My cousin, Susan, and her Mom, my mother’s older sister, drove from Cape Cod to visit us one day when I was around 10 yrs. old. We took turns during the summer months when school was out going to each other’s houses.
Susan was 2 yrs. older than I was…and of course I wanted to be just like her. Being the oldest of my four siblings, I liked having someone to look up to. I got to do and talk about things with Susan that because my siblings were all younger, I otherwise never had the opportunity to do. She liked to listen to music on the radio and talk about boys and makeup and hairstyles. She even had a record player of her very own. I loved when it was our turn to visit her house in Cape Cod…she had her own room!
On this particular visit to my house, we decided to go on a bike ride, taking the typical route to the lake down the street and back. But on this day, when we reached the lake Susan stopped her bike and said, “Guess what I just found out?” I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “I don’t have a clue.” She confided in me that her Mom had just told her that her Dad, my Uncle Wayne, was not in fact her father! She went on to explain that her “real dad” had died when she was just a baby. And so, as she put it, Wayne is not my real dad, he adopted me when he married my mom.
While in my obvious state of shock, she then dropped a bomb that would linger in the back of my mind for years to come. She said, “You might want to ask your Mom if your Dad is your ‘real dad’…you never know, if it happened to me, it could happen to anyone!”
Well, of course I couldn’t imagine that my Dad wasn’t my Dad…that was crazy to think about for even a second. But none the less, as soon as Aunt Barbara and Susan left to head back to the Cape, I went straight to my Mother and asked! “Is Dad my real Dad”?
Mother, paused a bit, half-smiled and said, “He’s as real as they get! Why does he seem pretend to you?” We both laughed as we saw the humor in the choice of words…”real Dad”…as if my Dad was somehow “not” real!
I told my Mother what Susan had shared with me and we talked about how sad it was when her “biological” (Mother explained that biological was a more appropriate term) father had been killed in a car accident…how hard it was for my Aunt at the time.
We never spoke about it again…but for some strange reason it stayed in the back of my mind…until I was 25 yrs old.
I was a young wife and found out I was unable to have children. After several years of doctor’s visits, attempted treatments and several major surgeries to correct a problem with my fallopian tubes to no avail, my mother suggested I consider adoption. I hadn’t heard the term adoption since that weekend of Susan’s announcement.
Mother knew my passion to be a mother was something that I had been aware of since I was a little girl. I loved taking care of my younger brothers and sisters, pushing them in the carriage as infants, holding their little hands as they learned to walk and spending hours and hours reading to them. As a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say without hesitation, “A Mommy”. I clearly remember my Mother frequently saying, “What else? You know you can be something else too…at the same time you are a Mommy.” I could never think of anything else…just being a mother was all I wanted.
I took my Mother’s advice and began looking into adoption. I spoke to several agencies and learned all I could about the process and requirements to be an approved adoptive parent. Throughout the process Mother and I had many many long discussions about the fact that it was the love and commitment that made someone a “true” parent…much more so than the biological blood line.
And then one day, out of the blue, my Mother said the words I had somehow always known would be spoken…my father was not my biological father. I was in fact adopted by him shortly after my second birthday, immediately following their wedding.
I looked over at my Dad who was sitting in his reclining chair, rocking nervously, and said, “Are you ok Dad?” With tears in his eyes, he said, “I never wanted you to know, I never wanted to risk being less in your eyes.”
I quickly ran over to him, hugged him tighter than I ever had before and said, “Dad, it doesn’t matter a bit to me who is biologically responsible for my physical existence…you are MY DAD, period.” Through the tears and hugs and “I love you’s” my mother explained why they had chosen not to tell me until now…although it didn’t really matter to me.
I had such trust in my parents that they always did what they believed to be in my best interest that I really didn’t have any negative feelings about any of it. I knew they loved me and out of that love was faith that whatever happened, when or why was okay.
As I continued to hug and comfort my Dad and reassure him that nothing in the world could change how much I loved him, I heard myself saying, “No matter what, you have been there taking care of me, guiding me, giving me the best of you and loving me every single minute of every single day…you are and always will be my Dad…my ‘real’ Dad.”
As we approach Father’s Day this year and every year, I think of all the amazing times I shared with my father…the little things like escorting me to the father/daughter talent show at Girl Scouts where he played Sonny to my performance as Cher as well as the major events like sitting all day in the hospital waiting room during my surgeries, walking me down the aisle when I got married and sharing my tears of joy as I welcomed my baby girl to our family. My Dad was the best father. His unconditional love for me made him as real in my life as any biological father could hope to be.
My Dad left us almost 16 years ago when Alzheimer’s took over his body... I miss him.
On this Father’s Day, think about the person who was there for you in your life, sharing and caring every step of the way. It may not be the man who is biologically responsible for you, it may be an uncle, a grandfather or even a close friend but the important thing is to be grateful and celebrate the realness of the love you were blessed with.
Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads!