Before sending my first father’s day card, packing for my cross-country move, saying good-bye to friends, or making curtains for my New York apartment, I had a DNA test that changed everything. I tend to speak in hyperbole, describing people, events and things as absolutely the best, life changing, most amazing and absoltuely hysterical. What can I say? I get excited about EVERYTHING! However, the day the DNA test results confirmed that I had a dad was not a hyperbolic moment. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Many years before, my great-aunt adopted me and became my mom after my teenaged biological mother disappeared. My mom and my great-grandmother, the two old biddies, as they liked to call themselves, raised me. My mom never married, so I never had a father growing up. They created a wonderful childhood for me, so I did not feel I was missing out.
Here we are, me and the two old biddies in our late 70s glory. You might be interested to know that my grandma never gave up on her 70s polyester pantsuits. She rocked those for another decade and half.
After my mom died in 2006, I became curious about my origins and slowly began to explore my family history on Ancestry.com. No matter how far I could trace my family history on the maternal side, it drove me crazy that I could fill in only half of the story. Hoping to fill in the blanks, I tracked down my biological mother who I had not seen since I was three years old.
In May 2012, we met face to face. At the very end of our two day visit, she logged into Facebook and pulled up this man’s photo:
And told me he was my father. It felt like looking into a mirror, albeit an older one with more facial hair. That moment was exciting, scary, anxiety-inducing and overwhelming.
The bigger bombshell: He did not know that I existed!
It took a few months, but my biological mother confessed to my dad about me. Shocked and uncertain, he asked to see photos of me in an effort to explore the veracity of her claim. One surreal night, I shared childhood photos of myself on my biological mother’s Facebook page, while he simultaneously viewed them. In seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, I was just two degrees away from my biological father! What was he like? Was he kind? What did he think of all of this? Would he want to be part of my life? Would I want him to be part of my life?
The DNA Test
After this photo exploration, he asked for a DNA test before communicating directly. The arrangements were made, and I nervously drove to the clinic. I felt compelled to document the experience even though I was in a nondescript Glendale office, so I took some terrible photos of the inside and the notes about the appointment:
I was ushered into an exam room, where they took a sample by swabbing the inside of my cheek. The sample, carefully packaged, was then shipped to the main lab where the testing is done. I was told to expect the results in about two weeks, which is remarkable considering DNA testing is only about 30 years old. However, it felt like an excruciating length of time to wait.
A week later, my biological mother revealed that she was not 100% positive that my father was in fact my father. It was like time slowed down even further that last week. Ancestry.com, once again proved helpful, as I located his yearbook photo from 1977 on the site. I then anxiously bombarded friends with side-by-side comparison photos like this demanding to know if they thought we could be related:
Don’t you dare judge my bangs or the intense beading on my matching earrings and top combo, this was 1991!
Finally the day came, and I knew to expect a call from him with the news. That he wanted to be the one to give me the news, regardless of the outcome, had me hoping the test would be positive. At the moment the phone rang, I was sitting in the passenger seat with Cheria (from the awesome blog, Love Cheria) after a lunch break trip to our favorite thrift store. I answered the phone, and the first thing he said was, “Rachel, this is your dad.”
My world changed in that moment. I gained the unconditional parental love that I lost when my mom died. And while there is a sadness for the many years we missed, that loss gifted us a focus to be intentional with the time we do have.
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