When you’re 42 years old, during what has already been a significant and fruitful Jackie Robinson year, you will receive a message via Facebook that will change your life. It will confirm everything you believed to be true, surprise you in the wildest of ways, and cause you to think you’re complete. That last part… won’t be true. At all.
Spoiler alert: Your birth father, who you are named after (but you already knew that), will reach out to you and let you know that he’s been searching for you for years, knowing you were out there and wanting to connect with you. He will start by saying he’s a Knicks fan (FYI: You’ll be sooooo over the Knicks by then, but they’ll always live with you in the form of premature grey hairs that will bloom in the middle of your head. Go figure!) and that you seem smart (you are) and have it all together (you do not). You’ll be nervous and skeptical and wary and question everything, but you will respond. You will call him and ask him questions. You will find out that you have 11 siblings. Yes, you read that right. 11. Two ones. One more than 10. And they’re all alive and healthy and responsible human beings. He’ll tell you about aunts and uncles and cousins and that both of your grandparents have died and that he’s so thankful he’s finally found you.
You’ll believe him. And you’ll meet all of the aforementioned siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and be sad that you won’t ever get to meet your grandparents. But all of that family? Yeah, you’ll be all in. Which is good. As long as you’re ready for it all.
Don’t get me wrong. You’ll have your favorites. Your siblings, all grown and making moves, will be solid and you’ll love them quickly. Your cousins, mostly your age, will be vibrant and well-meaning and will welcome you with open arms. You will bond with them, and want to be around them all the time.
Your aunts? Well, that’s a different story. One that you’ll have to experience for yourself. However, if there’s any advice I could give to you before you interact with them, and with all of the family, it’s this: Just be ready. Do not go into it feeling like you have to do more than what is necessary for them to like you. To welcome you. To accept you. You don’t. So don’t. Love them for the family they are, but don’t feel like you can’t do that from afar if need be. You can. You will.
Either way, you will. So since you’re going to do it anyway, save yourself some drama and mental balance by doing it from the beginning. When you meet them. Don’t overdo anything. Accept them for who they are, not for who you want or even may need them to be. They won’t be that. Trust me. But they will love you. And accept you, in the way that they’re able. Make sure that’s OK for you. But look at it that way as you meet them. Not years later when you could possibly distance yourself from them because they aren’t who you wanted them to be. Distance yourself from them because they earned it. And some of them truly will.
But yeah… family. You’re going to meet them. You will cry. Your heart will be full. My only request is that you maintain a necessary balance. And in some instances, a necessary distance, which is still love by the way. It’s the best advice I can give you.
Oh, and congratulations, kid! You did good. You will finally find your tribe. Folks that look like you. It will change your life.
Old Man Dawson