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Tarnished Superman

Tarnished Superman

Editor’s Note: Some of the names in this story have been changed.

“Is your dad’s name Rick and your mom’s Karen?” It was Sunday night, and I was checking my MySpace page when I received the message. I didn’t recognize the person who sent it to me: this 21-year-old kid from Ohio named Kevin. How did this guy know my parents’ names? Usually when strangers send me messages, they’re advertising porno sites or free iPods, so this was definitely a bizarre way to end an otherwise perfectly normal day.

“As a matter of fact,” I replied, “yes. Do you know me from somewhere?” Maybe his parents were friends with my parents. Or maybe he was a long-forgotten childhood friend. I looked his profile over again and again; nope, still didn’t recognize him. Yet there was something about his square jaw line and brown eyes that seemed strangely familiar, like something from my past, but I couldn’t figure it out.

The next morning his reply was waiting for me in my inbox. “This may sound weird,” he wrote. “But you are my half-brother.”

Do what now?

As I continued to read his message, my chest tightened, and I nearly slipped out of my chair. His mom’s name is Jill, and his dad is none other than my old man. Kevin knew of my existence from a young age, but had no way to find me until the advent of MySpace. “I thought about how almost everyone has a MySpace,” he wrote. “And sure enough, you were the first search result.” If that’s not a sign of our technological progress, I don’t know what is. I quickly got my mom to read the message. Her body stiffened as she looked at the screen and said, “Boy, this sure takes me back!” Mom said she had heard rumors that my dad had a love child, but didn’t pay any attention to it. She was through with him after they divorced.

What a way to start a Monday! The rest of the day blurred like a dream, as thoughts and emotions raced around my brain. All this time, for these past 20-some-odd years of thinking I was an only child, I had a half-brother? If the Lord is the author of our faith, then He just gave me one major plot twist. I always wanted a brother, since I grew up surrounded by mostly women. But now everything was different; a veil had just dropped, revealing both new beginnings and unfinished business. I had just discovered not only a new relative, but also memories of my dad that were waiting to be confronted.

I never really had a father. My dad was more like a wild, fun uncle who occasionally visited. I remember many childhood days sitting by the window, waiting for him. When will he be here? Why is he late? He said he’d be here. Is he going to bail out again? Finally a car would pull into the driveway (a different one each time, since he didn’t drive and his girlfriends chauffeured him around), and as soon as he stepped into my house, the fun would begin. During his visits, we would wrestle in the living room, fish at the park and play with nearly everything at KB Toys. He introduced me to punk rock, and taught me the comedic genius of poop jokes. I thought I had the coolest dad in the world, but as I got older things changed.

As time went by, his visits became fewer. Sometimes it would be years before I heard from him again. I also wanted to know exactly why my parents divorced, since Mom never fully explained it. Finally, when I was 14, she started telling me the truth about Dad. He abused drugs and alcohol, and had an affair while mom was pregnant with me. He promised to change, and mom decided to give him a second chance. Then when I was not yet a year old, mom came home from work one day to find all of his things gone. On the table was a note that said he was leaving. Ever since the divorce, mom often had to work two jobs so I could have enough to eat, since she never received one child support check from Dad. Quickly the image I had of my dad being Superman tarnished. Instead, I only saw a pathetic man who refused to grow up. I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

For the past few years, contact with dad has been very sporadic at best. He’s often reappeared in my life wanting to start over, only to disappear again when a relationship started to bud.

I hadn’t heard from him for so long, that I practically forgot he existed. That is, until Kevin found me. Suddenly every memory of him, every feeling of loneliness and rejection, every bit of anger sprung from my mind and said, “We need to talk.” Had I really forgiven him? And if so, then why does it still hurt?

If sorry is the hardest word to say, then the second hardest is forgive. I never could figure out that whole “forgive and forget” thing. When someone does something to me, I forever see that person as “the guy who did that to me.” But if God has forgiven me for all the messed up stuff I’ve done, then how hard can it be to forgive others? Unfortunately, it is still difficult, which is why I refer to forgiveness as “the other f word.”

That night I lied in my bed and stared at the ceiling, as thoughts of Kevin and dad kept me awake. What am I supposed to do now? I knew eventually I had to confront the dad dilemma, but the thought still made me squirm a little. Finally I whispered, “God, you know more than I ever will. Please let me know what to do now.” By the next morning I knew exactly what to do next: not think about my father for a little bit, and get to know my half-brother.

For next few months Kevin and I talked online nearly every day—about our jobs, our hobbies, things we loved and things we hated. It turns out we’re both huge movie buffs, and we’re both wannabe novelists. We never paused to think about what to say next; we both just let the conversations go wherever they wanted. Kevin and I quickly formed a bond—formed by blood and the shared experience of growing up without a father. I’m proud to say he is my brother.

Despite being disappointed at dad for not being there, Kevin still wanted to get to know him. And he actually did get in touch with dad, thanks again to the magic of MySpace. Turns out it’s true—practically everyone does have a MySpace nowadays, including my dad! According to Kevin, dad’s doing well. He’s studying to be a history teacher and is happily married with a five-year-old daughter named Kim. Kevin sent me a link to dad’s profile. It’s nothing too fancy; just the basic white background, and a picture of him with little Kim wrapped in his arms. Finally I had a chance to contact dad!

I stared at dad’s MySpace page, the mouse hovering over the “send message” link, waiting to be clicked. My shoulders were tense. Should I do it? What’ve I got to lose? Finally I clicked it. Now all I had to do was write the message. “Hey Dad,” I cautiously typed. “It’s me. How’s it going?” OK, that went well. Now I just have to write the rest of it. I updated him about my life, and how Kevin found me on MySpace. Then it was time for the big one.

“I know we haven’t spoken in a while,” I slowly typed. “And you probably think that I hate you.” I paused. Oh Lord, help me! “But the truth is,” I continued to type. “I don’t hate you. I feel weird talking to you because of the past, but I don’t hate you for it.” The words began coming to me naturally, so I typed faster. “What’s done is done. I’m happy now, and I hope you are too. Whatever happens with our relationship is for fate to decide, but I think we can at least keep in touch in some fashion.”

As I finished typing and clicked “send,” my shoulders eased. It was that simple. Ever since I sent him the message, I haven’t heard back from him. But whether or not he responds is beyond my control, and I’m OK with that. I realized there is nothing I can do but let him go. He’s out there looking for some peace of mind, just like the rest of us are. By no means does it justify his absence, and I don’t know if we’ll have a relationship in the future. But I wish him nothing but the best, and I pray that he finds whatever it is he’s looking for, someday.

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