Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting Personal...

So I've been thinking about writing this post for about two weeks now, but haven't actually sat down to do so.

Stephen and I were fortunate enough to go visit my littlest sister, Sam, for her high school graduation. She's seriously amazing. She's the recipient of the Horatio Alger Scholarship, among other academic and sport scholarships and is headed to college in Seattle in the fall to play soccer and become a nurse.

For those of you who are confused, Sam is technically my half-sister, but we are definitely full sisters, as we so deliciously found out during the trip. Attached at the hip? Check. Ordering the same food? Check. Making the same ridiculous faces during photos? Check. Honey Bunches of Oats fanatics? Double check. Plus we both think it's cool that we look alike.

That was something that was new - looking like family members. Totally new to me (being adopted - I do look similar to my mom, and Megan, my other sister, looks suspiciously like our dad, but it's a total coincidence - or God's way of pointing out we were meant to be in this family together). I had the extreme fortune of meeting cousins and an aunt and uncle that I'd never known before - and boy do I fit in to the Porter family well. Stephen's always saying my family would be an excellent study in learned and genetic behavior (this is too true).

Now for the gritty details: I've known my biological mother, Rhonda, my whole life. She's had a close relationship to my family (especially when we still lived in California - she visited all the time [bringing me stickers and rocks and other cool things! Yes, Momma Rhonda, I remember that]). But never once for eighteen years did anyone ever talk about my biological father. All I knew is he never visited me and my parents didn't know anything about him. Sometime during high school, I asked Rhonda about him and she told me his name and a bit about him. It was interesting. I was definitely interested - timidly interested, but still.

Right after my eighteenth birthday the coolest thing ever happened: Sally called my mom and told her all about how she had been married to Phil (my biological father) and they had a daughter named Samantha. I had been even more curious about potential siblings than I had been about my biological father - so this was totally cool. Sam and I started emailing back and forth (she was 12), and naturally we had a lot in common (both playing the flute? check).

When Stephen and I got engaged, it seemed only natural that I wanted both of my sisters as my bridesmaids. Even at this point, Sam felt to me just as much of a sister as Megan was. It seemed wildly unlikely that her mom would want to fly her fifteen-year-old daughter to a wedding for family she didn't know. It turns out I didn't know how great Sally was.

Me with my sisters - Sam and Megan! 

That was a great time in my life. Unfortunately, weddings are hectic, and I didn't get to spend nearly as much time with Sam as I'd wanted to. And also unfortunately, we're poor, so traveling isn't always easy for us. But I was determined to visit Sam for her high school graduation, and so we did - and it was one of the best trips we've ever been on. We loved Portland, we loved the family, and I really, really loved spending time with my little sis. 

Now on to the real meat and potatoes - the biological father. (cue dramatic music - no? okay, no.) So I figured I'd be meeting him at the graduation, but when the time came, I completely panicked. I've not heard nice things about him from anyone, and he doesn't mean anything to me. That seems cold, but the curiosity I had about him waned after I got to know Sam and realized how little of a positive influence he had been in her life. Part of me is angry at him for not treating her better and being a better father to my beloved sister. And I've got a wonderful father in my life, so why make myself sick with anxiety about meeting this man I don't know? 

Unfortunately life didn't see it that way, and the introduction happened - much to everyone's discomfort.  I mean, how does one strike up a conversation with a biological parent? It went a lot like "Hi, I'm Phil;" "Hi, I'm Vanessa," "We're in town for a few days." "Yeah, the weather's great." You can imagine the uncomfortable awkward glances and nervous gestures and foot shifting. Oh, there was handshake involved, too. I think it's cliche to say that the minutes dragged like hours...but oh, they did. So cliche or not, that's the way it was. Oh, and to cap things off, my IBS was acting up, so I physically felt super great, too. (Probably nothing to do with anxiety and nerves, right?)

But the kicker, the straw that broke the metaphorical-no-it-turns-out-I-don't-like-my-biological-father-for-sure camel's back was his parting remark to my husband: "Take good care of her."

Really?! The sheer audacity of that shocked me. I literally had nothing to say - in fact, it took me almost 24 hours to understand how I felt: I was pissed. What right did he have to say that? None. He's most definitely not my father. He's known about me for twenty-four years, known my name, had multiple opportunities to visit me when I was young, email me when I was older, and Facebook me in recent times. He knows that Sam and I are close, and that she came to my wedding, and that I was coming to Portland to see her. I'm not angry that he's never made contact - because I haven't either. I don't feel that pull - I don't feel any need or any want to know him or have a relationship of any kind with him. And it's okay with me that he (presumably) feels the same way. But that means he's given up any right to say something along the lines of "take care of her" to my husband. First of all, I'm 24 and perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Secondly, even if I weren't - he'd have no way of knowing that. 

Now while you're squirming in your seat with discomfort at this entire situation - I'd like to point out a few thing: 

1 - I have definitely encountered the most awkward moment of my entire life at age 24. Nothing in my life will ever top that - it's all down hill from here! I no longer have to worry about uncomfortable moments, because that was it. 

2 - Besides the awkward meeting - I adore the rest of his family. Amy, Mercedes, Mariah, Megan, Mark, Janice, and of course Vienna - you welcomed me into your family despite the fact that Phil is Phil, and made me excited to be a part of your family. I can't wait to visit and hang out more! 

3 - Sam's mom is like another mom to me (I mean, how many moms am I lucky enough to have!?) and never once made us feel like we were an imposition or unwanted because of our odd connection to the family - and is amazing for letting her 12 year old daughter get to know a complete stranger. 

4 - My sister. Words just can't describe that feeling. 

And yes, it was June 9th and we were wearing sweaters.
Gotta love the Northwest. 

So there you go - an in depth, awkward-filled story that I'm sure some of your are curious about. If not, rest assured the blog posts will resume normalcy shortly - I'm not sure how much soul-baring I can do on the interwebs without feeling completely creepy. 



  1. Vanessa,
    Yes that had to be the most awful meeting in history! But now that its out of the way, you can enjoy the best part of Phil- Sam and the rest of us Porters who love and adore Sally and Sam (and are very excited to have met you and Stephen!) We're so glad you came to support your little sister at one of her most memorable moments! (Which knowing her there will be more to come)

    So, I guess even though Phil has become who he is (I'll leave it at that) we are very thankful for one thing... He did two things right in his life... You and Sam! So, Thank you uncle Phil for bringing us three wonderful woman, who we love and cherish! Sally, Sam and Vanessa!

    Can't wait for more family reunions in the future!!!

  2. Vanessa,

    You are incredibly brave and mature for not running the opposite direction when it came time to meet your biological father. I felt very much the same way when I had a conversation (my first and last) with my biological mother (although not in person, so it was a little different)when she said that she was proud of all that I had accomplished and that she could call me her "daughter." I was angry and in shock, and you perfectly described the awkwardness in this post. I'm glad you and Sam and so close now:). Hope you are well!


  3. My curiosity makes me wonder if in his statement he was hoping Stephen wouldn't do to his family (namely you) what he did to his. Like his way of saying "Please don't be a f*** up like me." Who knows. Either way you slice it, it's all too little, too late, and unwelcome. And if he'd made the effort, he'd know you're self sufficient and that Stephen is a gem.