I lived most of my life without knowing who my father was. And, quite frankly, never thought I’d ever need to know him until I became mired in long-term unemployment, bouts of depression, and an uncomfortable period navigating through New York City’s welfare system.
When I was at the weakest point in my life, the man who I thought I would never need or meet became my lifeline, and the thing is, it all happened through this great invention called “Facebook.”
FACEBOOK MESSAGE SUBJECT LINE: Looking For Father?
At the time, a good friend of mine in the country of Moldova found her son via Facebook, so that made me curious enough to use the same method to find my father. I wasn’t thinking anyone would reply quite frankly. I mean, how many men in their 50s would respond kindly to a Facebook message suggesting that they had a 29-year-old son he had never met?
I was at the intellectual zenith of my life at 29 years old, living in Ukraine as a Fulbright Scholar, when I decided to type the name “Chris Truesdale” in the search box. Several names appeared. I then wrote a note with all of the details of the circumstances under which my father and my mother met and pressed “send.”
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Almost immediately, one of the ten or so Chris Truesdales I messaged replied back to me, and he was quite receptive. He said he knew my mother and everything I wrote in the message lined up with his recollection of the woman he once dated during his stint in the U.S. Army. He contacted her, and they both concluded that he was, in fact, my father.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Neither my father nor my mother knew she was pregnant when they separated during their army careers and, because technology was not 30-plus years ago what it is now, my mother had no way of contacting him. She didn’t have a contact number or an address for my father, either.
He didn’t know I was alive.
As fate would have it, my father had only signed up with Facebook just two weeks prior, so the timing couldn’t have been better. The date was Sept. 15, 2009.
Here is a screen shot of that fateful Facebook massage (click to enlarge):
We started communicating via Skype almost every day. I was in Ukraine and he was in the Bronx, New York. We were literally an ocean, and then some, apart. But I had never felt so close to a man as I did Chris, the man I would learn to call “Dad,” albeit reluctantly at first.
NewsOne’s Terrell J. Starr And His Father, Chris Truesdale, Discuss How They Met On Facebook
Eventually, the excitement of meeting this new man in my life wore thin and our communication became less frequent. Every other day turned into every week and then ever other week. Sometimes it would be because I would be caught up in my life having fun in Ukraine with my friends.
But there would be other times that our personalities would clash and we took a few weeks off to have a break from each other. Still, we always maintained our communication. I eventually met my grandmother, several of my aunts, and plenty of cousins through Skype conversations for the first time over the year and a half I was in Ukraine.
They took me in as their own.
Being an only child raised by my maternal grandmother on the westside of Detroit, I never had a strong sense of what a traditional family life was like. My grandmother did a great job, and I had plenty of mentors — in fact, I had the best “African village” family one could have. Yet, communicating with my father and his family was a new emotion for me. I truly felt like I had relatives waiting “back home” for me.
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Six months before it was time for me to end my Fulbright Scholarship, my father invited me to stay with him in New York until I found a job. I couldn’t believe it. I really wanted to see him, but I was kind of nervous. What if it didn’t work out and what would I do thereafter? Still, I didn’t really have too many options, since I didn’t have a job lined up. So I swallowed my nerves — and my pride — and booked my ticket “home” to New York City.
When I arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport on the evening of December 11, 2010, after a year and a half of communicating with my father, I was full of indescribable emotions. The first person I met was my grandmother. She immediately spotted me in the sea of arrivals. My grandmother hugged me and said, “I love you.” We walked to my father’s SUV, where we met him. We both hugged. After 30 years of wondering who my father was, that man was in my embrace.
So, now what?
I thought I’d only be with this man for a few months and then off to a nice job and my own place. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. I would end up with him much longer than I had anticipated because living abroad for almost two years did not adequately prepare me for a growing recession that awaited me in the United States.
I experienced the worst period in my life during my first year back in America, but my father, a man who embraced me without a blood test or a call to Maury Povich, helped me through that rough first year and lead me on the path toward achieving my dreams.