Daddy: Reunited

You can find the first part of this post HERE

I sat in my room, the phone pressed to my ear, frozen and unable to grasp how profound this moment was. All I could think about was this was a joke, or maybe there is some guy named Lee there that knows a Tammy. I heard rustling as the phone was passed over to this man.

"Hi Tammy."

His voice. It was soft, almost shy. He stammered a bit, as though he was unsure of what to say. I could only muster a weak "Hi."

As soon as I heard his voice, I felt comforted. It's hard to explain. I just felt right. "Wow, Tammy. You don't know how long I have waited for this day..." His voice broke, and I knew he was crying. I had no idea what this man looked like, but I had never seen a man cry before. I didn't want him to cry.

We talked for a while. He told me he thought of me every single day and that he wished he could have taken care of me. He told me he tried real hard to get custody of me when I was living in my first foster home. He fought for a long time, but the county told him they had a wonderful family waiting to adopt me and with him being a single man, a truck driver who was on the road a lot, he could not care for me the way I needed to be cared for. It took him nearly two years to sign his rights over. He demanded they let him see me, and also asked for photos once I was adopted so he knew I was ok.

That explained why my first foster mother knew who he was. I was sad I could not recall his visits.

I felt his sadness in every word he spoke. I told him it was ok. That I am ok. He started asking about my life and I told him briefly what it was like. This only seemed to upset him more. He had expected me to be in a loving home, not being kicked around from place to place. I tried to assure him that I wouldn't be the person I am without my life experiences, so I was a better person for it.

He told me he was married a few times, but that his third wife is the charm. He didn't live too far from my foster home, and he wanted to make plans to see me. I told him I had to go through my social worker, and I would have her call him. He said he actually called my home and spoke to Agnese earlier. Ahhh ok that explained her behavior.

He promised to never ever lose touch with me again. We said goodbyes for now and as I laid the phone back in the cradle, I felt complete.

I clasped my hands together and thanked God for everything. He had been so good to me. Just a couple of months ago, I had no one. I felt so alone and helpless. It was so hard to believe I was on this journey, now with my mother and father next to me. I felt like the clouds had parted and warm rays shone directly on me. After feeling so unworthy for so long. I finally felt like I belonged here.

That weekend, my dad was on his way to meet me for the first time. He was bringing his wife with him as well. As excited as I was, my nerves consumed my excitement. One huge hurdle for me was the fact that men had often been bad to me. My past had been filled with abuse and most of that abuse had been by men. Any man I had come across, I knew not to trust. It was a built in defense mechanism, one I could not control. I wasn't sure how I would greet him, and the anxiety started building up when I thought he might hug me.

My fears were pushed to the side for a moment as one of the younger foster kids came up to see me. She was around 8 years old. Blonde, frail, with big blue eyes, she often liked to hang out with me. "So your daddy is coming?" she asked. Without even glancing in her direction I shook my head yes. "Can he be my Daddy too?" I whipped around to meet her gaze and anger bubbled up in my throat. "NO!" I yelled at her. "HE is MY Dad NOT yours! Stay away from him you brat!" She quickly ran out of my room and I slammed the door behind her.

I had never screamed at her like that before, but the feeling of ownership had overcome me, and I had to stake my claims on this man who was my father. I didn't want anyone taking him from me. I just found him and he was mine, I was not going to share!

I sat by the window in my room and waited.

The thoughts that raced through my mind all had one thing in common. What if he didn't like me? I was scared. Scared of rejection. Scared of acceptance. Scared he would need me. Scared I would need him. I knew I didn't want him to hug me. I was excited underneath all that fear, but in all honesty I didn't know what I was doing or how to behave. All I knew was something wonderful was happening, something I hadn't had in a long time, and I had to try not to be afraid and just be happy for the moment.

A blue sedan pulled into the driveway. My breath caught in my throat. Like a curious kitty I perched near the window and pressed my face to the glass so I could get a good look at these people. A man gets out of the driver's seat. He is huge. Like super tall and a bit heavy set. He has dark hair but it is greying. He told me on the phone he had a beard and people told him he looked like Kenny Rodgers. I thought he looked much more handsome than Mr. Rodgers. He walked around to the passenger side and helped a woman get out. She was much shorter than him and had reddish hair. They both looked like nice people. Holding hands, they both walked up the driveway and out of my view. Seconds later the doorbell sounded.

My heart jumped into my throat. My palms got sweaty and I ran to the mirror to check my hair and makeup again. I wanted to look pretty for my dad. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to race down the stairs, but fear kept me in my place.

"TAY-MEEEE!" Agnese called me to come down stairs. She too, had been making big plans for this day. Agnese loved having company. She was an amazing cook and she made an Italian feast fit for a king. Aromas of basil and tomatoes filled the house. My stomach grumbled, but not because I was hungry.

I swallowed hard to try and get rid of the huge lump in my throat. I opened the door and heard voices in the front room. Careful not to step on the creaky parts of the floor I quietly slipped down the hall so I could hear what they were saying. I heard my Dad's voice and his wife was talking to Agnese. I tiptoed down the stairs careful not to make a sound. There was a wall blocking their view of me and just a few more steps and I would be exposed to everyone. Right now I had the choice to remain invisible, to try and calm the fears in my head. The moment they saw me, there would be no turning back.

I decided I was comfortable sitting 5 stairs up from the end of the staircase. The more I heard their voices, the more I wanted to make my big entrance, but fear kept me from moving forward. My hands ran along the wall, Agnese had such shiny fancy wall paper. The texture was distracting. I ran my hands along the wall as I stepped down another stair. Just one more stair and I could see this man, my father.

Curiosity won over my fears and I peeked my head slowly around the corner. He was wearing a dark blue shirt and he sat in one of Agnese's big fancy chairs. She was doting on my dad and his wife, making sure they had plenty of coffee and cookies in front of them. His wife looked up and met my eye. Mid-sentence, she stopped and exclaimed "Well, there she is!"

Caught. Damn!

I began to shake like a leaf and my legs grew wobbly as I walked down the last three stairs. They stood up to greet me. My dad extended his arms and I walked up and gently grabbed one hand and shook it.

"Hi. Um Nice to meet you."

Tears in his eyes, my dad laid his free hand on the top of my shoulders. His wife walked up and said "Oh girl, I'm going in for the hug!" She hugged me tight and then stepped back as she held my arms. "Wow, Lee, she looks just like you!" Hearing that I looked like someone was very new to me, and I relished the thought that I had people that shared my features. It helped to know that not only were we bound by the blood running through our veins, but also by familiar traits passed down from family member to family member in the gene pool. This was a beautiful moment for me. I wanted so badly to be a part of a family for so long, and here I looked like a man who actually was my father.

We all sat in the formal living room and talked for a little while. Agnese excused herself to finish getting the meal ready for all of us. My dad was very open with his emotions and wanted me to know the he was there for me now and forever. He told me about my brother, his son. He told me I had an Uncle and Aunts and a Grandmother that were eager to meet me, but they all lived pretty far so one day we could travel to see them. It was a lot to soak in. I liked him, but years of abuse made it hard to trust him. I for sure wanted to get to know him, but on my terms. As long as he didn't try and touch me then we would be ok.

Agnese called us to dinner and I felt extra special because I got to eat in the formal dining room where only the special guests were allowed to eat. The other kids were seated at the kitchen table, and I was at the head of the fancy table. My dad was seated on my right side and my step mom at the left. Agnese was bustling about serving everyone. We talked between bites and then Agnese joined us. I was relieved because they all started talking and I was happier just observing. Halfway through dinner, my little foster sister came up to my Dad. She had a bear and wanted him to hold it for her. She crawled up on his lap and I jumped up and told her to get off my Dad. "He's MINE not YOURS!" I screamed at her. She grabbed her bear and ran off crying. I was surprised at my anger, but I couldn't help it. She had no business talking to my dad. My step-mom looked at me, surprised. "Tammy, it's ok if she talks to him. She doesn't have a Daddy, you should know how that feels." I looked down at my hands. I knew I was wrong, and I was acting really immature, but I couldn't control my feelings.

The rest of the visit went well. Lots of small talk, I shared some of my poetry. My dad told me he liked to take pictures and asked if maybe the next time he came to visit, we could find a place to take pictures of stuff. This was good, because if he wanted to see me again, I didn't scare him off!

We set up another visit for the following weekend. I walked them outside and thanked them for coming. My Dad stood in front of me for a moment. He was so tall. He said he was over 6 and 1/2 feet tall. As tall as he was, he wore his heart on his sleeve so I wasn't scared of him like I thought I would be. I was still guarded and my body language was stiff and uncomfortable during moments like this, moments where a normal girl would hug her father.

Unfortunately, I was far from a normal girl, and this man may have been my father but he didn't know me.

We said our goodbyes and made sure to add "for now!" I shook his hand again and Faye, my step-mom went in for the hug even though my hands stayed planted at my sides. I could tell my dad was hurt because I wouldn't hug him. I didn't know how to fix that. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I don't know how to describe this fear to you in words except that I was terrified at the thought of this man, or any man hugging me at that point in my life. I was damaged and even though this reunion was a huge positive moment in my life, I didn't know how to drop my guard and allow myself to be vulnerable.

As I watched his car back out of the driveaway and head down the road out of site, I prayed that I would see him again, like he promised.


I hesitate to begin this journey. Reliving the moments I had with my father. I am frustrated and angry because it's so much easier to feel those emotions than allow myself to feel the deep sadness that rests below the surface.

I don't have any memories of my father from my childhood. He wasn't in my life. Growing up, I never stopped to wonder about who he was or why he wasn't here. I didn't even know his name. I had managed to get a copy of my birth certificate when I was around 14 years old, and in the space where the father was supposed to sign were typed words saying "Mother does not wish to state..."

Not only had this woman robbed me of having a mother, but she obviously didn't want me to have a father, either.

I recall, after I reunited with my mother, she had been vague about my dad. For some reason, this only fed my curiosity about him. It led me to pick up the phone and call someone that I never intended to speak to again. My very first foster mother.

We talked for a few minutes. She was surprised that I had called her, as I left her home 12 years earlier and never tried to contact her again. Something in my heart told me she was the person to call, so I did.

To this day, I am in awe of the fact that she was able to tell me my Dad's full name and where he worked at the time I was in her home. He was never listed as a custodial parent, and his name is no where on my court records, so I was shocked she had so much information about him.

I thought I had gotten through the conversation without having to discuss that thing with her, until she said, "You know, Tammy...those people brainwashed you." I grit my teeth hard, and fought back angry tears. All I could muster was one word. "ok."

She went on and on about how I was wrong about her son, and I had to cut the conversation short. I hastily thanked her for speaking with me, and hung up.

I take pride in being pretty resilient, and after a few moments, I was able to shake off the emotions that threatened to overcome me, and focus on the real task at hand.

My Dad.

I looked at the slip of paper that had his work information on it. I took out a phone book and looked up the company that my foster mother had given me. It was in there. The tiny font stood out from everything else on the page. The phone number stared back at me and I knew I had a fight on my hands.

I mean, who would remember a man from over a decade ago? I pictured having to explain myself to a long line of people before someone, anyone may have some information for me. I wasn't even sure if they could legally give me any details about him, if they had any.

I dialed the number. My stomach churned. The phone rang. And rang. Then, voicemail.

It was a Thursday afternoon. I thought it was weird no one was there, and I blurted out a quick message after the tone. I recall saying something along the lines of, "Hi, this may sound strange, but my name is Tammy, and I was told there was a man by the name of Lee Bennett working there. I know it has been a long time but if he is no longer working there, maybe you can help me find him? I'm his daughter....thank you."

I hung up the phone and decided to go out and hang with my friends for a bit.

A few days later, that following Monday, I walked into my home. I was living with a foster mother who I had lived with on and off for the past 10 years. She'd kick me out, but would always take me back when I had nowhere to go.

She was a Sicilian woman named Agnese. This woman was larger than life. A hot blooded Italian, her voice could be heard throughout our neighborhood. We had nicknamed her Old Yeller, because man, that woman had a set of pipes! She was a tough old lady. I didn't know it at the time, but as much as she scared me, I later learned to hold her in a very high regard. You will learn more about Agnese, but for now, let me tell you the events that occurred when I walked into her home.

"OH Taymee...OH Taymee! You wonta believea me!! Oh I hava miracle!! " She throws herself at my feet with tears in her eyes she holds my arms and says "I hava the besta gifta for you and I canna give it to you!" Seriously, I thought she was just acting nuts. I had no idea what the hell was wrong with her. I just looked at her and said "Huh?"

"Oh Taymee! I gotta the best phone call and I canna tella you! I want to so bad!! I just canna not and it rips my hearta open!" I look at her, literally unphased. "Ok, Agnese. Well you just tell me when you figure out how, ok?" I pulled away from her grasp, leaving her on her knees crying on the floor. Now, again...she was over the top dramatic, so this was not exactly unusual for her. I figured maybe she was up to something, but was so preoccupied with all the events happening in my life, that I didn't have the energy to focus on her craziness.

I went into my bedroom and shut the door behind me. The phone book laid open with the number staring back at me. I decided now was a good time to call again and see what I could find out about my father.

I dialed the number, less nervous and more focused this time. "Moving & Storage, how can I help you?" a woman's voice said. I grabbed a pen and paper and said "Hi, umm this may sound strange, but I left a voice mail and my name is Tammy. Is there a Lee Bennett that works...." Before I could finish my sentence, the lady gasps and says, "YES! Yes Lee works here, Tammy!! HE'S RIGHT HERE NEXT TO ME!!!"

Facing the Past

These days, life as I know it is ordinary. I have three beautiful boys, a loving husband, a home in the suburbs of America's Dairy land. I go about my days taking care of my family, as they are my number one priority.

People may see me as a typical mom, and I like that. Most days, I see myself that way too.

It just takes a word, a smell, a tiny trigger point to snap me back into reality. I'm not typical. I'm no where near ordinary.

It is for these reasons that I struggle coming here. It is a reminder that I can't pretend my past never happened. I have to face it head on. I need to confront it. I need to let my story pour out of me, and I am driven to do so because I know someone, somewhere will benefit from hearing my experiences. It is a driving force that once revved up inside me with such power, such force. I wanted to scream it to the world. That is, until I got to the hard parts.

It's weird, because talking about my past does not bother me so much. I am open when people ask about my mom or family. I talk about my life in foster care, about being adopted, then returned. I can talk about the abuse I endured, and it doesn't affect me.

Writing about it is the hard part. The emotions pour out of me, and I relive every moment. I am faced with so many questions as to why I went through all that I did. I am reminded of the injustices that happened to me, and it makes my heart ache to think that these things, and more, are still happening to children all over, and nothing is being done to give them a voice.

That is what drives me. What brings me here. I want to be a voice for them.

I sit here, with my 3 year old on my lap. He just woke up and stumbled out here searching for me. He's still half asleep and he is snuggled up close to my chest, eyes closed, stroking my hair, strands falling and twisting between his tiny fingers. Something about being this close brings him comfort. I recall that feeling, as I had just a glimpse of moments like this when I was close to his age. The fleeting moments when I could crawl into my mother's lap and press my ear tight against her chest. I could hear her voice through her breast and it soothed me. I recall holding onto her as tight as I could, if only for that moment.

When I look at my little boy's sweet little face, I cannot imagine one day without him by my side. As much as it pains me to think of life without him, I know his trauma would be magnified much more if I were to ever leave him and not look back.

It makes me wonder how she could do that to me.

It hurts. A lot.

Rejection is one of the most awful things you could ever feel. It means you are not wanted. It's hard not to take that personal, especially when it happens over and over and over again.

Being surrounded by my family is the only comfort I have, and I hold onto that with all my might. They haven't rejected me as of yet, but the fear that is embedded deep within me remains. I pray they never turn their backs on me. Rationally, it sounds ridiculous, but I know it can happen.

For now, I relish every moment I can. My boys are my life, the very breath that fills me. We go about our day to day. We have the typical family struggles, especially now that I have a teenager. Anyone with a teenager should be able to relate to how fun it is to have one. I have moments where I scream, when I want to pull my hair out and I feel like hitting my head on a wall, but those moments all seem to disappear each night when I peek on my boys as they sleep. Secure, safe, tucked in their beds, not one ounce of fear in their little hearts, as they dream away.

They know where they rest their heads every night. The number will always stay the same...

One pillow.

I named this blog Seventeen Pillows for each pillow I rested my head on as a child. My journey through each of those moments is a difficult one, but it is a road I need to take.