I Never Knew My Father: A Personal Anecdote

I seldom mention, and have never blogged about my biological father. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. Today, I’m rectifying the omission.

As a little girl in Scotland, I lived with my mother and my grandparents. When I started school, it dawned on me that everyone else had a daddy. I remember coming home and asking my grandfather if he would be my daddy. He replied he’d be whatever I wanted. Occasionally, I asked my mother about my father, but soon learned this was a bad move on my part. That was because she got The Look, meaning her face crumpled, and her big, blue eyes filled with tears. Guilt is a powerful deterrent.

I imagined that my father was dead. Or worse. Certainly, it was nothing good. And I never shook the feeling of being incomplete.

As the years went by, my mother re-married, and we moved to Canada. By then, I didn’t want to pester her about my biological father for fear of hurting my step-father’s feelings. And incurring The Look. Also, their relationship was heading downhill.

But on the birth of my first son, I cornered my mom and demanded a few answers. This time, when she threw me The Look, I stuck to my guns. She was evasive, but finally revealed that my father was a bad lot, she had divorced him for unspecified but justifiable reasons, he’d moved to Australia, and good riddance. She also told me his name: Wilfred Hackworthy.

So he wasn’t dead. I started thinking of him as Wilf.

Back then, the Internet didn’t exist. Tracking down someone who lived halfway around the world wasn’t easy. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to find Wilf. Shoving the mystery of my father to the recesses of my mind, I got on with life.

Fast forward two decades, my second husband and I took an extended leave of absence from work to travel around the world. We ended up in Australia. While in Sydney, we walked past a building housing the national telephone company, home of every phone book in Australia. My husband dragged me inside.

He started at one end of the room, I at the other. The number of phone books for the entire continent was surprisingly small. A couple of hundred, maybe three, max. And how many Wilfred Hackworthys could there be in Australia?

Turned out there was only one, and he lived in Campbelltown, a suburb of Sydney. It had taken only an hour to find his name. I felt nauseous. This was, after all, the mystery man who had abandoned me so many years earlier, and never tried to contact me.

When we got back to the hotel, I was reluctant to phone the number we’d jotted down until my husband pointed out that I owed it to my sons.

The woman who answered the phone was Wilf’s second wife, Belle. She knew who I was immediately, and informed me that she’d been waiting for this call. Unfortunately, my father had died several years earlier, but would we come to tea the following afternoon?

When Belle answered the door, she simply stared at me for what seemed like an eternity, then threw her arms around me. Turns out my eyes and nose are exact replicas of Wilf’s.

Over tea, Belle filled us in on my father’s life. He’d admitted he had a daughter, now in Canada, but nothing more on that subject (I assumed it was a case of out of sight, out of mind). She and Wilf had not had any children, so there were no half brothers or sisters for me. No one had a clue why my parents had divorced, but there had been a huge fight (later, I figured out it was probably over other women). My grandfather, Harold, had severed all ties with his son due to many arguments. Wilf had pursued a career with the Merchant Marines, spending much of his life at sea and away from home. He’d died in a car crash only blocks from home while returning from a posting at sea (later, I learned about his love of booze, and suspected he’d been drinking). After the war, Wilf had received the Order of the British Empire for his innovative use of sonar to triangulate and thus detect the presence of enemy subs. Belle gave me his medals and the OBE citation, signed by King George IV.

Now comes the best part. Belle also told me I had an uncle (Wilf’s younger brother, Douglas) and three cousins. Sadly, my uncle is now deceased, but these three phenomenal women have embraced me with open arms. We’re family, and it feels natural and unforced. I see a part of me in each of them. My eldest cousin is logical and organized, even worked for SAP (like me). My middle cousin is involved with spirituality and mystical pursuits such as Reiki (like me). The youngest of the three is introverted, prefers small groups of people, takes her time getting to know you (also, like me), and has compiled a family tree.

Based on their recollections, my cousins added more information about Wilf, mostly unflattering. In short, he was a charming, brilliant, and excessively self-centered Bad Boy who liked his booze and women.

So although I never knew my father—and, in retrospect, that’s probably a blessing—I now have an extended family to call my own. And I no longer feel as though a piece of me is missing.

Thanks for stopping by. I would love it if you would leave a comment about your father and his impact, positive or negative, on your life.


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I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, let me know you’ve read this post, tell me what you love to read.

In closing, my wish for you is that you have a wonderful summer, filled with love, peace, and joy.


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18 Responses to I Never Knew My Father: A Personal Anecdote

  1. Beautiful post, Maureen. I’m so glad you have loving cousins. Every woman needs that. My dad died when he was 54. I still think of him, I wish my kids had had the chance to meet him. He was such an awesome man! Hugs from India.

  2. One of three Cousins says:

    As one of the cousins I can say I am really happy that you came to England and into our family. You and yours will always be welcome to stay. Now I need to plan a time to visit you. Loads of love xxxxx

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Denise, this made me cry a little–in a good way! And yes, your bedroom (plus ensuite) is awaiting your arrival. We need to set a date!!! Love always XXX

  3. CB Blaha says:

    That’s a lovely article, Maureen. It made me rethink the rough patch I’m currently going through with my own father. Thanks.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks, CB. It’s gratifying to hear that the article made a difference in someone’s life.

  4. Reenie says:

    It is a shame that so many people lack the maturity when young to be the spouses or parents they should be. The fortunate ones “wake up” in time to remedy some of the negative impacts they’ve had on those around them; some healing can occur within the family. Others never learn to appreciate the priceless human gifts in their lives and can only focus on themselves and their own needs. In these instances, it is the children who suffer most.

    It took courage for you to face the unknowns about your biological dad. Good that your husband encouraged and aided you. It made me happy to read on and learn about the joy and affection that has come with your new-found cousins. Wonderful. Do you ever wonder how it would have been different if he had still been alive when you “found” him, and the two of you could have spoken?

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thank you for commenting, Reenie. Yes, I have wondered what would have happened if he had still been alive. And that’s where my brain freezes up. I suspect he was a sociopath (they are usually charming), so he would probably have tried to mess with my head. I imagine he would have had a million reasons and excuses for why he never tried to find me, doubt he would have felt remorse. Then again, I might be doing him a disservice.

  5. Jan Romes says:

    Maureen, I got a little misty-eyed reading your story. It took courage to take a step inside that national telephone company building (I’m sure your husband was intricate in getting you there too – God bless him) to find your father’s phone number. I know you will be forever grateful that you took that step. Hugs to you & your family! ~ Jan

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thank you, Jan. Yes, my stomach hurt the whole time. But picking up the phone and dialing was even harder.
      Thank you for understanding.

  6. It seems that your dad, while having weaknesses for women and booze, redeemed himself when the going got tough (i.e., the war) and you can be justifiably proud.
    I strongly believe most men (and women) become better persons with age. I know my own father lived long enough to regret his immaturity and self-centeredness as a young father and husband. It helps me be patient with the men in my life. 🙂 Fortunately your father’s second wife was generous enough to welcome you and give you his medals and citation.

    And now you write about Bad Boys. Hmmm….. Coincidence? 😉

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks for commenting, Madelle. I agree, he did, indeed, redeem himself. I too drew the parallel between my father and those bad boys I write about (actually, it’s only one, and he changes a lot by the end of the story).

  7. Christoph Fischer says:

    great article <3

  8. Regina Duke says:

    Lovely story! Maureen, thanks for sharing. My dad passed at the age of 82. All my life, I felt like I never really knew him. I have his affable nature and his desire to make friends. It turned out he had many secrets. My mother lived another twelve years, but kept his secrets to the end. After she passed, I learned things that knocked my socks off! Not very flattering things either, and some of it I had to piece together from documents Mother stored in her “strong box.” (shaking head) Amazing what we don’t know about people! But all in all, it’s okay. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your Father’s Day story!

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks, Christoph. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Regina. No wonder you never felt you knew your father. Secrets can be toxic. Then again, sometimes telling the truth is worse.

  9. Carly Carson says:

    Good for you having the courage to track him down. Just reading your story, it would have felt incomplete to me if there had been no resolution so that gives me a tiny taste of how it might be to have a missing father. My father dedicated his life to being a good father, because he had a dad like yours (minus the booze). So his five kids are very lucky. Now we try to return the favor, all of us, in returning the gift of love he gave us. And I’m proud of him for not following his father’s example, but resolving that he could and would do better.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks for commenting, Carly. Your father sounds like a wonderful man. I consider myself blessed in that my grandfather was like a dad to me, at least until we came to Canada. My step-father did his best too.

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