Friday, November 6, 2015

Phase Two: Life is Messy

Michael Dean Lacopo and Dean William Lacopo, Jr.
South Bend, Indiana, 1998


On the evening of 04 October 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, my father put a 9mm handgun to his left temple and pulled the trigger. The intended result was not instantaneous. The short and speedy path of the bullet fractured the base of his skull and exited his upper right eyelid, sparing any structures that would have caused his immediate demise. He was still breathing when emergency personnel arrived.

He died shortly after his hospital arrival. He was 69 years old.

I was informed of his death the following afternoon by his half-sister who heard it from his sister who heard it from his brother who heard it from his wife. None of his three sons were directly notified; apparently this was not a priority. It is not entirely surprising. None of his three sons had a functional relationship with the man.

Dean William Lacopo, Jr., was born in South Bend, Indiana, on 25 February 1946, to an alcoholic father, and a mother who would abandon him and his siblings just three years later. While his father worked as a shoe repairer between drinking binges, Dino (as everyone but my mother called him) and his siblings were largely raised by his paternal grandparents. Three generations of Lacopos lived under one roof in the small house at 727 North Eddy Street in South Bend. His grandfather, Domenico Salvatore "Dominick" Lacopo, was an Italian immigrant who taught his grandson the power of a strong work ethic. He regrettably also instilled into him the Italian machismo that involved keeping a woman in her place while freely pursuing sexual conquests. Male superiority was a common theme to my father, forever expressing his prowess at producing three male heirs, while berating his youngest son for only siring daughters.

Briefly, these are the circumstances surrounding my father's upbringing. He mimicked all the negative traits and interpersonal skills learned from his parents and grandparents and brought them into his adult relationships with others. 

As a high school student, Dean was repeatedly expelled from South Bend schools for his aggressive behavior -- a trait that was magnified exponentially when he drank, which was often and continual. He moved in with his father's sister in Mishawaka in 1964 so that he could attend Penn High School in that city. 

It was here that Dean met my mother, Carol Sue DePrato. She was the good Catholic girl who had been adopted and spoiled by the parents who could have no children of their own. He was the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The attraction was obvious, plucked from every clichéd good-girl-bad-boy B-movie plot line. 

When Dean quit high school to join the Marines, he left Carol behind. She took up with her previous boyfriend who bored her, but who offered stability and took her to her High School Senior Prom. When Dean returned home for the holidays from Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia in 1965, the attraction was still strong. Being a good Catholic girl, Carol resisted his persistent physical advances. He asked her to marry him. That worked wonders.

Two months later, Carol's disappointed father and morally-outraged mother promptly put their pregnant teenage daughter on a train to San Diego, California, where she met up with Dean, now stationed at Camp Pendleton, and they were hurriedly married on 25 February 1966. Their eldest son was born there seven months later.

My mother was not the only woman calling my father with shocking news. The girl he dated while stationed in Quantico had done so at nearly the exact time. She too was pregnant with his child. The girl born in Washington, D.C., just forty days before my brother's birth, was given up for adoption. This perpetual string of women and juggling relationships would continue until my father's death. At no time during his marriages would Dean adhere to monogamy, having numerous dalliances that a marriage certificate was powerless to prevent. But in 1966, having just turned twenty years old, he was suddenly saddled with a lonely bride living in cockroach-infested base housing caring for a newborn son far away from home. He was ill-prepared for the inconvenient burdens of fatherhood. Her options were limited, more so after discovering almost immediately that she was pregnant again by her already unfaithful husband. They returned to the South Bend area after my father's discharge from the Marines, where I was born nine months and four days after my brother.

The house I grew up in was located on the north side of Mishawaka, Indiana. It was a post-war prefab two-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch on a concrete slab. Purchased for $9,000 in 1967, we moved into it when I was just two months old. Shortly thereafter, my father gained employment with the Mishawaka Police Department. These two things would remain constant until I left home for college in 1985.

I have no positive memories of my father during this time. In the wake of his death, I tried to search my mind for them, but I came up empty. I know he was present at a handful of family events and holidays, but I know this only by looking at photographs. School events were largely attended by my mother and my maternal grandparents. I do not recall his attendance at any of them. For many years, my father worked the night shift, so his presence often was precluded by the need to report to work, or to sleep during the day. It was 1970s, an era of very hands-off parenting. The hovering and catering and nurturing techniques of child-rearing experienced later by the Millennials would have seemed ludicrous to my parents a generation prior.

But it is not my father's parenting techniques or work absences that causes my lack of memories. There are plenty of memories, just none of them are pleasant.

At the most benign, the smell of a man drunk on bourbon, mixed with the stench of cigarette smoke, immediately reminds me of my father and takes me back to my childhood.

At the worst, the memories include the time we had to throw out all of the toys we loved, because my father had come home drunk and urinated in our toy box, thinking it was the toilet. 

Or the time he came home after work with a strange man following in a pick up truck. Without notice to anyone in his family, he packed up the dog house from the back yard and gave this man my beloved dog, a Doberman named Caesar. Mother and children just cried in stunned disbelief. I was devastated.

Or the wrath that would ensue if you didn't clean your room when told. This would usually result in a fit of cursing anger followed by the furiously crazed dismantling and destruction of shelves, dressers, and closets; the breaking of toys, lamps, and knick-knacks, and the final statement "NOW you have a room to clean! Clean it!" You didn't dare cry at the destruction left in his wake. If you did, you were taken from the room to really be "given something to cry about."

And the beatings. The cursing. The fighting. The violence. The fear. The snapping of his belt when you knew he meant business, or the feel of it against your bare lower back or upper thighs that invariably came from bad aim meant for your buttocks. The level of my father's anger and drunkenness was usually measurable by whether the welts he left behind from his beatings bled or not.

I ran into an old neighbor from my childhood when I was in my 30s. He marveled at how successful I had become: a college graduate with a doctorate and working at a thriving veterinary practice. He just stared at me silently with a wistful teary-eyed smile. After an uncomfortable silence, I asked him what was wrong.

"Nobody in the neighborhood expected you to live through your childhood. Your father's alcohol-fueled temper was notorious. And he carried a gun for a living. We all waited for it to reach its eventual climax."

My father would beat my mother into unconsciousness, while we would usually run to the back yard or the neighbor's house shrieking in abject terror. This played out numerous times for the neighborhood to see, so it was no deep, dark family secret. My mother called the police once. They laughed at her. They were certainly not going to send out a squad car on one of their own. Sorry. Not our problem. Deal with it.

Like most police officers, my father supplemented his income by working security at other businesses. He started at First National Bank, then for many years at the local K-Mart, and then as head of security at University Park Mall - all in Mishawaka, Indiana. More than two decades have passed since his retirement from the Mishawaka Police Department, yet I still hear his name used as the illustration for "the bad cop." The cop that would confiscate drugs or other illegal goods from a perpetrator, then pocket them. The cop that would let a female prisoner go in exchange for sexual favors. The cop that once cut a prisoner's finger off by slamming a jail door onto it, then laughed when the man screamed and writhed in pain, all the while taunting him on the other side of the locked cell with his dismembered digit.

Still, when people hear my name and ask, "Are you Dino's son?" my response is never an immediate "Yes." It is usually a wary "Why?"

To my father, these were the things that defined a man: strength, power, violence, control, money, sex.

Once I reached an age of rationality and reasoning, I became well aware of the dysfunction around me. Unlike my father, I did not allow my childhood upbringing to define me and doom me to the repetition of the same faults and behaviors. I was all the things my father was not, and did not understand, and for that, I was spared most of the physical violence doled out upon my mother and brothers.

My father wanted three strapping, lady-killing, smooth-talking jocks for sons. By that measuring stick, I failed miserably. I was well-behaved and quiet. I rarely defied my father's authority, or that of my teachers or anyone who held power over me. I was a sickly child with a host of orthopedic, gastrointestinal, and ocular problems. I was not the jock my father wanted, but somehow health issues beyond my control gave me an excuse. It wasn't an entirely acceptable one, but it was futile to try to make me be something I physically could not. And I was smart and bookish. Somewhere this must have registered with my father as a positive trait, but again, it was unfamiliar territory.

So I was largely ignored.

When I started my genealogical research and made my first foray into the civil court records at the St. Joseph County Clerk's office, I was surprisingly shocked to see that my father filed for divorce in almost every year beginning in 1968. The court filing, moving out to shack up with the girlfriend du jour, and the moving back in once his fling lost its appeal, had finally taken its toll on my mother. Seventeen years into their marriage, she was done. She was determined  to make my father's divorce filing in June 1983 his last.

My father would show up at the house frequently after the divorce, asking my mother to remarry him. I think he missed the control more than the marriage. When she steadfastly refused his final offer, he angrily told her that she would be sorry. He married his second wife the following week as his revenge.

I left for college. There were no letters from my father. There were no cards or gifts at the holidays or my birthday.  He did not congratulate me when I made Dean's List. He did not attend my graduation from veterinary school. As I entered into adulthood, the father who terrorized my childhood became the father who just didn't care.

And as I write that, I am terribly saddened by it. There were many reasons for me to hate my father. I did not. I craved his approval, and I longed for his attention. These are things I would never get. His death means that they are no longer options.

For Christmas, 1979, my father bought all three of his sons sterling silver St. Christopher medals on long chains. I am sitting her with mine in front of me, encased in the blue velvet box in which it was presented. On the back is engraved, "Mike from Dad 12-25-79." My father never played a role in birthday or holiday gift buying, and I recall even my mother being perplexed by the purchasing and presenting of these gifts. I wore it continuously for years, and it is exposed and visible in my 8th grade school pictures, worn outside my faux-silk disco shirt. I meticulously preserved the medal and its casing, because it showed me that on some level my father loved me.

After my father retired from the Mishawaka Police Department, he took on a full-time position as a regional loss prevention and security manager for K-Mart stores. This required a move to New Mexico, and then to Colorado. His physical absence from the state made any meaningful attempt at connection nearly impossible. If I failed to call my father within what he deemed to be an appropriate amount of time, I could usually expect a drunken, profanity-laden message on my answering machine reminding me how undeserving I was to carry the surname Lacopo. The rants would usually last for several minutes.

It was seldom an incentive to call back.

And still, I waited for some moment of clarity or reflection when my father would grow up and realize that he needed to connect with the son he failed to raise. I recall one birthday afternoon sometime in the late 1990s when I was working as a veterinarian. I was paged by one of our receptionists:

"Your father is on Line 1."

I was shocked and ecstatic at the same time. My father really remembered my birthday? Maybe he really did care after all!

When I picked up the phone, there was no small talk, just a simple question.

"Hey, do you have Greg's number? I think today is his birthday."

Right day, wrong son. 

Crestfallen, I corrected him. He did not offer me any birthday wishes. He just apologized for the error and hung up.

For all the preaching I do about learning the stories of our ancestors and of our families, I failed to learn my father's story. I tried intermittently over the years to really talk to the man and understand him. As I learned more from other family members and through my research about his upbringing and the dysfunctional generations that preceded him, I had a better sense of how he was started down the path he had chosen. As I got older, I realized how terribly difficult it would be for me to have three children by the age of twenty-three, and how his selfish, narcissistic mentality would be most incompatible to raising them. I don't excuse the errors people choose to make, but at least I try to understand the origins of them. Somewhat.

I visited Colorado a couple times. Time with my father was not horrible, but it was not comfortable either. I always expected more. I got less. When he returned to Indiana for visits, he rarely stayed with his children, and more often he stayed with his stepdaughter. When he asked to stay with me in the summer of 2008, I was, again, overjoyed. While he had other options to choose from, he chose me. Maybe on the cusp of my 41st birthday, I would finally begin to have a relationship with my father... or at least some adult facsimile thereof.

As it turned out, he had arranged to stay with me, because he had also arranged to have an Indiana fling -- something you cannot do when you are staying with your wife's daughter. I was livid, equal parts at him, as to myself, for being a grown man still seeking his Daddy's approval. And for being so gullible to think he would supply it.

His defense? "It's okay. I cheated on your mother with her too."

Dean W. Lacopo, Jr.,  rarely did anything that did not directly benefit Dean W. Lacopo, Jr.

An occasional email or phone call followed in 2009, but after my computer account was hacked and phantom messages were repeatedly sent from to my entire address book selling Viagra and other such nonsense, it was met with this response from my father, ironically delivered on Father's Day, 2010.

"Michael, Take me off your email address book, I do not need the garbage you're sending to everyone. I fully understand you have no love for me, and trust me, I really don't care. You are a looser [sic]. You think you are so much better than everyone else, trust me you are not, so forget about me because I have forgot about you. Maybe if you ask, your mother might tell you who your real father is, because I know I'm not."

I quit trying after this email.

And then came DNA.

On 25 August 2013, I sent my father an email asking if he would be willing to spit in a tube for my genealogical research. It was met with as much venom as the 2010 email. His willingness to submit to a DNA test was based on a list of requirements I would have to meet before he would do so.

I declined the offer.

Several days later, my father contacted me and told me he was coming to Indiana. He would do my DNA test. He wanted to call a truce.

And still, the little boy in me basked in the tiniest ray of attention bestowed upon him by his father.

The last time I saw my father was on the day he spit into a 23andMe autosomal DNA test kit. He took me to brunch. We chatted about work, the weather, the house... safe topics. When he left, I again felt the same familiar pangs of sadness and emptiness that accompanied his visits. I didn't know my father, and he didn't know me. He said he wanted to take me to dinner before he returned to Colorado. He never called me back to arrange such a thing. He left without a word.

But while he was spitting in a tube, he spied a program I had lying on my desk from a recent "VIP FamilySearch Breakfast" I had attended in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during a national genealogical conference. He read my biography within, and he flipped through the remainder of the program.

"You're a VIP, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"So you're really good at this? People recognize this? That's impressive."

After 46 years, this is the most praise I had ever received from my father.

A haphazard exchange of emails occurred after that. I sent him a synopsis of his DNA results on 24 November 2013. I jokingly told him that, "like it or not, it does confirm you are my father."

His response on 28 November 2013:

"Thanks for the information, and yes, I'm happy you are my son. I love you."

As I write that, I am crying for the first time since my father's death. 

That was our last communication. I do not know why. He came back to Indiana a number of times, yet I only knew about it after he had come and gone. My father loved me in whatever way he was capable of loving a son, but paired with the "I love you" in the email were reports of him ridiculing his "faggot" of a son to others when it behooved him to play the macho card. Perhaps I should have accepted what little I received and been happy with it. Perhaps I wanted him to try harder. Perhaps I wanted him to fall to his knees and beg forgiveness for being a shitty husband and father. Perhaps I was just weary of being perpetually disappointed and feeling used when I did try harder. 

He didn't understand me, nor could I understand him.

The one thing we both recognized was that the singular, and most powerful, trait we held in common was our obstinacy and stubbornness. I failed to succumb to his charm and wit like so many others did, and I never hesitated to call him out on his bullshit. He did the same. When you place two identical poles of powerful magnets next to each other, they repel each other violently. Among a million other variables that I haven't the space to detail, I accept my share of blame in failing to truly know my father. Many time I was just trying to out-stubborn his stubbornness. 

Now I will never have that chance.

And it makes me terribly sad.

So why post this long, personal, soul-bearing assessment of my father's role in my life after his unexpected suicide? It has nothing at all to do with DNA or Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty or flooded office basements or tearful reunions of missing fathers and grandfathers.

Or does it?

So much has happened since my last blog post. Life has been challenging in 2015. The title of this post, and the content therein, is an indication of things to come. I call it "Phase Two," because it is no longer a story about DNA analysis and computation. It is no longer a genealogical journey.

It is a personal journey.

And much like the contents of this blog post, it is messy. It will be difficult to read. It will tickle you and make you smile. It will make you angry. It will make you cry. It may even disgust you to the point of no longer reading. But it is MY story, and I will tell it. For over a year you have read about the "dirty laundry" I have revealed about those in my past and in my research. In fairness, you get to hear some of mine.

And much like the story of my father, I can only tell this story from my own point of view. I can only tell the story of the things I know and how they affected me. I do not know what motivated my father. I do not know his joys, his loves, his regrets, his feelings, his thoughts, his reminisces. He never shared those with me. The story of the life of Dean W. Lacopo, Jr., told by his brother, or his ex-wife, his wife, or his nieces, or his coworkers, or his fellow police officers, would be markedly different from each other. Many would extoll his virtues. After all, it is not polite to speak ill of the dead, right? 

Everyone that comes into our lives knows only the smallest facet of who we are and what we think and what makes us tick. Likewise, we know only the tiniest fragment of the lives of those we encounter. Some of us are blessed with loved ones, spouses, family, or good friends who truly know us quite well. But can a spouse really know you as a parent? Can your best friend know you as a child? Can your parents fathom you as a romantic interest?

No.

Our stories are complex and multifaceted, and they are uniquely our own. This is my story. Nobody will know it unless I write it. 

Likewise, I do not claim to know the story of Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty, the man who surprisingly became my grandfather at the age of eighty-seven. When I found a living, breathing human being, rather than a name to enter onto my pedigree chart, the story was no longer genealogical. It became intensely personal.

This, then, will be my story; the story about the grandfather who helped me understand where I fit into this crazy, dysfunctional family.

This will be the story of Brighton Daugherty as I perceive it.

45 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It is sad that your father chose to not know the wonderful person you are.. It was his loss.

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  3. Wow - such powerful writing! Despite your warning, I am looking forward to your story. And I'm sorry for your loss of your father, and the complicated feelings it must engender.

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  4. Now that I am older, looking back at my life I see holes where I wish there had been wonderful positive things that merged together to make me the person I am today. But alas, few of us had a perfect past and on searching previous generations we can see where many of our ancestors fell short. I never knew my biological father or his family and even now I wonder what traits of theirs are part of my being. Thank goodness we can choose to be the kind of person we want to be and break any cycles that others started. The sadness you feel over the loss of your father has probably been there since you were a child but has just been brought to the surface with his suicide. I am sorry for this chapter in your life and that you had to go through this but you seem to be a well focused, compassionate and good person. Thank you for choosing to share your life with us. There are many out there that will be able to relate to you in many ways and it will serve to help them feel less alone in the world. Best wishes for your continuing work.

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  5. May you find comfort and peace in days ahead as you research and write your own story.Your writing style is beautiful and poignant and you definitely tell your story. I always enjoy reading your blog and hope to continue reading about your research and your family.

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  6. Michael, it took a lot of strength and courage to write this story. I can relate to some parts of it, the rage and taking things out on his children. I don't think you will ever figure out the why. Maybe that was just the way thing were during that time.

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  7. Wow. I applaud your open and honest assessment of your relationship with your father. Sharing such things with the world can be a scary thing- as can dealing with the emotions it brings up. I have also found that as I learn more of my parents past I understand them so much better. I am sorry that your father has passed and you have lost the opportunity to know him better, but as you have illustrated so clearly he was a difficult man. Thank you for sharing this. I cried a bit in reaction to his declaration of love to you. I am glad you at least had that from him. My mom's dad was an alcoholic and she has shared similar stories of irrational behavior. She turns 60 next year and she still is trying to deal with the memories and emotions. Her father passed 35 years ago. Okay I am rambling now. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  8. Michael, my heart aches for you. Thank you for sharing this painful journey. Know that you are respected and loved within the community where you are most comfortable.

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  9. Michael, I had to catch my breath before commenting.

    First, thank you. You are the perfect person to tell hard stories. Your ability to write elegantly, honestly and with compassion make it possible for us to read, reflect upon and absorb stories we could not face in less skilled hands. Stories that need facing, for none of us escape hard times or hard people in our lives. The knowledge that life can be survived, despite what is thrown our way is a gift.

    Second, my sympathies on the death of your father. Suicide is a hard story, indeed. I pray that you and the others in your father's life make what peace can be made. I wish you healing.

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  10. Hey Mike, Eric S. here, also from Norman Heights & school. No matter what, he was your dad, so I'm sorry to hear about it. I live in Oregon now & am a cardiac RN. My email is eric.s####@providence.org. Glad you are well

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  11. Sometimes grieving what might have been and could have been, had it not been for the choices of others is harder, much harder, than grieving the loss of what was.

    You are not alone. I'm sorry for your losses, but mostly for the father you never had.

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  12. Michael, I am glad to hear from you again but sorrowful for your very personal tragedy and the closed door. I hope that your continued telling of your family's experience will help both you and readers who are touched by it. We care.

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  13. Michael, I have no words. I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I picture the young man who just wanted a daddy. You certainly missed out on that, but your dad missed out on so much more. May the healing begin...

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  14. So sorry for your loss Micheal. Thinking of you as you continue on this journey and try to make sense of all the stuff 2015 and life
    has thrown at you.
    Tracy VanDenBoom

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  16. I'm sorry for your loss, and always look forward to reading your posts, no matter what they are about. I hope sharing this story has helped.

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  17. Michael - I am so very sorry for your loss. I grew up with a father who was, in many ways, like yours. I had no functioning relationship with him for many of the same reasons you did not. I never got to know him. I grew up well-adjusted, successful and happy in spite of him - or perhaps, more accurately, because of him. Thank you for sharing your story and for giving those of us setting out on the path to research, write and share ours, a bit more courage and inspiration. Welcome back, Michael. You have been missed.

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  18. You are a strong and brave man, Michael. Condolences on the loss of your father.

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  19. While it is so good to have you back writing, I am very sorry for your loss, despite the complicated relationship, it is always heartbreaking to lose a parent. Always researching.. I had to read his obit.. I am so looking forward to phase two.. You are a wonderful writer..

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  20. What a moving read, but at such a cost. Thank you for your willingness to share something so personal. It is an important example of the need to write our stories that inform and shape who we are no matter how difficult or non idyllic.

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  21. My condolences for your loss. I commend your courage to face all of those feelings and share them so eloquently. Welcome back to your blog and I am wishing you a successful and pleasant 2016!! We missed you!!

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  22. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty and candor!

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  23. Wow. I only recently started reading your blog six months ago, inspired by your writing style. I (and I suspect most of your readers) was not prepared for such a shocking story of your loss. The brutal honesty of your father's life and death is rarely found in our world of happy genealogy finds, and I find it encouraging to see someone tell their story without euphemisms. I also had an insight about how many people with similar painful backgrounds could be very reluctant to research their ancestors (even though that's obviously not the path you took, thankfully). Thanks.

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  24. Since I read this post early this morning, I've wanted to comment -- but there are no words. Let me just say that Mark Fearer's comments above reflect my thoughts exactly. You have a world of support out there. Thank you for sharing.

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  25. Michael, I have had your blog on my list of things to read since I met you at RootsTech this past Feb. I knew from many, many others that it was a powerful, well written blog. I also knew that when ever I started it I would not want to stop until I read every single post. I finally started this morning with your first post and have just completed your latest unexpected post from a few days ago. I have laughed, I have cried, I have learned so much about DNA and picked up some very useful tips. Thank you for sharing it all, including what must be some very difficult details of your genealogical adventure. I am sorry for the recent loss of your father but feel that the biggest loss was his, not being a father to you.

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  26. I had to come back to comment after reading this heartbreaking post yesterday. Your father missed out big time on the man you've become. I echo Susan's sentiments. His biggest loss was not being a father to you. Thank you so much for sharing an amazingly honest and raw account for what life was like between you and him. Brave doesn't seem to be a a big enough word for describing how much you have weathered through and the ability to write and share it to the world. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your journey. As someone already said, may the healing begin.

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  27. Thank you so much for sharing about your relationship with your father. I had a somewhat similar situation with my neurotic abusive mother, always ashamed of myself as clearly not being loveable, certainly not loved to the point I assumed I'd been adopted (not true, sigh). Growing up and learning so much about our families has helped immensely. Genealogy has been my saving grace - my "family" became so much larger, more interesting, more calm and loving, than my tiny nuclear family.
    I appreciate your story more than you could possibly know. Keep sharing. You're touching people in ways you couldn't even imagine.

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  28. I started reading your blog last night around 8:30. I was doing some more research on figuring out half relationships according to shared cMs.
    I was immediately engrossed in your journey. Unlike you, I have only been seriously doing this for a few months. For most of my adult life I have, to the chagrin of my adopted mother, been nagging her to try and locate information about her birth parents. She wanted no part of it. She was raised by two very loving adoptive parents, and could not understand why I was so obsessed with wanting to know more. Just as you had stated early in your blog, my grandparents were very special to me (my grandfather, in particular). My urge to know more was not born out of a dissatisfaction of my relationship with them, but an innate desire to know how I fit into this family and this world. It was totally selfish. I was searching for Me. Although my story is a little different than yours (I found out, in the early 80's that the man who raised my dad was not his father, and I really only had one grandparent with which I had biological ties) I feel very attached to your story. I get it. I'm learning how to do this via lots of research on the Internet and reading everything I can get my greedy little hands on. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed, under qualified, and like you, impatient. Long story short(er), I have had some success. By a freak streak of luck, using my mom's non identifying information and her given birth name, in conjunction with autosomal matches to myself, I have identified my birth grandma. I have, with the help of my equally clueless baby sister, started down the road toward locating my other grandparents.
    I read your blog until 3:30 this morning, dreamt about you and your search (with my list of surnames replacing yours). :) I woke up promptly at 8:30 with the sole desire to get to the end. I have indeed, laughed, cried, smiled, and felt angry, impatient, and overjoyed along with you. You remind me of me. This last post has brought me again to tears. I am sorry for your loss, as I understand it for what it is, as much as I possibly can.
    Sending love to you.

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  30. Michael, this is the most intensely personal writing I have ever read, and I thank you for sharing it. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to face the dark side of human nature by recognizing it in the behavior of your own father. I admire your strength and your ability to reflect on your relationship in such depth. It is a shame your father could not understand your kind of strength.

    You are helping others so much by telling your story. I hope writing about it is cathartic for you also. You and your family have my condolences in losing your father in such a manner. I wish you peace.

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  31. Such a real example of how our genealogy journey can become very personal. Thank you for sharing.

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  32. Michael,
    I had the pleasure of knowing your father. While the events of your history are concerning, I can only hope that you can find splice in the fact that you broke the cycle. Your father and I had spent a lot of time together and I would love to have the privilege of speaking with you. Your cander and openness is an attribute that I can respect, as I can relate to your story.
    Email kurtowensimpson@gmail.com if you would like to chat.

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  33. I hope a there will be a Christmas Present ( new post) for your followers who are are and have been awaiting the rest of the story!

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  34. Michael, I'll bet you're ready for a new year. I hope it's a good one.

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  35. Hugs to you dear man. I hope you stand proud knowing you broke the cycle.

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  36. Hi
    I couldn't stop reading your blog because 1st reason, I knew your dad, but I didn't know how things were on the inside. 2nd reason is I can relate to your feelings about your father they are similar to my own father. Our fathers do not define who we are. On a positive note, the lessons we learn from our parents help us to be better parents ourselves. Feel free to contact me if you have questions mjmicucci@yahoo.com

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  37. A beautiful moving story. You should be proud of what you've become with so many challenges in your life. It takes courage to tell your personal story like you did.

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  38. are we ever going to get the rest of the story?? I keep checking back all the time...

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  39. Yeah...what she said! :-). Seriously...you don't know how many of us check back everyday looking for the next post! Michael....you know none of us are getting any younger!

    Waiting for more........

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  40. Michael,
    Having grown up in a very dysfunctional family myself, I read your post with misgivings, afraid of the feelings that it might bring back. But I did OK. In regards to genealogy, a dysfunctional family can be a huge deterrent to learning about your family's history. sometimes no one wants to talk about things, or they think that certain things are not appropriate topics. There are large holes in my family history because of this. When I'm at a conference and someone reminds us to talk to relatives I think about how so much is lost to me - photos, stories, information - because of the refusal to let down old walls, to look at the past with compassion.

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  41. I am so sorry that you lost you Dad. What a moving story. I admire you so much for your ability to share your story.

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  42. Michael,
    It had been a while since I'd read any of your posts. However, I was able to attend your class about Pennsylvania records on the last day of Jamboree last week. First of all, thank you for a wonderful, informative and entertaining class. I attended the class based on the subject, as a last minute choice. I didn't pay attention to who was teaching. When I walked in and realized it was you, I knew I was going to enjoy every minute.
    That brought me to your blog and this post. I can't share anything that hasn't already been written. Not really knowing you, was your father's loss. However, that will not temper your own feelings of loss and "what might have been." I lost my mother just 3 months ago. We also had a rough relationship for much of my life. God bless you. I hope you return to posting on your blog very soon.

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