To All the Dads I’ve Had: A Journey to the One
Editor’s Note: The following story has been submitted by a Guest Blogger here on DNA+Love. Names have been changed in an effort to protect privacy. If you would like to share your own story we would love to hear from you (click here)!
In January 1996 on my 18th birthday, I learned Ray, the man I thought was my dad all my life wasn’t. I was shocked, a little devastated and, also relieved. He and my mom divorced when I was in kindergarten. I wasn’t close to him or most of his family. In hindsight I think secretly he and his parents always knew I wasn’t one of them. My mom was an amazing mom and raised me most of my childhood alone. She was my mother and father and I had been okay with that for so long that nothing really changed for me.
My mom thought my dad was a man named Dan; in fact, she was sure of it. It was crazy, I knew Dan because all my life he had been around. My mom would take me to the fire department to see him. There was something special about him, because to this day I remember his phone number. My mom thought it important enough that I learn it even though I never called it.
In 1998 when my mom had an aneurysm and the blood vessels in her brain ruptured, she lost a lot of memories. It also introduced new memories and the possibility that my dad could have been a man named Henry. I knew Henry and his family really well and our families had always been close. My mom just couldn’t remember the timelines from 20 years earlier and memories that she thought had been in winter months now she thought might have been summer. There was a lot of confusion for her and it left me with more questions than answers.
Every year just after my birthday I would start to wonder and year after year I did nothing. In March 2005, I decided that it was important to me to finally know who my biological father could be. I settled on what I thought was the easiest route and that was to call Henry and either prove he was my father or exclude him from the possibility with a paternity test. Henry agreed, and the results came back conclusive that Henry was not my father.
A few years later when I decided to reach out to Dan and ask him to test with me, I looked him up online and found his obituary. He died on October 8th, 2006. I had missed my opportunity. Why didn’t I call him before Henry? I was so close and I missed it. I was heartbroken. It meant to me that I would never, ever know for sure who my dad was.
So, I sat on it year after year with a hole in my broken heart. Until 2011 when I decided that the only thing I could do was do a paternity test with Ray to rule him out. I was afraid to - what if it came back and he was actually my dad? I mean, I had already forgiven him for not being a part of my life growing up, I had excused him. After all, if I wasn’t his kid, that was fair. I finally worked up the courage and I tested with Ray and it came back conclusive that he was not my father.
I thought that would be enough for me, knowing who it wasn’t meant I could believe the memory that Dan was my dad. I would just never know for sure. My ex-husband, knowing that I wasn’t okay with it, reached out to Dan’s kids, Mark and Liza, and told them about me and what we knew. Mark called his uncle and asked him if there was a sister that they did not know about and Uncle Jim said yes, there was. We later found out that it was another woman named named Jesse.
Mark called me and agreed to meet with me. I met with Mark, Liza and Uncle Jim and told them all my story. They agreed to do a private DNA test with me and see if it was possible we were siblings. I called the DNA processing company and they said that they would be able to run me against 2 of Dan’s siblings or his parents and we could have a conclusive result. That was another problem: Dan only had one sibling and his parents had passed away. The DNA company said we could test for a half-sibling match and the best we could hope for was a 25% match. Liza, her mom, my mom, and I all did the test. The results came back inconclusive. I spoke with the DNA company on the phone; they reiterated that they would not be able to say definitively that there was any relation and didn’t really explain the results, so I set to work on the result sheet we were provided and with a highlighter went headlong into trying to identify matches myself.
Mark, Liza, and the whole family accepted me with the results we thought we had, and I finally belonged somewhere. Yet as soon as I saw a picture of Jesse, doubt started to creep in. Even without a DNA match, you could tell she looked JUST LIKE Mark and Liza. They didn’t need more proof. The family has been amazing. I have been to Christmas, weddings, parties and I always had that pang of unknown, that sting that I would never ever know conclusively who my father was.
In March 2017 my husband Jeff encouraged me to test on 23andMe, so that I could see what my heritage was and possible health risks were. I had long written off the idea that I would ever know who my dad was. I had already tested with what I believed was the end of the line so I never expected to learn anything more. My test results came back at the end of April 2017, I love data and found it all fascinating. I had a bunch of DNA match results and naively believed them to all be maternal matches. Periodically I would log in from my app and look at the areas 23andMe determined I had come from and wonder, always with the feeling I would never have closure.
In April 2018 I logged on to 23andMe from my computer (which is unusual). When I did, this time I clicked on DNA matches and I could see that my mom’s sister, Lorna, had tested, which I hadn’t seen before. I started clicking through some of the other matches and found one for a 5th cousin, Tim, who did not share my aunt as a match. The more I clicked the more I found people who were not shared matches. This could only mean one thing, my dad’s side!
It showed that Tim and I likely shared the same great-great-grandparents. I found 6 people with that name on Facebook and I messaged all 6 of them. The next morning the first one who responded was the right one. He gave me three possible names of family members who linked us and I set to work looking for any link I could find. Back then it seems as though every family had 8 children, so I searched through what seemed like thousands of names until I found one line that came to Oregon in THE CITY WHERE MY PARENTS WOULD HAVE MET. I was on the right track I just knew it.
I went back to Tim and told him what I had found, he told me about a guy, Casey, who does all the genealogy for our family and he lives about 30 minutes from where I live. I reached out to Casey and he asked me to upload my DNA to GEDMatch.com to see how we compared on that site. We chatted back and forth for a while we waited for the results to come back. Then Casey went silent and I was going crazy waiting to hear what the results were. Casey finally came back to me after what seemed like forever and told me that in all his time doing this, he has never had a match as close as mine and he needed to consult some experts to understand our relationship before coming back to me.
It was determined that Casey and I could be related half-Aunt to Nephew, half-Niece to Uncle, or 1st cousins. Based on the timing of the death of Casey’ grandfather (the week I was likely conceived), I couldn’t be an aunt and I was far too old to be his niece. I had to be his 1st cousin and he only had 1 uncle, Allen. This was it! I finally had a name for my father! From the time that Tim first responded to me to knowing my dad’s name and seeing a picture of his face was 4 hours.
I called my mom right away and gave her the name of my dad. She did not recognize his name and was confident it couldn’t be him and encouraged me to look for another last name. I texted my Uncle and Aunt who are close to my mom’s age and ask them if they recognized the names - BINGO! My uncle called me right away. Not only did he remember Allen because they were friends, he works with his son named Allen Jr.!
I looked Allen up on Facebook and found that one of his friends was my father-in-law. I called and learned some about Allen from my father-in-law and got his cell phone number.
I called Allen and we talked for a while and I told him everything I knew, and he asked me to send him some pictures of me and my mom. He said he needed a few days and he would call me back. When he called me back, he said he knew that we had met before, but couldn’t place where and he wanted to meet up.
I was afraid to tell Dan’s children, Mark, Liza, and their extended family that Dan wasn’t my father. They had accepted me and now I needed to tell them we weren’t biologically related. They are amazing people and I didn’t know what to expect. I mustered all the courage I had and sent them a group message, so I could deliver the exact information to both of them at the same time. Their response? “I still love you like a sister all the same, whether blood or not.” They are incredible and I’m lucky to still call them family.
Casey, the family genealogist for Allen’s family, set to work to find independent matches to our Grandmother’s side and our Grandfather’s side, not to dispel any questions, instead to keep connecting the links. He was successful and found matches to both sides. There was no question for me that Allen was my father.
I met Casey and we went to visit the graves of our shared grandparents. It was very emotional for me to see the names of people I never got to know and thought how wonderful my grandma’s hugs must have been. I would have loved to know her.
The next weekend I got to meet Melissa, my older sister. We clicked right away and had some great laughs. I spent some time texting my sister, Jennifer, and brother, Allen Jr., and was getting to know them. Then I got to meet my dad and his wife, Marissa. We had dinner and talked for about 3 hours. It was amazing the similarities I have with my dad. And, he has an amazing smile and gives the best hugs!
I learned that my brother Allen Jr and I have almost the same truck, so I went to add him to a Facebook group and he was already a member. I mentioned the name of the group and he said our dad won a trophy at the car show the previous year. My husband said he remembered my dad from the car show and said we had talked to him and his wife, Marissa. I tagged my brother in a photo of my son and my granddaughters and he showed me that my dad was in the background of the picture. Then I found a picture of my dad receiving his award and my husband and son are in the background of his picture. We had family photos from 8 months before I knew he was my dad. That is where my dad remembered me from.
My mom, Penny, was my very first and longest dad and my dad Allen is my newest and last Dad.
I have a lot of family members now that I have collected over my 40 years that aren’t all blood-related, but they are mine all mine.
My story is strange, and I had a few different dads before finding the one that fit just right. This past Father’s Day, I got to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the dads I had for a time: Mom, Ray, Henry, Dan, and Allen.
For the first time in 40 years, I got to wish my biological dad a Happy Father’s Day.