Explaining My Three Fathers

big-oak

Explaining my three fathers to my children has always been stories I enjoy telling. Sometimes it is like going down the wrong rabbit hole because it can be just a wee bit confusing. For those of y’all who just started playing along then I would guess y’all are at a bit of a loss. My recommendation is to search The Sting Of The Scorpion using the terms adoption, adopted, and biological. Then, perhaps y’all will be up to speed. Let me give a very brief review. I’m adopted, I’ve known my entire life. The fact that I was adopted was never the secret. In fact, until I turned 18 I never knew there was even a secret that people wished I never learned. In my case the records were sealed due to the circumstances of the pregnancy. Fortunately I was able to get them unsealed and have spent the better part of 25 years piecing together everyone’s dirty little secret, me.

On the backside of my property there lives an enormous oak tree. I find that when I’m in the presence of this oak tree that I tend to think of my family tree. My family tree is really twisted. If one was to look at it analytically I am actually the part of three family trees, if not more,  each in a separate way that leads into a different direction. Confused yet? We’ll get back to that. I have had “family”, specifically my biological family, on my mind recently since we (my wife & I) are planning to visit my oldest daughter (23) in Rapid City South Dakota over spring break this coming March 2014. Most of my biological family lives in the state of South Dakota, as well as my biological father and adopted father are both buried there also. For the purposes of explanation in this post the following will be the reference points when I discuss my three fathers, BF = Biological Father, AF = Adopted Father, SF = Step Father, my BM (biological mother/birth mother), and my AM (adopted mother/mother). Refer back to these abbreviations during this post if needed.

Everyone seems to want a piece of me when we go on the trip when all I really care to do is spend time with my daughter and my 2 y/o granddaughter whom we haven’t seen in some time now. Now, personally, my “agenda” will be to spend time with my wife, kids, and my granddaughter. Now, will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. As my younger children get older they have began to have questions about family because my side of the family is kinda complicated. Recently I, for the second or third time now, tried to explain things to my son, who I finally now think gets it. Me being adopted is not what is in question. How this fits into my life as well as my kids life is what always seems to be confusing. And, when I explain it here I might go out-of-order and bounce around a bit so just try pay attention. Like I mentioned above, from this point further I will address my fathers by their relationship to me. I needed to explain all of this to my children because they have never met my BF (biological father) or my AF (adopted father), all three of them only know my SF (step father) and all three of my children will be meeting my biological family (many of them but probably not all of them) in March.

So lets see where to begin here. I was born 06 November 1968 in a little town in the southeast of South Dakota. I was placed with my adopted parents within days of my birth. My adopted parents were divorced by the time I was 6. I will get into that another time. By the time I was turning 7 my mother was re-married and we all moved to the southwest side of Houston Texas. My AF remained in South Dakota where I visited him every Christmas break and summer vacation until he died at the end of the summer in 1983. I remained being raised by my SF and still to this day consider him to be my dad. Anything y’all read around this blog about the current happenings with my parents is about my mother and step father, which he is never referred to in the real world. There was never any secret of me being adopted, I have always “known” because I was told early on. Why? I don’t know. Before I start the next part, let it be known that my SF and my mother (AM) have always loved me and raised me if I was their own blood son. Their loyalty to me as a son has never, nor will it ever, be in question.

Once I was out on my own, joined the United States Air Force, married, and had my first daughter I was asked about my family history so medical records for my daughter could be started. I was at a loss, I was actually crushed because here I brought a child into existence and I don’t even know if I passed something on to her genetically that had the potential of being bad. I struggled with this fact for a few months as I held my daughter in my arms wondering if there were going to be things about herself that she would never know. After a brief discussion with my wife and a long conversation with my mother (AM) the decision was made I was going to find out who I was. It was the thought at the time, it gave me hope for myself and my daughter. Since I was stationed in Japan in 1991 I had to do things the old-fashioned way, I had to write letters. I actually only wrote two different letters, form letters, which I used to inquire about my adoption records and my biological parents. I won’t lie, I hit allot of dead ends, I got wrapped up in allot of red tape, and I was at a point (after a year) where I was ready to give up because there didn’t seem to be any information to have. Then, out of the blue, when I was ready to quit, I received a letter from the office of the Judge that was over my case back in 1968. I was informed that they had the information I was seeking, but, since I was overseas I needed to provide all my personal information along with an affidavit from my commander confirming my identity.

I gathered everything I had, to include birth certificate and the letter from my commander, loaded it in an envelope and sent it on it’s way. For the first couple of weeks I waited very patiently, then a month rolled by and my patience was wearing thin. After 3 months I just gave up. Soon after I received another letter from the office of the judge informing me that he has reviewed my case and my request and is granting my request to have my adoption records unsealed. I was informed that they were ordered sealed due to the circumstances of the adoption and the biological mother as a request of her parents. I had no idea what all of that meant and was more confused than ever. The following day I received a package (large envelope) from the judge’s office that had a complete copy of everything that was filed in accordance with my adoption proceedings. It was worse than my worst nightmare, everything I wanted to know was blacked out like this was some kind of top secret document. All of the names, dates, places, agencies, and so forth were either removed or blacked out altogether. These documents read like a very well written mystery, with one exception, I never got to find out “who did it”. So, for now, the quest for information is dead.

I was divorced in 1998, we split everything up, she went one way, and my daughter and I remained. I put 90% of my stuff into storage where it sat for the next few years. In 2000 I was remarried, I welcomed with open arms my own step daughter (that will be the only time you ever hear me refer to her as a step anything) and finishing up the remaining time I had for active duty Air Force Guard. In 2001, after my son was born, we decided we wanted to raise our family in a house and not an apartment. I didn’t want just any house, I wanted a house we could grow into, grow old in, and not need to move any more, as I was tired of all the moving over the years being in the Air force, I was done moving. I spent the next 18 months designing our new house. My wife thought I was the obvious choice as the architect since that is what I have a degree in. So I did it, between working for my SF as a concrete contractor I spent the hours needed creating our dream home. Once we were happy with the design I submitted it to a Texas state licensed architect for the “stamp of approval” I needed to move forward. I found 10.4 acres in a large lot subdivision that we really fell in love with. For the next 18 months we watched our dream come true.

After we got moved in I announced I needed to make a trip to New Mexico to gather my belongings out of a storage unit there. So, my oldest daughter and I loaded up a trailer and made the road trip. It wasn’t much, mostly boxes full of records, pictures, and different things I had collected while I was in the Air Force bouncing around the world. When we got back home I went to unpack the boxes and noticed the one that had all of my adoption research in it. Not wanting to stop, I had my daughter just put the box in the master bedroom closet for later. After about a month of organizing I was at the computer paying some bills, checking the weather, and just when I was getting done my wife comes in and announces “we need to talk” with tears rolling down her face. (Fuck! What did I do?) I knew I have done nothing so that couldn’t be it, so what was it. I noticed in her hand a letter that I had written so many years before and she asked me when I was going to tell her. Tell her? I thought she knew I was adopted, I really thought this had come up in conversation before. It had, but my quest for information was never talked about. To tell you the truth the box was put in my closet to protect it from humidity damage, I had no intention of going through it because in my opinion the quest was dead and I had given up. I explained to her I had no interest in talking about it but she was free to read all of it if she wanted to.

A few days later I was piddling around in the garage putting some shelves up when my wife comes out to let me know I had a phone call. Weird because I didn’t even hear the phone ring which was mere feet from where I was working. My wife holds her hand over the mouth piece as she whispers that she loves me in my ear. After I said hello there was an extremely long dramatic pause, so I said hello again. This time a woman said hello back to me. She went on to explain that my wife contacted her the day before and asked if her and I could talk. Okay, lets talk. She informed me of who she was, she explained to me that she was my biological mother (BM). I was at a loss for words. She told me she would tell me anything I wanted to know. She said we are older now so it was time for the truth to be told. Okay. She gave me a name and claimed it to be the biological father’s name but never kept up with him after I was born so that is all she knew. She then needed to go, this was too emotional for her, so we hung up. I was dumbstruck to say the least. Seems my wife is pretty sneaky. She told me she had “friends” who knew what to do with the information I had and in less than 24 hours had a name and a current phone number. Really? Really.

We found a number for the name she gave me and gave it a call. The plot thickened because the person she had me call was my BF’s good friend from back in the day. He put his name as the father and so forth to protect his friend’s marriage. This lie came between them a few years later and the friendship was severed, so he didn’t see the harm in giving me his name, the real name this time and he even had the phone number. After hanging up with him I called the number and asked to speak with the named person I was given and I was informed at that time by the man on the other end that he has been deceased since 1996. The man I was talking to was my BF’s wife’s new husband. He gave me the name and phone number of their oldest son if I wanted to talk with him because he might have more information. When I called him I got the answering machine. I left a message for him to call me and my information. When he returned the call we spoke for many hours because I knew things that nobody outside of their immediate family should even know. We were able to fill in each others blank spaces so to say. I offered up a DNA test to prove who I was and I was told that it wasn’t necessary he knew that I had to be genuine. The puzzle was indeed coming together for me and I basically unraveled everything he had ever known to be true. A few days later, his mother called me, she said she felt obligated since her husband had died before I could “confront” him in person. Yea, him being dead really did throw a wrench in it all for me.

I kept in telephone contact with my BF’s side of the family for a couple of years before it came time to go to my oldest daughter’s graduation in Rapid City South Dakota. She decided to go live with her mom, who guilted her into believing that her life was just too damn lonely without her. Since we were going to South Dakota for her graduation I had the bright idea that this would be the perfect time to meet my biological family as well as visit my AF’s grave that I have not seen since the day I buried him. I also contacted my BM and told her I was willing to drive to northern Idaho to meet her while we were on our trip. She declined as well as asking me not to contact her or her two other sons ever again. I have honored her request. I visited my AF’s grave, which was hard, it was emotional, and left me drained. The following day I visited my BF’s grave. This was hard as well but something I felt I needed to do. Why? I felt he needed to “see” me and “hear” my voice, I needed him to hear me and see me. I met all of his children, 4 sons and 4 daughters, and a whole slough of grandbabies, nieces, and nephews who had zero idea who this strange man was that was at their grandma’s house. The accepted me, it was like I had been on a long trip or lived far away and was finally returning home. Was it bizarre? Absolutely bizarre. by the time these 3 days were over my brain was mush, I felt like the wash cloth that gets crumpled up and left to dry in the corner of the shower, I was just done. But I had a graduation to go to, I had to get back on the road to drive five hours away to get to the next town for my oldest daughter’s graduation.

I talked with my daughter quite a bit about what has been happening. It involved her as well because the people I just met were here “people” biologically as well. I don’t think she was prepared for these talks but I know she walked away feeling better because now she had a few more answers that I could never give her before. The graduation was awesome, we were so happy for her because we know what an accomplishment it is to graduate. We spent the next few days with my daughter, doing different things, just her and I, it had been a long time since we got to just sit and shoot the shit together. The day came that it was time to head home, it was time to head back to Texas. I was out of energy, I was drained, and borderline torn if I needed to extend my trip so I could go to Idaho. Then, after a heated debate with myself, we drove back to Texas.

To this day I am close to my father (SF). He is close with all of my children. Until just weeks ago my 17 y/o daughter and my 12 y/o son didn’t know he was my step father. I had to explain so much to say so little. My son is looking forward to the trip to South Dakota to visit with people and to see the grave which bears the name of his grandfather which he has never met but was named after. It should be an interesting trip. My whole family will be involved this time in meeting all the biologicals, I’m told it will be a family reunion of sorts. I hope my wife and kids are up for the journey which is ahead of us. I will let y’all know if I was up to it when we get back. Until then, I guess this story is on pause. It’s not over, but it’s over for right now. I wonder what other people do when they try to explain their own family tree(s) to their kids. I bet allot of people are glad their roots aren’t so complicated.

Our Dog Is Brilliant Enough To Act Dumb

Originally Posted 05 Febuary 2013
Guest Blogger: 

I could complain for this entire post about my still not trained chocolate lab who is brilliant enough to act stupid when it suits him. However I will limit myself to two antidotes and then I will astound you with his gardening skills.

We adopted Duke (Marmaduke) when he was nine months and he stubbornly clung to several bad habits that were just too much fun for him but a pain in the neck for us. For example, he constantly leaps up literally in my face, to engage in some sort of mock fighting. Since he is only 14 pounds lighter than I am but all muscle, he is the definite victor in these contests of strength. After one frustrating encounter, I harshly commanded Duke to stay “down” and to “sit” about ten times. I finally threw up my hands and said,

“Oh, why don’t you just go get a toy instead of attacking me?”

Duke suddenly stopped in his tracks, his ears perked up , he looked at me with wide opened eyes and then quickly put his nose to the ground and began to search for his hidden toys! Duke shocked all of us, especially since it now works every time.

Another secret weapon that halts mock fighting is an invitation .

“Come on up and cuddle instead of attacking me.”

These words instantly transform Duke into a passive lap dog. After a couple of hours, of sharing a crowded couch with a monstrosity of a dog,, one of my daughters pushed Duke off the Chesterfield when he refused to move. The intelligent dog’s reprisal? He purposefully stuck his tongue in her coffee while maintaining eye to eye contact, slurped and then turned right around and stalked out of the room.

Way too smart for a beast!

No wonder People train labs to be finely tuned, obedient guide dogs.

For all his faults, Duke is an excellent gardener. I know that this seems to be an absurd statement but trust me. I speak the truth!

This last fall I was pulling out old grape vines around our property. Duke pushed me out of the way as I struggled to dig up roots and he proceeded to dig furiously with his front paws. Very impressive.

As I pruned over head branches, often I only managed to cut half way through the branch. I’d tug and pull but it was Duke’s who deserves all the credit for finishing the pruning. He’d leap incredibly high, grasp the errant branch with his teeth and then hang his whole ninety pounds on the branch. that dog saved me hours of work.

Now if we could only become smarter than our dog, all would be well.