Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I'm 28, and I'm thinking about contacting my father. It will be the first time! He has a family that probably doesn't know I exist. He was never a part of my life. He didn't even recognize me legally. He's old now, and I feel like I deserve an explanation for this. Even though I have nothing to lose (we have no relationship anyway), I cannot find the strength to just call. I'm thinking about writing. But what can I write? Is it even safe to give my address for a reply? He is, after all, a stranger.
Fatherless in Europe
DEAR FATHERLESS: You claim you have nothing to lose by contacting your father, but you are so filled with anxiety about the prospect that you must acknowledge that, in reality, you have a great deal at stake.
For instance, you say you deserve an explanation (I completely agree). But you have to imagine that the person who has denied your existence for 28 years might continue to deny you -- or might not have a satisfactory explanation for his actions and motivations.
On the other hand, there is some chance that you would gain a measure of satisfaction -- and family relationships -- as a result of this contact. Contacting your father could produce myriad results along a wide spectrum. Do your best to prepare yourself.
This is a perfect example of a big and important question to take into therapy. And is your mother aware you have this desire? If so, she might be able to help you as you go.
It is fairly easy to contact someone from a neutral, unidentifiable address, either through a post office box or a dedicated email account. Once you have some emotional support for this effort, you only need to muster the courage to do it.
DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from "Confused," whose parents were abusive. She must never let her children be alone with her parents. I also grew up in an abusive household. I don't know why, but I always assumed my mother would not let my children be treated the same way -- stupid, I now know. Fast-forward to my son being 6 years old and my mom sticking up for my stepdad when he cursed out my son. Neither of my children stayed alone with my parents after that day. A therapist once gave me the best advice: "In this world, there are going to be people that it's better you not be around. Unfortunately for you, they happen to be your family."Learned My Lesson
DEAR LEARNED: This is powerful.