Neva Franks


When you look at family tree charts, they’re beautiful. The roots run deep, hidden, all the way to Adam and Eve. Then comes the trunk, heavy with sturdy limbs. Each limb is covered in branches, laden with thousands upon thousands of leaves. That’s me, just one small leaf. Only my family tree doesn’t look anything like that. My tree is a tangle of briars, covered with sharp thorns.

Jan. 1947 – Her father died five years earlier when she was nine, and from then on, she looked for older men to be her ‘daddy’. At fourteen, she found a young man, the love of her life, she says. He was twenty-four and probably had no idea how young she was. He proposed and on their way to Reno, they stopped at his sister’s house. When she discovered the girl’s age, she convinced her brother to take her back home. But that night, alone in the car, I was conceived.

She tried to contact him, but his family formed a solid, protective wall. She never told him. Instead, she married another young man in March and told him that I was his baby. When I was born in Sept, just weighing four pounds, she wondered if maybe I really was his after all.

Just a few months later, not being the ‘wifey’ sort, she left him, taking the baby with her. The next few years, not being the ‘motherly’ type either, she went from man to man and when I was seven years old, a baby sister arrived – again – parentage a question.

All my growing up years, she showed me pictures of my father and told me many stories about my family. When I turned seventeen, we went through the small town where I was born, and I discovered an Uncle. We made contact and he asked if I’d stay with them for a while, he wanted me to meet Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and cousins. So, I stayed.

The first time I talked to my father, he quietly asked, “Didn’t your mother tell you that you might not be mine?” I called her right away and she was adamant that he was lying, and I told him so. For the next thirty years, this gentle, kind, loving man became my father and I had two half-brothers, two half-sisters and a stepmother. Life was wonderful – although I didn’t meet him until I was forty years old.

At age fifty, now married with four sons – simply out of the blue, my mother said, “Well, I guess you’re old enough to know the truth. Your Dad could be right, you might be someone else’s.” All I could do was stare at her in disbelief. She was jealous of my paternal relationships – she would ruin it, if she could. So, I simply didn’t believe her. But, I did ask, “What’s his name?” And she told me.

2016 – I’m now 69 years old and for a lark, I decided to do DNA. I wanted to see how much Native American I was – and like most people, I wasn’t at all. I saw a lot of names, the only ones familiar were on my mother’s side, but I didn’t know how DNA worked, so I wasn’t concerned.

2018 – 71 years old, I upload my DNA to a free site, and a paternal first cousin pops up. I can’t believe it, he has exactly the same name my mother gave me of the ‘other guy’. I want to scream, but I can’t. I’m in shock.

Later that same year, I go to my Uncle and he said that they did DNA and I was given the password. There they were, all of them. My Uncles, my Aunts, my cousins, and even my Dad, but one person was glaringly missing – me.

I finally got the nerve to call my Dad and tell him the truth – what he said will forever be seared on my soul, “I don’t need a DNA test to tell me if you’re my daughter or not. You are, because I love you.”

My paternal bio-father died in 2000, I found two half-siblings, brother and sister – but I’m old enough to be their mother and they’d prefer I keep my father’s identity quiet. Fortunately, many paternal cousins have come forward and without any difficulty figured who I am and have sent me pictures and many wonderful stories about the family.

I’m 73 now. Yes, the news was difficult, but certainly not surprising. One cute side note, when one of my sons asked me what my maiden name should be and I told him, he grinned and said, “I like that one much better!” Always a silver lining…