Estranged father initiating contact after 25yrs


Strange situation happened at Christmas, and I would like some outside perspective on it.
My husband’s father left his mother and him when he was 2 yrs old. He saw him again once, when he was about 14 yrs old, and spent the summer with him. DH knew from that time that he had 2 half siblings, an older bro and younger sis. His father then moved, and they lost contact once again. Father never made any effort to maintain the relationship.
For the last several years we have been trying to find him, to let him know he has grandkids, and see if we could also find the half siblings so our kids would know if they had cousins, and establish some kind of contact. We even hired a PI, and only got an address he had just moved from, again.
Anyway, out of the blue, on Christmas eve, an aunt gave him a letter that had been sent to the uncle’s address with DH’s name on it. It was one of those photo cards with DH’s father and current woman on it, on the back it just said “phone # is ________, Love, Dad”. So now we had his address and phone, and a picture.
DH freaked out. Totally in shock. By the next morning, he had calmed down, and he called him before we went to Christmas mass. They talked for a few minutes, exchanged more contact info, and that was it.
So now my question. What do you think the odds are that this man will maintain a relationship with my husband and children? I think DH has realized not to expect anything, but I don’t want my kids getting hurt from this. I don’t want him to pop in, say “Hi, I’m your Grandpa” then disappear for years, only to repeat the cycle. In Christian charity, I do believe he needs a chance to get to know his son and grandkids, but I just don’t want them to get hurt.
What do you all think we should do, or say to the kids? Our oldest knows what has happened the last few days, and he’s sensitive enough I’m afraid how he will react if Grandpa disappears again.


Tammy, since I don’t know the man, I can’t really tell you if he’ll finally stick around, but from my personal experience, he won’t.

My biological father has come in and out of our lives so many times, I try no to even include him in my thoughts! He married someone else while he was married to my mom (he married them both thru the CC - how do you ask? Priest mistake - not checking the baptismal certificate). I was 4 then. The first few months after my mom left him (since he didn’t want to leave either of the 2), we saw him every month, then, after a few months it turned to every vacation, then we saw him one yr, then 4 not. Then we saw him one yr because my mom demanded him to see us, then, on New Year’s day it’s going to be exactly 16 yrs since the last time we saw him.

Once my mom went to Cancun and contacted his sister, and she told him so he contacted us on Christmas 98. Then he disappeared for a few more yrs. Then on 03 I called him, and guess what, a few wks later he disconnected his phone. :mad: Then out of nowhere I called him in 05, for some strange reason he had the same phone # he had before he disconnected it. I told him I was getting married. Then disappeared. I emailed him once for his bday, he answered back (in 05). Hadn’t heard from him until I found him 3 wks ago online on msn messenger and told him I had just miscarried his grandson. And you know what? All he said was “how sad”. Nothing else. Not even a phone call. :mad:

So, you see? I’ve had sort of the same experience as your DH. I would tell your DH to not get excited or even think the man will keep in contact. He might not even want to keep in contact. Maybe he does want to, who knows, but really, your DH shouldn’t get his hopes up at all. It’ll hurt him all over again. I am dumb enough to try and contact my bio father, only to always get hurt. Just pray for the man. I don’t think you want your DH to get hurt again. I know how it feels to have “dad” come in and out of my life, and it’s really, really painful. Knowing he doesn’t even care he has 3 kids? I mean, not even because his only son is my mom’s kid… ugh… and also, I’ve found out so many things he did to my mom, all I feel for the man is a bit of anger and mostly indifference.

I’m sorry your DH has to go thru this.


I think you are right to be concerned. You may want to have your husband establish the relationship first for a period of time before you get the kids involved. It seems to be still too early in this relationship to involve the kids just yet.


Oops… I left out the part about the kids… the man does have a right, in a way to know the kids, but like I said, if he’s only going to come in to your life and disappear, don’t do it to the kids. They’ll be confused. That’s why the only grandfather my kids are going to know is my stepdad, who to me has been my dad for 12 yrs (well, and of course DH’s dad). What the above poster said sound reasonable. Maybe your Dh can give him one chance and if he doesn’t keep in contact w/your DH, than don’t get the kids involved.


How about your husband and your FILstart out with something small: Coffee out someplace, public. Your husband can bring along photos, and he can explain what he’d like in the relationship. If the old fella is up to it, fine and dandy. If not, your husband can ask what his ideas are on the subject.

If it were me, I wouldn’t involve the kids until either you can set up some sort of public, formal situation (“These are your grandchildren; This is Mr. Soandso, Daddy’s father” or even just “This is Mr.Soandso” to begin) OR your FIL had a series of events with your FIL, sort of “Dad dates” for lack of a better term. I would do this even if it proves that your FIL has an incurable disease, or is leaving the country.

This is not my half-baked idea. Psychologists recommend it for anybody who has not been in contact with family members in quite a bit. It takes time to develop trust, and even develop conversation. Little kids are not supposed to go off with a parent who has been absent out of their lives, but that parent must have supervised visits over a period of time, to gain trust with the child as well as the child get familiar with the parent. While your husband can certainly look out for himself, FIL has not been there for decades. FIL does not have a track record of being reliable with your husband. You certainly don’t want FIL showing up as “Grandpa” then not returning until he’s ready for assisted living or worse, about the same time your oldest is ready for college or marriage.


Very heartwrenching for your husband…I’m sorry.
With that said, it is what it is. As long as the man isn’t dangerous, I think it would be fine to introduce your kids to him. I know we all would love to present our children with perfect grandparents, but thats not possible. In life, there will be so many things to explain (including the behaviors of people) and this is just another one. I hope you can find the best in the situation and have peace with it as well as transfer this attitude to your children. Best wishes.


I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that he has a right to know the kids. Grandparents don’t have rights, they have privileges. He has whatever rights his son decides to grant him in regard to the kids. I do think that your advice to establish contact between the adults before getting the kids involved is sound.


Thanks for the perspective from all who have responded. ‘Gramps’ has emailed a couple times, and even called again so far this week. He lives several states away, so DH is talking about maybe meeting somewhere in the middle to actually meet him this summer. I guess we’ll see how it goes until then. So far our son hasn’t talked to him or anything, but DH said tomorrow is his birthday, so DH may ask our son to talk to him on the phone tomorrow. I’ll make sure it is only if my son wants to. It’s just a very weird situation to be in.


right now I would not worry about establishing a “relationship” just be glad he responded positively and contact has been made. Do what you originally planned, let him know about his grandchildren, give him the option to meet them, ask about step-siblings, and meet them if all sides agree (in a neutral place) if it can be done without a huge travel expense. Just see what develops, but keep expectations moderate. If your husband is expecting this man to fill unmet emotional needs, which he is quite justified in expressing, he will very likely be disappointed.


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