. But he blocked me. I felt abandoned and angry; after all these years, he should at least talk to me.

But I didn’t give up. I tried calling but it went to voicemail. Then I wrote a letter telling him about my accomplishments. I included my birth certificate along with the Represent that I was on the cover of and had two stories in. I included the birth certificate because my sister said he’d told her he had doubts I was his biological child. I was pretty sure we were related: I remember that he was tall, like me, had a similar Southern twang in his voice, and he said he had “two left feet” when it came to dancing, same as me.

Two weeks later, in August 2012, I got a voicemail from him saying that the letter was wonderful and the magazine was great. Listening to the voicemail, I cried a little because I thought I wasn’t going to hear from him.

Questions

We began to speak every day on the phone. I confronted him about not returning my e-mails. He said he thought they were spam, and I believed him. I asked why I was in the foster care system and why he wasn’t there in my life. He told me he’d been homeless after my mother committed fraud in his name by maxing out credit cards that he didn’t know about.

He said he expected me to curse at him when we first spoke on the phone. “You’re very forgiving,” he said and added that he was grateful that we were in touch and that I told him how I felt.

This past Christmas, he came over to my apartment to celebrate with me and my brother. He stayed from 2:30 to 6:30 pm. He gave me a Christmas gift and a birthday gift (my birthday is three days after Christmas). I was shocked; I wasn’t expecting anything from him.

My brother had been angry at my father for not answering his calls five years ago when my brother was about to get married. But to my surprise, my brother acted civil with him, and the two of them did most of the talking. My father answered all of his questions. He told us that his wife and three other kids knew about Saul and me. My father and his family live in Long Island, about an hour and a half away.

When I tell people this story, they are surprised that I’m talking to him. I had some animosity, but it diminished once I started connecting with him. I know my Uncle Larry would have liked seeing my father and me getting along. And my grandmother taught me to forgive. She said that having a grudge keeps you from hashing things out: You just build up hate and resentment. I decided I would rather forgive my father and have a relationship with him than hold on to the anger alone.

Now I can have a relationship with my father and maybe with my other siblings, and maybe my “new” grandmother. I’d like more family time with my father’s side because I’ve grown apart from my mother’s side of the family in the last few years. My father said that when he isn’t busy, he would introduce Saul and me to our half-siblings.

I’m very happy that I’m building a connection with my father. I’m glad I gave him a chance instead of calling him a deadbeat and cursing him out. I got to ask the question that I had always wanted to ask him—why was I in foster care? I felt relieved to know he didn’t just abandon us for no reason. He was homeless and he couldn’t take care of himself or me and my brother due to my mother running up debt on his credit cards.

I still wonder why he didn’t get in touch with me after he got back on his feet. It’s going to take time for me to ask him that question.

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