Michael’s “Daughter”

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Doing what I loved to do best that summer… hiking at home.

I’ve been waiting to tell you this my whole life…
to tell people just to educate && hopefully inspire…
but mostly because this is waaaaay cheaper than a therapist.  

I’ve been told by a few people that told this whole event that you’re about to read makes me brave, && that it takes balls to do what i did.

i think it’s funny because i feel like many people who have been in the same situation would do the same thing out of desperation, like i did.  It didn’t matter if i wanted to do this… i wondered too long about where i came from.

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Hemet. Outside my Uncle Steve’s backyard.

Just to be clear…
i’m not looking for pity, or for people to feel sorry for me.  I just feel like i’ve held it in so long that i need to let itout… 21 years of holding something like this hurts.

First of all lemme give you a background story, just so you’re not as confused.  

In 1990, my mother Malia Lee (at the time) was managing an apartment complex in Hemet, California.  She already had one child, my brother, Brandon Michael Lee who was around 6 or 7 years old at the time.  She was separated from his father && was living as a single mom, but was living happily nonetheless.  She soon befriended a tenant of hers by the name of Michael Wilmuth… Supposedly he was talk, dark and handsome.  He had glasses, brown eyes that turned into crescent moons when he flashed his big white teeth, && quite the intelligent mind…
My mom was happy… she wasn’t looking for love, especially in him… just a friend.  But one night, just like many other nights in this society,  they were hanging out, drinking && talking…one thing lead to another &&…
9 months later on April 2nd, a tiny premature little girl was born in Hemet Valley Hospital. My mom named her Chelsea Diane Lee. This girl is me…

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Baby Chelsea

When i was 1 year old, my mom issued a paternity test against my father Michael James Wilmuth.  The test came back 99.9% positive.  Since my mom refused Michael’s marriage proposal, && even tho that piece of paper said it all, he has consistently denied me my whole life… even now.

Growing up without a father until the age of 13 is not something i often speak of.  EVER.  i definitely don’t let people know it bothers me && i never seek to advertise it, nor do i want someone else telling my story… Not even to my hero,my loving mother.
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Feeling lost during my teenage years. A lot of my art reflected this.
Wheni was younger &&i’d see kids with their fathersi would come home to my mother’s loving arms soi could cry.  I stopped that a long time ago… at least in front of people.  Since I look NOTHING like my mom or my brother, my brother used to tease me thati was adopted, even tho he secretly loves me.  I grew up being ashamed, insecure, angry, humiliated, denied, ugly, lost, uncomfortable, && i felt utterly unloved && unwanted…i feel this way sometimes even still… especially when it comes to men.
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Ugly, different, little girl. The tie-dyed  sheep of the family.

Anyhow, an opportunity arose this summer for me. My uncle Steve invited my mom && i to a family reunion in the town of my

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Driving by the outskirts of Hemet.

birth… i suddenly knew what i HAD to do… && i grew more anxious && excited as the days passed by…

I finally got there, and it was so exciting.  I had a plan to find my bio dad, but nothing was in stone.  I wrote in my journal on the trip…

July 24, 2012

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My cousin Nila and I.

I stopped writing in here the other day because i was with Nila (my cousin) && Lisa… we finally figured out what to do with ourselves finally…

But one of the weirdest things of my life happened yesterday. My mom (Malia Lailani McConahy) found my grandparents’ number in the phonebook the other day.  So yesterday, we went to go find their house because their address was also in the phonebook.  At first we went to the wrong house so we had to call them to find out where they lived.  We went to their house with a full van of people, my mom, Nila, Grandma (Charlotte, my mom’s mom), Aunt- Kathy && myself. Everyone but Nila and my mom stayed in the car.

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My mom’s mom… My REAL grandma.

We went && knocked on the door && my “grandma” Jo answered.  She welcomingly let us in.  My mom pretty much started with “Here’s your granddaughter.”  Then grandma Jo basically said she can’t know if i’m her granddaughter for sure.  She right away insulted my mom to a certain extent.  Jo said it was my mother’s fault that the state of California went after my biological father and that my mom is the reason as to why he never was involved in my life.  With a shocked look on her face && a quick glance at my cousin && I, my mom retorted “No! The state of California called me to tell me they were going after Mike, not me.  It was like that with Brandon’s (my older brother) dad too.  We agreed on a certain amount to be paid && the child support office chased him for more anyway.” My mother also told Jo “I didn’t move Chelsea away til she was five years old.  I gave Michael ample time to get in contact && build a relationship with her.  He even had a copy of the paternity test that said my daughter is 99.9% his child.”

When the only reply from Jo was a blank stare, I suddenly realized my mom && i should have brought the 20-year-old paternity test results, but we were in such a hurry to go to California that we didn’t think to do it.  Plus we had no idea this dream would becomea reality, we just had hope before all this.  My mom went on to say we have it and that we’d send it when we got home && Jo agreed that it was indeed a reasonable plan.  

My mom asked her if I could stay and talk a while && Grandma Jo said yes.  She walked us into an open room with a big window and burnt-orange shagged carpet.

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The painting of Michael Wilmuth that I saw when I walked in. The painting that Jo had done.

I noticed paintings on the walls right away…

My eyes were automatically drawn to a painting, the oil painting above, of a man with dark hair, glasses, huge teeth, && tan skin hanging on the wall.  I asked who it was (even i already knew).  Jo said casually “Oh that’s a painting of Mike that I did in ‘82”.  
This was the first moment, in my whole 21 years on this earth, i ever saw my “father”.  At this very moment I bursted into tears.  Just the fact that it was my Grandma’s piece made me cry… but the fact i finally saw my “dad” for the first time, && the fact 

that i finally knew where i came from, that i finally had a sense of identity, hit me like a semi-truck.  
Not only was i crying, but my mom && My “Grandpa” were crying too.  
My mom pretty much was defending me && who i was not only my whole life, but also during the time that she was inside this woman’s house.  My mother soon left && i was all alone with my “brand-new” grandparents.   
Jo invited me to sit with her && offered me a glass of iced tea.  So while she went to fetch it i asked my Grandpa how long they’ve been married for.  He said 60 years.  i rudely but innocently asked, out of curiosity, if they were still in love with each other.  He heartily chuckled && said he hoped so because otherwise he doesn’t know how they’ve been together so long.  Then I asked if he was a Christian (because I could kinda tell) && he said they are Christian Baptists.  Of course me being me, brutally honest I told him what I believe && for the second time on this trip I was told I won’t get into heaven.  Shit like that pisses me off, naturally… so I said watch me get there anyway on my own accord.  He just smiled. (Gah, people are so freakin’ ignorant..) 


Also when my grandpa && I were alone he looked at me and said “Sorry I’m not talking much, i’m just kind of in shock”  i replied reassuringly that he wasn’t alone in that feeling. 

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Do I look like him?

 We sat there for a long moment, both of us with tears in our eyes && i’m sure bewildered looks on our faces, && just stared at each other.  Thenhad to look away because it was like he could talk to me without saying anything.  it was all in his eyes.  He looked at me like he loved me already… && most of all like he believed every word i said.  When i got in the car much later without saying anything, my mom told me the same exact thing.My Grandma Jo came back into the room at this point && she handed me some tissues && a 

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Doing what I do best… guess it runs in the “family”.

glass of iced tea.  She also handed me a tiny Polaroid photo of Michael (above), the second photo of the day, the second time i got to see my “Dad” && I thought I was going to shit when I first saw it.  I looked at her in amazement && said “I know you’re unsure if I’m blood, but I look at this picture && WOWWW!!!  I just find it funny that I am good at art, you claim Michael is, && that you used to paint && love art.  I find it funny how when I smile I have no eyes cuz I squint so hard && so does HE!  He has glasses && so do I, he has teeth that take up his whole face, && so do i”  She said she couldn’t know for sure…so i mentioned sending the paternity test again && she said she’d like that.  Then she asked for my contact information. She interrogated me in a friendly sort of way.  We talked about what i do, like art, my (real) family, growing up without Michael Wilmuth in my life, my homelessness experience, where i’ve lived etc.  Everything she could get out of me in 2 hours she did.

 I told them how I had a feeling that the summer of 2012 would change me, && how i felt it would be because I would finally get to meet them.  i told them how I hoped it would finally bring some sort of forgiveness, acceptance of myself and the situation, && peace into my life.   I gave her my house phone, my cell phone, && my mom’s phone number… && my home address.  She said if she had questions then she would call. 
 
… i finally asked where my dad was (well I of course said “Mike”) && they said he lived outside of Hemet, like in the outskirts i guess, but she didn’t want to tell me exactly where.  I said “do you think he’d be mad if i tried to make contact?”  She said she didn’t  know but she’d ask him about it.

 Meanwhile during this whole time she kept leaving the room with her cell phone.  i strongly think she was trying to call Michael…&& i have this icky feeling that he didn’t want to talk to me.  i asked what he does for a living.  She hesitated almost like she was embarrassed, sighed, && said he’s on disability.  ”Why? “, i asked politely.  She said it was because of his back.  My mom said he used to smoke the Ganja && that she thinks he has a medical marijuana card, but she obviously doesn’t know for sure.  I asked Jo if he had brothers && sisters and Grandpa said he has 2 kids from another marriage (i think) 2 girls && a boy, && that MIke’s sister’s name is Debbie. i asked about my older sister, yes MY SISTER, Brittany whom i’ve also never met or seen pictures of.  They said Michael isn’t in contact with her.  So basically they aren’t either.  My mom && they said it’s because Michael let Brittany be her stepdad.  i think my dad isn’t a nice person because i believe my grandparents want to believe me, but they can’t cuz they don’t wanna do anything he says not to do.  i think they fear him.  Which they even kind of said in a round-about way.

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Jo said this was the latest photograph of Michael. I see how we look alike. It’s weird.

 My Grandma said they don’t have a lot of family pics together, and her camera was really dusty when she pulled it out && asked me for a picture.  SHE asked for a picture!  So, that to me says she wanted to believe.  Then after 2 hours my mom came to get me.  She took pictures and when i left i looked at them really hard…If you notice, i inherited their height & my Grandma’s nose.  Also my Grandma is almost 80 and loves teal &&blue.  My Grandpa is 85 && loves the color blue also.  His dad was in the Army in WWI, they have a picture hanging in their living room.  My Grandma loves art, but likes to make crafts now, like cards && such.  She claimed to have her painting stuff still but she said she doesn’t do it much anymore.  She goes through stages (like me)  where she gets stuck on a

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My “grandparents” that I met only that once.

different media.   So i think that’s all i remember.  i don’t think i’ll meet Mike && i don’t know if i want to, but that’s okay.  i just like them.  Hopefully we’ll talk more. p.s. On my way to the beach.  I’ll write about it later…”

So, i know this has been a long story…  Just hold on it’s almost over, well for the moment at least. i came back July 30th without ever meeting my “Dad” or hearing from my Grandparents. i bet you’re wondering what powerful lesson i have to offer, or if i’m hurting.  We’ll i’ll be honest with those of you who stuck around, i mean it’s the least i could do. To tell you the truth, i hurt every day i’m not in contact with them.  i hurt just because of the unknown.  i have cried since then.  i haven’t sent proof of paternity to them.  i realized that if they aren’t going to make an effort why on earth should i? They’d probably just put it in a box like they said they did with all my pictures and letters i used to write them.

 i have felt like shit… i still try not to talk about it much, but i’ve tried to talk to a few of you who’ll hopefully read this, but no offense, a lot of you aren’t very good listeners.  Sadly, a lot of you won’t understand unless you’ve been there… BUT Don’t you dare think i sit && feel sorry for myself, i mean i do just not all the time. From this experience && dealing with this my whole life i’ve learned a few things; You know the saying it’s better to loved && lost then to have never loved at all?  Yeah, i mean that’s a positive way to look at it but this is my opinion…
 i feel grateful i never had Michael in my life, because if i had loved && lost i would have felt way worse… since i didn’t have a dad, i didn’t know what i’d be missing… growing up without him was just what i did && it was my normal.  i mean it bothered me, but i accepted it && was used to it.

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My beautiful mom, Malia McConahy.

i learned i am so thankful for so many people like my TRUE family.  My mom Malia, my brother Brandon, and my REAL DAD Gregory McConahy. Without them I would be nothing, quite literally in fact.

i learned i will NEVER quit, or abandon my family.  When i have children, even if i hate their father at some point, i will never talk badly to hurt them (like my mom never did about my dad)… more importantly i will never stop them from having a father.   i learned i was a cheesy traditional family… not that unconventional is bad.  i want to fall in “love”, get married, travel, do art, then have babies after a few years.  i never want to rush it, i want it to be just right… 


THANK YOU
Mom (Malia McConahy)-
 for being the strongest person i know && my biggest support system.  Thanks for being my mom && my dad til Greggy came around.  Thank you for not giving up when times were hard && not taking the easy way out like he did.  Thank you for making me feel like i belonged, when i felt like an alien inside.  Thank you for being my only advocate, && for being able to understand.  Thank you for telling me i was beautiful when i felt like the ugly, weird, brown-eyed black sheep of this family.   Even if you don’t know it or think it, for all this YOU are the MOST beautiful, caring woman to me.  && the BEST mom a girl could want.

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My brother, Brandon and I.

Brother (Brandon Lee)-    Thanks for scarring me for life by telling me i was adopted 😛  just kidding.  Thank you for making me feel like nothing but your whole sister even if i really am only “Half”.  Thanks for secretly having my back even when we fight, && thanks for trying to teach me lessons my father wasn’t there to teach me.

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My real dad (stepdad, Gregory McConahy) and I doing what we did best. Eating thai food.

DAD (Gregory McConahy)-    for rescuing US when i needed a dad most.  Thank you for calling me your daughter even though i’m not blood.  Thank you for telling me you loved me && actually meaning it.  Thanks for helping me to trust you, && for being patient && kind with me when i was a wreck.  Thank you for not taking it personally when i don’t always call you Dad, but i’m thankful you && i both know you ARE && always will be.  YOU are the only Dad I need, && the only man i want to walk me down the aisle && give me away to my future love.

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Bonding in our towels. My mom, brother, and I.

Thanks for getting the real me. 

I LOVE YOU GUYS SOOOO MUCH

!

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My beautiful nephew Connor.

So thank you every one who read this.  If you have a similar experience i would love to hear it… misery loves company, && just to know someone understands is comforting in a dark sort of way.  i’ve been waiting to tell you this all my life… 

sincerely, Chelsea Diane Lee 

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Me being peaceful, because I know I told my story.
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