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my mom left my father before i could walk or speak because he was an abusive alcoholic who refused to seek treatment. i never met him.

last fall, i typed his name into google as i'd done hundreds of times before, but this time there he was.
it wasn't what i'd hoped. i found him on a facebook page dedicated to reposting mugshots from west virginia jails.

so i paid one of those shitty sites that does public records searches. through it, i found aunts and uncles and cousins and a living grandmother.
i found my cousin michael on facebook, who put me in touch with aunt linda––my father's sister.

she was so happy to hear from me. she sent family photos and stories about my long-deceased grandfather: a baptist minister who lost both hands in a coal mining accident.
i heard from two more aunts, and they sent photos of their families. my inbox filled with photos of strangers with my face.

linda said my father was excited to hear from me, but he was in poor health (was i assumed was a polite euphemism for "a drunk") and didn't have email.
i kept asking after my father. they said they'd get him set up with email one of these days. i let some letters from my new family sit for awhile without replies. once you get past the initial introductions, it's hard to know what to say.
two weeks ago i heard from my aunt donna: my grandmother had passed away. she was 85 years old, had 17 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. i sent my condolences and asked if i could send flowers, but the funeral had already happened.
then yesterday i got another email, this time from aunt linda:

"I am sorry to tell you that your father passed away yesterday. Please know we are here if you want to talk."
i asked how he passed. i asked why he never wrote me back. i was sadder than i thought i'd be, but i was also so fucking angry––not just at him, but at myself. i thought we had time.
they're still doing an autopsy, but basically he drank himself to death after his mom died. they found him alone on the floor in his apartment.

"He desperately tried to make a life for himself but the drinking won," says aunt linda
they said he was so happy to know i grew up and turned out okay. i think maybe he never wrote to me because he was ashamed.

i'd always hoped i'd get a chance to glimpse the man my mom said he was when he wasn't drinking. but addiction is so insidious.
so i'm still processing, i guess. i am hoping to develop a relationship with what seems to be an extremely large paternal family, in whatever way makes sense.
it feels weird to mourn a person you never knew and a relationship you never had. i keep having to remind myself that my reaction and feelings are valid. it's okay to grieve.
thanks for listening. i'm not sure why i put this here. i guess i know i'm not the only one with a weird family backstory. we're all gonna be ok, though.

also: you do NOT have all the time in the world. do that thing you're putting off.
thank you for your kind DMs and stories. i'm a little overwhelmed right now, but i will respond to all of you when i can.
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