I am a forty‑two‑year‑old nonmarital son. My father is still alive. I love him very much. He has always kept up with me and my mother, but he has never introduced me to his family…. I believe that I should respect his decision to keep my existence a secret….
He is now very old, so he hardly ever visits us anymore…. The last time he visited, I let him know I was worried about not knowing if something bad happened to him. But he didn’t say anything to me; we both just got teary‑eyed. Having received no response, I left him with both of us feeling very upset….
I would like to be able to help him and spend more time with him, as I have always wanted to do. I don’t know how wise it would be to bring his family up to speed. I don’t know how his legitimate children would take it, with me showing up after so much time, as if out of nowhere…. I only want to be with him. I feel like an ungrateful son, and it hurts me a lot, just as it did when he was not present during the celebrations and events in my life.
We are so very sorry for the way that you have been hurt, over and over and over again, by a forty‑two-year‑old secret! When you mentioned the absence of your father at the celebrations and events of your life, you highlighted the fact that this is a situation that has caused you great emotional distress for your entire life. The unfulfilled desire to spend more time with your aging father that you are now experiencing is only the culmination of a lifetime of emotional pain that has included feelings of rejection, self‑doubt, anxiety, and probably anger.
It’s not unusual that you are reluctant to admit to any negative feelings, such as rejection and anger, because he is the only father you have. You have been forced to take what you could get, as little as it might have been. That little that he offered became significant to you because you needed a father. You denied any negative feelings because you couldn’t afford to jeopardize the tiny bit of father that he allowed you to have.
As much as it hurts you now, your father made some wrong choices. First, he became intimately involved with your mother without the benefit of marriage. Then he chose to keep your existence a secret from his family. After years of keeping those secrets, it became more and more difficult for him to confess to the first and then the second horrible choice that he had made. He had probably built an image with his wife and children that knowledge of your existence would have destroyed.
We can’t tell you what to do now. You have to decide for yourself. If you decide to reveal your identity to your father’s family, it will have the same effect as if you tried to get even with him for the years of emotional pain. The upheaval in their lives will not match the pain you have faced, but at least you will no longer be a shadow. On the other hand, if you decide to continue to respect your father’s decision to keep your existence a secret, then remember that last time you saw him as your final goodbye, and go on with your life.
How can you make the pain go away? You can’t. But you can take the extremely hard lessons that you have learned and turn them into good for another child whose father has abandoned him. Perhaps there is a boy on your block with no father. You can spend time with him and build his self‑esteem. You can take him to a ball game or play ball with him in the street. That boy needs a male role model just like you did. Be there for him at his celebrations and special events, with his mother’s approval, of course.
Our Heavenly Father is a father to the fatherless,1 and He wants to be the father you have never had. Talk to Him as you wish you could have talked to your biological father. He is the only one who can heal the hurts of your heart. We assure you that He will never abandon you.
We wish you well,
Linda and Charles
1 Ps 68:5