Kennedi is a rising first-year at the University of Toledo. In this essay, she talks about choosing between staying in the MESP program and attending the funeral of the father she never met.

At age 8, I figured out that I did not know my biological father. Just recently, I found out he had cancer and wanted to meet me for the first time. At 8, I didn’t really understand that my “father” wasn’t my biological father—but in years to come, it left me feeling very conflicted, empty, neglected and sad. Why would someone want to leave and neglect their flesh and blood? It made me think about a lot, and created a lot of questions in my head. I didn’t really give it too much thought until my senior year, as, like most teens, I started to feel as if I was grown. And it really started to hit me: “I’m going to be in college.” So I then began to wonder, “What’s my biological family like? What diseases run in my family? What is my dad like, and honestly, who IS he?” When I graduated high school, I began to feel confused. “Why haven’t they reached out to me? Did my family forget about me?”

I communicated these feelings with my mother, and come to find out, she told me my father was sick. He had reached out, and said he wanted to meet me. I immediately said no, not wanting to show my vulnerable side. But deep down, I was surprised, and did want to meet him. Ultimately, I felt like we were connected in some way. I thought it over, and then agreed to meet him. When I decided to do so, his mother, my biological grandmother, reached out to me and said she wanted to see me. Meeting her was weird, but, ultimately, what would meeting your biological grandma for the first time be like? She was telling me more and more about my dad, and the more she did, the more I was eager to meet him. But I still didn’t hear back with a date on when he agreed to meet me.

When I reflected on our meeting, I just hoped that he wanted to gain a relationship with me, and that he had pure intentions. As time went on, my dad started to decline in health, fast. And he never told me when he wanted to meet. I think it was because of his pride, and him not wanting me to see him sick for the first time. But to me, that was very unfair, because he waited this long—not I. Fast forward, and it was time for me to start the University of Toledo’s Multicultural Emerging Scholars Program (MESP). I was excited, anxious and scared about what it would be like to live on my own. At first, it was a little tough—and a huge shift—but it just took some getting used to. Soon enough, it was the week of the fourth of July, and I was super excited to go home and see my dog Barkley, my friends, and my mom, dad and brother. 

While I was home I was notified that my biological dad passed away. At first, I said , “Okay…” and left it at that. But the more I started to think about it, I was like, Damn. My real father is dead. I will never get to meet him, take pictures, laugh or bond. His funeral was Saturday, July 13th, and, unfortunately, I could not make it. I had the option to stay here in Toledo, or to go back home to attend the funeral. I decided to stay because it was the best decision for me. 

I chose to stay because, one, even though they are my biological family, I didn’t want to show my vulnerable side to them, or make my feelings accessible to them because they didn’t really “know” me. I also wanted to stay because there was a field trip for MESP, and I really wanted to experience the trip with my fellow peers. I gave my dad multiple chances to meet me—regardless of the reasons, he still didn’t do it. I felt like staying was the best choice for me, and this taught me a lesson: to do what will make you happiest, not what will just please others. This taught me maturity, and that you never know when someone’s last breath is. So respect them, love them and care for them every day like you know when it will be. I thank my mom for supporting me, and being understanding during this situation, and providing me with the most insight she could, as well as my true father for always taking care of me, never slighting me, and treating me like I’m his own.

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