Friday, October, 16, 2015 | 11:27 a.m.
I stood in line behind two women anxious for the opportunity to get the paper. I wasn’t entirely sure how I got here or why I decided it was time, but I fidgeted with my fingers in a way to mirror those sentiments. I kept staring at the sign: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Death Certificates. It was a morning of tagging along with Rob to pick up a copy of his birth certificate and playing catch-up on all of the things that go unsaid at home. We laughed and exchanged stories on the hour-long commute into lower Manhattan just 90 minutes before; before I walked into that building and overheard cryptic conversations on wanting answers to so-and-so’s death. That’s all I heard:
I want answers.
I went into that building with giggles and a goal in mind–to get in and get out. But the Universe lets words whisper past our ears to stir memories and demons and unwarranted thoughts to wake our consciousness. I stood on line, sweaty palms and underarms, thinking about the results of this moment. I questioned if whether or not I would be able to get my hands on my father’s death certificate. I couldn’t prove anything. More so, I didn’t know much. A person I’ll never see ever again in life said “I want answers” loud enough for me to hear and God lead me to a line to find them.
What’s your father’s name?
I told her, uncertain in my response, but mentally revisiting a conversation with my mom on my 25th birthday about his name or a variation of it. I had to repeat his name a little louder, as if I had to be confident about it. Everything has been–what feels like–a secret regarding my dad, and my whispering of who he was, personified the confidentiality about it all.
I leaned into the glass and said it two notches higher, trying to swallow the barrage of tears I held in. I squirmed with my phone reciting his social security number found on Ancestry.com and Rob looked at me with a hope that things would work out.
Why are you requesting this death certificate?
“Answers” moved around restlessly in my head.
Um, genealogy purposes.
What’s your relationship to the deceased?
His daughter…I think.
The woman questioned my knowledge and the apprehension of spitting facts out courtesy of a free online trial overwhelmed me.
I’m going based off what my mother told me. And what I found online.
Do you know his parents name?
I don’t know anything.
That broke me. That was the wave that caved in on me and drowned everything, taking me back to 13 days prior where I accepted an award for my Afro-Latina identity and dedicated it to my father. A father I didn’t know, a man I never will. It took me back to feeling like this and questioning myself and trying to find a spot in a culture that may or may not accept me because I didn’t know much of anything about it. It was that night I found his name on the internet and looked at my mother differently and cried on a floor with a partner who could do nothing for me. It was that moment, in that building, wanting to crumble because I was back at square one–that place of self-examination and feeling empty because I just didn’t know.
I did leave that place knowing that in two weeks, I would have his official death certificate in my hands and would finally get some answers.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 | 2:58 p.m.
Usual weekday afternoon of picking up the boys and mentally prepping to sit down and go over the school day, do homework, check emails for the 20th time, etc. I arrive to mail from the DOH and my focus shifts to what’s in my hand.
I glance over it at high speeds and yet, catch every detail in the small letters before me. I go for the year of death and incoherently whisper, It doesn’t add up. I’ve been living in the same city with the man I’ve asked about for the last 22 years of my life.
Two boroughs away.
He passed the same year things started to go awry for me. He departed; boys came in. (Good ol’ ’01…)
On the same day of the hardest day of my life.
February 25th was there to haunt me again. Or bring me closure.
I will never write a more heartbreaking blog post than what I conjured up about February 25, 2014, but I am so grateful for what came out of that. A sigh of relief. Stories from others who’ve experienced the same. Encouragement from those who haven’t. Closure.
On February 25, 2001, I lost my dad. Yesterday, the Universe connected the last dot and I felt at peace. It took almost 30 years of questions and one overheard conversation in a building, for me to finally get an answer. February 25th; a day of loss and ironically, the birth of a new beginning. The ending of this only signifies the start of something bigger. Attempting to find family. Connecting more dots. Discovering more of who I am and who made me.
I’m ready to open that door…tears in my eyes and all.