September 26, 2021
My father left when he divorced my mother and didn’t return to my life until I was an adult. Sadly, he abandoned my family and me once again, and it was hard to forgive. But karma taught him a big lesson.
The only thing I knew about my father growing up was his name: Clay Kaufman. He and my mother, Susan, were married for several years before she got pregnant with me. By then, he had already started an affair with a woman from his hometown in Springfield, Illinois.
He abandoned my mother soon after I was born and never kept contact. Mom filed for child support, but he never paid. She only ever received a letter from a lawyer explaining that he had given up any parental rights to me.
After that, Mom was too busy working and raising me to care. She never dated another man because my father’s actions had scarred her forever. As a pre-teen, I would often ask her if she would ever marry again.
“Honey, life is weird. I thought I was in love once, but it wasn’t true. Now I finally understand what love truly is because I have you. That’s more than enough for me. I don’t need another man complicating my life,” she told me.
She raised me to be a responsible man, but I had to admit that I felt like something was missing, especially when I saw some of my friends with their fathers. Luckily, my mother’s guidance helped me avoid becoming a bad man like him.
I went to college on a full scholarship and met the love of my life, Federica. We got married after dating for four years, and my mother walked me down the aisle. That was the last time I thought of my father until I turned 35 years old.
Mom got sick and was diagnosed with an advanced case of cancer. She died quickly after her diagnosis, and I was distraught. My wife and I had 5-year-old twin daughters, and they were also devastated at losing their grandmother.
“Sweetheart, I think I want to find my father. Do you think that’s crazy?” I asked my wife.
“I don’t know, Nathan. He never reached out to you guys again. He knew where you lived with your mother. I don’t think it’s the best idea,” she told me.
“I just…I don’t even know if he’s dead. I want to know, and I want some answers. My mother never recovered from his abandonment. She never dated anyone, and I know she missed him,” I continued.
“Well, baby. If that’s what you want, I’ll support you. If he’s still alive, he’s probably still in his hometown. Let’s search on Facebook,” Federica suggested. We went online and searched for him.
He was easy to find, but his profile didn’t have a lot of information. I decided to message him and ask if he wanted to meet me. Surprisingly, he accepted and traveled to my hometown in Cleveland, Ohio.
After all these years, I was surprised he agreed to meet me so quickly. My wife was worried that he might hurt me again, but I assured her it was all right. On the day we were set to meet, I got to the place first, ordered something to drink, and waited.
“Hey, you’re Nathan, right?” an older man said.
“Hello….ugh…Mr. Kaufman?” I said, not exactly sure what to call him.
“You can call me Clay if that’s better. You have your mother's eyes,” he added. He ordered a coffee, and we chit-chatted for several minutes before I got to the chase.
“So, I guess we should talk about more serious matters. I don’t know if you know, but my mother died earlier this year,” I began. “I guess I wanted to meet you and ask why you abandoned us.”
“Oh, my condolences. I didn’t know Susan had passed. I don’t know how to answer your question. It’s not easy, and everything I say will sound like an excuse,” Clay explained. “But I guess it’s simply because I never wanted to be a father.”
“Well, I guess that makes sense,” I said, not knowing how else to respond. But I appreciated his honesty.
“I shouldn’t have gotten married either, but in my time, that’s what you did. You got married and had kids,” Clay continued. “But I hated myself for not even paying child support. That’s why I agreed to meet. I have a check for you.”
He took a check from his pocket, but I didn’t want to see it. “What? No, I don’t want anything from you. I just wanted to get some answers,” I rushed and pushed his hands away.
“Please take it. Do you have children? You can put it in their college fund. This money doesn’t come with strings. Can you let this old man do something to assuage his guilt?” Clay asked. I agreed and told him about my twins.
I also asked him about his life. He admitted he dated the woman he cheated on my mom with for a long time. But eventually, she wanted to get more serious, and he didn’t. It seemed like Clay was incapable of commitment.
It wasn’t the father-son reunion I dreamed of as a child, but we started to form a cordial bond. He eventually met my family, although the twins didn’t know he was their biological grandfather. But he came to Cleveland more often over the next few months.
Soon, he started dating a new woman, and his visits stopped. She was at least ten years young than me. But Clay got sick quickly, and I worried about him. His girlfriend, Gloria, was a nightmare. She wouldn’t let us talk on the phone for long.
She wouldn’t give my wife and me any information about his treatments. We didn’t find out until afterward that he had surgery on his hips, and Gloria wouldn’t let us see him when we visited Springfield.
“Clay, this is crazy. That woman is no good for you. I just wanted to see that you’re ok,” I told him on the phone.
“Nathan, I’m sorry. But you’re getting too attached. Remember that I’m not your father. Please stop calling me that often,” he said and hung up. While I tried to avoid any feelings, I had grown to care for Clay. But he had abandoned me…again.
It hurt me deeply, and I decided that I was done with him forever. “It’s for the best, Nathan. The twins are growing attached to him. I think they know that he’s their grandfather. But he doesn’t want to be in our lives, and you don’t deserve to go through that pain again,” Federica told me.
I agreed and went no-contact. But Clay called several months later, explaining that Gloria had taken everything in his bank accounts and stolen tons of items from him. She was also cheating on him with a younger man while he was getting treated at the hospital.
Clay had even changed his will and made her the sole beneficiary of his estate. I didn’t care about his money, but I was mad that a vicious woman so easily swayed him.
He apologized and tried to rebuild something with me, but I was hesitant. “I’m not sure I want to let you into my life as I was willing to before you started seeing that woman. I don’t deserve this, and my family doesn’t deserve this. I’m sorry, Clay,” I told him.
I talked to him sporadically on Facebook over the next few years but only discovered he died when his lawyer reached out to me. He left everything to the twins. I was thankful, but I didn’t feel guilty for drawing the line with him. It was the best choice for me.
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