RESILIENT. LOYAL. FIERCE.
I had a rocky, on and off-again relationship with the man I knew as my Dad my entire life. But, in 2007 we were tight, we had been practically best friends for about 10 years at that point. Unfortunately, he met a woman he would marry later that year, who for various reasons apparently was not a fan of mine or any other of his family members, and not long after he completely cut off ties with me.
Ten years later, I heard she had been saying tacky things about me to my nephew and even had the audacity to say something to the effect of “Angie isn’t even his real daughter!” The next thing I know, I am agreeing to a DNA test because clearly, she is out of her mind… right? I was happy to put the rumor she’d started to rest, once and for all. Well, on Thanksgiving morning, 2017 at about 7am, I was awakened by the “ding” on my phone letting me know I had an email. So, I checked, “SUBJECT: Your DNA Test results are in!” At age 43, my mind was flooded with memories and images of my life, trying to comprehend that my Dad, my Hero, the man I wanted to make proud of me my entire life was indeed, NOT my biological Father.
Four years earlier my Mom passed away. In those last days of her life, we had many deep conversations and one of them was about my Dad. She knew how hurt I had been the last few years about his distance and I never could understand how he could just abandon me that way. How could anyone do that to their daughter? It crossed my mind maybe he wasn’t my Dad? So, I asked my Mom “Is there any possible way that anyone else could possibly be my father?” she clearly and firmly said “NO”, and I left it at that, it was just a random thought anyway.
Without being able to go to my Mom for answers, I immediately began making phone calls and sending emails. I had always heard rumors about my Mom having affairs, and my phone calls confirmed that. There was one man she was especially close with, a family friend and there were rumors about them being together. I knew him my entire life, so I decided to give him a call. We caught up on a few things and I explained what was going on, and he told me that it would be him. He had been with my Mom during that time multiple times, and I even found a photo of them dancing together on New Year’s 1974, which is right about the time I would have been conceived. I didn’t have a definitive DNA match, but there was an acquaintance helping me sort through all of the DNA findings because she had done a lot of DNA research. She told me he probably was my biological Father because she found several of his ancestors in my matches. With my friend’s confirmation and his admission, we both accepted he was my biological Father. He told me that he didn’t want anyone to know because he was still married to the same woman he was married to back then, and he did not want to hurt her or their children.
Although it was painful and I felt rejected, I respected that he did not make this known to any of his friends and family. I tried to move on, it was hard though. I was dealing with so many feelings and different facets of rejection. I felt alone and unworthy of being wanted or loved. In addition to that, I was battling feelings about my Mother. It was weird, because I would have expected to be very angry with her, but I wasn’t. I guess I was hurt more than anything. Hurt that she didn’t feel like she could be honest with me and carried that secret her entire life. I also found myself replaying so many time periods in my life, trying to dissect choices she made, and things she said, trying to see if I could find any hints or clues that I might have missed.
I also thought about the fact that this man was my “Dad” for 43 years. Not long after my parents divorced and I was living with my Mom, I came home from school one day and my Mom had our apartment packed up. I was so excited thinking that we must be moving back into a house instead of the apartment. So, I asked my Mom where we were moving. She replied, “I am moving to California and you are staying with your Dad here in Texas, he will be here in 20 minutes.” Before I could even process what was happening, I was in a car being driven by my stepmother, taking me to what would be my new home. A home where I would be emotionally and sexually abused for 5 years. Not by my Father, but by a stepsibling.
Now, as an adult, and with my newly discovered information I couldn’t help but wonder how she could have done that? It is one thing to abandon a child for 5 years, but she knew in her heart that he wasn’t even my Dad… and to think of everything I went through during those years, and again… he wasn’t even my Dad. These are the types of thoughts and scenarios that played out in my mind the next 2 years.
Although I was coming to terms with this mind-blowing discovery, in the Summer of 2020 something was telling me this story wasn’t over. It felt like I was missing something. As much as I didn’t want to open old wounds, I started to poke around again. On social media, I was introduced to a group called “DNAngels”. I sent them a message and I explained my situation, and that I had discovered who we thought is my biological father, but that I just felt like something was missing and I wanted concrete evidence. DNAngels accepted my case, and within 10 minutes of just browsing my family tree and DNA matches, Laura Leslie-Olmsted who was working my case told me, “Well I can already tell you that I don’t think he is your biological father.” WOW! Here we go again! Another emotional roller-coaster ride, coming right up!
Laura told me that she would do her best to confirm this, and to find my biological Father. She asked me to allow her some time as she was still finishing up some other cases, and mine might be tricky without many matches on my paternal side. During the next few days, I couldn’t help but be excited. Was this a second chance? I already went through the rejection of who I thought was my Dad pushing me away. Maybe this was going to be the happy ending I had always wanted! Maybe a Dad, maybe more, maybe a family!
One week later, a little past midnight I got a message from Laura. She was starting to work on my case and told me she was sorry for messaging so late, but she hit a rabbit trail on my case and was so excited about it she wanted to share it with me right away! She told me she had discovered my great-Grandparents on my paternal side! This was exciting and amazing that she found them so fast!! Over the next hour she messaged back and forth with a few discoveries and letting me know she was getting closer.
After about a half hour of silence, I was wondering if maybe she had decided to call it a night and go to bed when I got a message from her. “I would like you to meet your Father…” and she attached a picture of a very handsome man, a photo clearly taken a good 60 years ago when he was a teenager. I could see the resemblance between us, it was amazing! She sent me a few more photos and told me more about him, his family and even gave me contact information to reach out to him. I was so excited I did not even go to bed that night, I stayed up all night with intentions of calling him first thing in the morning.
All night, I played out in my head what I would say, how he would respond, and I would go through scenarios of various outcomes. Although I knew better than to expect a happy ending, that hope inside of me had been reignited. I knew he would probably be shocked, after all, he is now at this point 83 years old. I didn’t know if he knew about me back then, or if this would be a complete surprise. My goal was to let him know who I am, and at least give him my contact information so he could reach out to me after the shock wore off, if he was inclined to do so.
At 9:00am, my hands were trembling and my heart was racing as I dialed his phone number. I almost couldn’t even speak, then I heard him say “Hello”. My first thought was that he sounded so sweet, and like such a nice man! I said Hello, and told him my name, and I told him I had been doing some research online and found he knew my Mom, that they worked together back in the early 70’s. He immediately said “Yes!! Of course I remember Nancy!”
I explained to him a little more about what I was researching and what I found out. I told him that I understand this might be a huge shock, and that I understood if he needed some time to think about all of this. He replied with.. “Well… what do you want?” I said, “I don’t want anything other than to give you my contact information so that someday, if you decide you want to reach out to me, you can”. He then said “Well, I don’t see any point in that”. As he continued to talk about how other people involved would be hurt, etc I couldn’t help but to slowly fade out to thoughts of rejection, disappointment and absolute heartbreak…. Again. I couldn’t even get him to take my phone number before he said “Well good luck…” and hung up the phone. And just like that, my second chance for a happy ending was over. I couldn’t believe it, how could this happen? Again.
A few hours later, I got a phone call that someone else associated with “DNAngels” actually knew him! What a coincidence, what a small world. She had too worked with him at the same company, but later in the 1980’s. She offered to talk to him again for me, to explain that I wasn’t a fraud or anything like that, and to share with him how all of this came about, etc. Before she hung up, she asked me “What are 3 questions you would like to ask him?” I responded:
- Did you know I existed and did he love my mother or was it just a casual relationship?
- Is there anything in my medical history I need to know? (I have battled several chronic illnesses so this would-be great information to have).
- I wanted to know if there was anything he wanted to know about me, anything that I could share about myself?
A few hours later, she called back and told me about her conversation with him. No, he did not love my mother, it was an on and off again sexual affair that started at work and he claimed he did not know about me or that she had even become pregnant. He shared with her his medical history and when asked the last question about what did he want to know about me, his response was… “Well, I don’t know, I can’t think of anything…”
What a kick in the gut, not only did he not even want my phone number, he didn’t even want to know one single thing about me. Yet, I had and still have SO much I would love to share with him about me, and his grandson.
People have asked if I regret pursuing this again, only to be hurt. My answer is, absolutely not. DNAngels brought me something priceless, and that is THE TRUTH. And although this isn’t what you would classify as a “Happy Ending”, after a few days of wallowing in my feelings and drowning in my tears, I found such strength and resolution in knowing the truth, and knowing where I came from once and for all. Most of all, I found CLOSURE.
After almost 4 years since that DNA test, I have been through many challenges, most of which are all directly related to fall out of this discovery. It is amazing to me how such indescribable hurt and loss can morph into such a source of strength and resilience. Not just for me, but I have decided that I must share my story with others. I have to let them know they are not alone, and that not all of us have ideal happy endings sitting around a Christmas tree with our newfound families. But, this doesn’t mean we haven’t gained something extraordinary from this experience, and I am forever grateful for that.