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Every family has a secret or two. Skeletons in their closet. Things that will go to the grave with our grandparents. Sometimes you stumble on information you had no idea would become valuable to you. This is my skeleton.

I was not adopted but it certainly felt like I was. I was born into a family full of secrets. Some I am sure I will never get to know. When I was about 7 years old I overheard a conversation I knew was not for my ears. I didn't know what biological meant or why anybody would ever have a secret beyond knowing who your best friends crush was.

A few years later I was 11. I was visiting with my grandmother and my grandfather and I asked my grandmother if in fact my grandfather was my biological relative…in the most 11 year old way that I could. I was prompted to do so from the conversation I had overheard years prior. I was prepared to ask so many questions but I was instantly shut down. Instead of being met with kindness and compassion I was told it was rude and disrespectful to ask such things, I had offended everybody. I didn't know I was doing anything wrong because I was just a curious child.  I felt such guilt for upsetting anybody.

I knew everybody on my mom's side of the family. People joked that I was the milk mans child and my brother absolutely loved to tell me I was adopted. (When I turned 20 my brother wrote in my card..."flip over to the other side for your real gift" I flipped it over and it said "haha you're not adopted". What a hilarious ongoing joke.

I was already an anxious child, I didn't feel I looked like anybody, I didn't share any mannerisms on that side of the family, and I 100% could feel that I did not fit in. When I was 15 years old my dad passed away. The only person I sort of looked like and the connection to the other side of my family line was now gone. I felt so lost.

For a while I just let things be but I realized I couldn’t let the idea of there being more out there for me go. Something inside me needed to know more. I built up the courage to ask my grandmother again. Only this time I had a name because I saw it on a file that my dad had. She couldn’t deny anything this time and I just knew I was about to have all my answers. I held my breath, picked up the phone and dialled her number.

Let me tell you, if that woman could reach through the phone to smack me with her German spanking stick…my ass would have been red. It didn't matter that I was a teenager soul searching, it mattered that I was asking too many questions. Thankfully for me she lived four hours away so my behind was safe even if my heart hurt. 

A few years had passed but then my daughter was born. The little fire inside of me was lit again. It felt more important now than ever to do my own investigating. I knew if I dare opened that can of worms one more time, my grandmother, she would be furious. I also didn’t want to keep offending the only paternal grandfather I ever knew. 

It was 2012 and social media was now in full swing as well as the capabilities of the internet. I typed in a few google searches that were dead ends. I typed in a nickname I saw on a piece paper with the little pieces of info I had stored away. The page loaded and my jaw could have hit the floor. A black and white photo appeared before my eyes with a few young men in uniform. Instantly I knew that face, the smirk, the eyes, the eye brows. Even the way he stands. He looks so much like my dad! Turns out...they call him Benny.

Everybody around town and anybody that goes to the Legion in Edmonton knows Benny Murdock. He’s a proud member of the colour guard. He was in the Airborne and he is a proud Canadian Irishman. A respected individual that gave me the honour of being a Murdock.

With my new found search and rescue skills I retrieved his email. I thought I’m good at this because it must be in my blood. I found my grandpa! I hoped he was still alive. What I did next would have been considered absolute blasphemy to the ones who demanded I stopped asking questions. I wrote him an email.

A few days went by and I had not heard back, then some scared thoughts crept in with some unhelpful words from a few skeptics. You’ll have to deal with him yourself Natalie. Where’s your loyalty? You’re always creating more problems. All of these words being said to me with little to no information about why what I was doing could be wrong.

I thought to myself oh my god, what have I done? What if he didn’t want to be found? What if he is as mean as my grandma! What if he’s mean to me? This person that looks like me holds the weight of the world in his hands and doesn’t even know it, he could break my heart and I just shot off an email certain it would be fine.

Ding! You have mail. Shaking and cold sweating I did exactly what Benny did and took the plunge out the airplane and opened the email without even skipping a beat. 

His response was beautiful. It was heartfelt and gave me a piece of life I didn’t realized how big was missing. I found him. I found my Papa Benny. He lived across the country from me but that didn’t stop him from coming to meet me in person. 

The day we met I felt like a whole part of me was healed. I still can’t get over the fact that we look similar. His hand writing is just like my dad’s. His laugh fills my heart with love. The unconditional love that comes from this man has been everything I have been searching for. Family. The best part was that there was SO much family attached to him. Many of them have passed on now but to know there are cousins out there and other people I am related to gives me such joy. 

I have been given the gift to be able to say Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to my Papa for 11 years. He even flew out to my daughter’s First Communion and has visited a few times in between. When we are together it never feels long enough. Every Sunday I get the opportunity to video skype call and see him and his loving wife Mary. I’ve learned so much about his life and he has blessed me and loved me for all 11 years. It has been an honour and a privilege to share the time we have had together. I hope we have more special occasions together and moments to share for many years to come. 

As for my dad’s mother, well, she found out I found him and she informed me I had a grandpa but lost him now. We never spoke again. That’s as deep as that relationship went which is really just so sad to me. I just wanted to know where I came from. I feel bad that she was hurt but I am not sorry for what I gained. 

Life is short and you should take any opportunity you can to do things that feel necessary. I don’t regret a single moment of knowing Benny. I hope my dad is smiling down on us and watching the beautiful gift of time we were given together. 

Love Naty

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  • Your ability to persevere through challenges inspires me. Thank you for finding courage to share your most vulnerable moments.

    Amelia Blanchard
  • Beautifully written. It’s beave of you to share this kind of story with us. More relatable than you know Naty.

  • Wow… skydiving, family secrets, questions. The REAL Murdock mysteries! I wonder what secrets my family has…


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