Student finds new family during pandemic

Years of searching for her father didn’t lead to what she was looking for, but something much better.

After years of searching for her biological father, MU junior Avery Renshaw didn’t get what she expected, but ultimately reconnected with her father’s family.

According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of children in the US live with only one parent, more than any other country in the world. Renshaw was one of these children. For as long as she could remember, her biological father was never there. Renshaw didn’t even realize she had a father for a while. But once she realized that everyone has a dad, she started to wonder where hers was. And after realizing she had to have a dad, Renshaw started to ask her mom about him.

“I started asking my mom, and she was very recalcitrant with divulging information,” Renshaw said. “So I didn’t really know anything [about him]. I just knew that I was supposed to have a dad.”

Wondering about her missing father, Renshaw kept questioning her mom about him. She wanted any detail she could get, but her mom wasn’t having it. Every she brought him up to her mom, an argument ensued. Tired of the constant fighting, Renshaw eventually left to live with her grandma, Mar-Jo. She took her birth certificate to enroll in school and with that came the first few pieces of information on her father.

His name, his age at the time of her birth, and where he was born. Not much, but it was something to work with as she searched for her dad. Throughout the years, she found more details. He had brown hair; he was 5 feet,10 inches tall. Nothing big, but it was something to let her make a mental picture of him. Although Renshaw made these small victories, the search went cold.

“As I got older… my feelings started to cool off… and I kinda forgot about him,” Renshaw said. “My life was busy and I had other things to worry about. I tried to find him before but I had such little information to go on that I pretty much hit dead ends all the time.”

Renshaw tried to keep the search going, but ultimately it was set aside for a while. That is, until Father’s Day of this year.

“This Father’s Day, it was really bad,” Renshaw said. “I started having dreams where I was meeting him, and it was all I could think about; he was haunting my dreams. So I’m like ‘Okay, I have to try again.’”

Thus, the search continued. If Renshaw couldn’t find him, maybe she could try another member of that family. Earlier in the search, Renshaw found a birthday card from a grandma she didn’t know. Further scavenging led to a website that showed known contacts of different people by her biological father’s name in Washington. Eventually, She found what she was looking for — a possible close contact with the same name as the unknown grandma.

Through that listing, she did some digging. And eventually, she found the link between a friend that set up Renshaw’s parents and the sister of the grandma — the link Renshaw needed to connect her to this woman.

As soon as Renshaw found the proof that she had a connection to this woman, she immediately started on a letter. It wasn’t much, just information about her and a phone number to reach her. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but because of the pandemic, she didn’t know how much more time she had to connect with this side of her family.

“I really just wanted to try,” Renshaw said. “There were so many people who had lost older grandparents of older parents because of COVID-19. What if something happens to one of them and I never got the chance to even try to form a relationship?”

A couple of weeks went by. Although Renshaw wasn’t expecting a reply, the anticipation was still killing her. Then, one day, it happened.

“My phone started ringing,” Renshaw said. “I looked at the number, it said it was from Tacoma, Washington. Whenever I saw that my heart started pounding. I was so nervous.”

Renshaw couldn’t answer it at the time, but the call came again the next day. Renshaw and her grandma on her dad’s side caught up with each other, both being excited to have met the other. When Renshaw brought her father up, it became apparent that he didn’t want to reconnect with her. And at that point, she was okay with that.

“If I ever met him, I think I could be civil with him,” Renshaw said. “He doesn’t want a relationship with me and I don’t want one with him. I think we could be nice to each other, but I don’t think we’ll ever have any sort of relationship.”

Although it’s not what Renshaw was looking for at the start of her search, her friend Keara Allen made clear that Renshaw is content with what she found.

“It’s great,” Allen said. “I think it’s important that she makes those connections. It’s been really good for her. [Renshaw] and her grandma are getting along very well.”

Since then, Renshaw and her newfound grandmother have kept in touch, hoping to meet once it’s safe.

“It’s not super often, but it’s something,” Renshaw said. “It’s better than I’ve had for the past 20 years.”

_Edited_By_Sophie_Chappell | schappell@themaneater.com

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