Over the last couple of years I found myself at the computer, googling my biological father's name. I'd sort through the different characters that came up. There was Todd, the pastor. Todd, the photographer. Todd, the game designer. I'd look at images and try to recognize parts of their faces in mine, see if anything about them struck me. I even had some numbers I found in online directories, saved under his name in my phone, just in case I ever got the guts to call.
My mom told me he was a cook when they were together. He played in a rockabilly band. He grew up in a big Mormon family. She said he was tall and had hair like my brother and a nose like mine. For a long time I held onto these details like little family heirlooms. I tried to piece them together, to re-create the man who left before I was born. My mom's memories were all I had. There was nothing else. No pictures. No letters. Nothing.
Until I was a teenager, knowing about my dad came from more of a place of curiosity than anything else. But as I got older I guess it became more about trying to figure out who I was. It was as if he might hold onto some mystery that would make who I am a little more clear. That maybe learning more about him would reveal who I was supposed to be.
In November, I turned 20. That's 20 years of not knowing my dad. I've gone through zits, college applications and boyfriends without his help. I've learned to take care of myself, to be responsible, to be kind. All in all, I think I've turned out okay, maybe even better than okay. And while I have a lot more growing to do, I know I can't expect someone I've never met to make me more of the man I should be. That's my job. I decide who I am and who I become.
Genes may connect us but I'm a product of so much more than that. The decisions I make, the family and friends who I choose to keep around me, those are the things that make me who I am. So for me, the new year means deleting those old numbers from my phone and spending more time searching not for my dad, but for myself.