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In Search: of a father’s love

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In Search: of a father’s love

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When I found my biological siblings Paula Sue, Raymond and Cindy, the two oldest asked that they first get a chance to talk with their younger sibling, Cindy. They didn’t want to just spring the truth on Cindy, my biological sibling that is closer in age to me. Apparently, while growing up, they had always teased her that she was adopted. In their twenties, Paula Sue and Raymond were on a camping trip with their father and he had shared with them that mom had placed “twins” for adoption. As it turns out, I learned my youngest biological brother, Joe and I are not twins; he was conceived only 10 months after my birth and placed with another adoptive family. Perhaps their father told his two oldest children, Paula Sue and Raymond that we were “twins” to save face and possibly more humiliation; evidently he had stayed married to our mother through two pregnancies that were not his flesh and blood.

But my unexpected disruption in the lives of these three siblings that my mother parented did come as a hidden revelation for their younger sister, Cindy. She had only been 14 years old when our mother had passed away. Too young at the time to see through the eyes of a child that sometimes those we love the most don’t always make the best choices in life.

Paula Sue helped pay for an expensive blood test that proved the man listed on my “only” birth certificate was their father, but not mine. The courts stated for all intents and purposes that he was considered legally my biological father because my birth mother was married to him at the time of my conception. But sadly, for me, this disappointing fact brought up the count to “four” absent fathers throughout my childhood. This particular man had signed on the dotted line as my father on my adoption relinquishment papers and had never even set eyes on me.

I did eventually locate my birth father; ironically he had passed away just a few short years before I started searching for him. There is no denying that he had his faults as well, but when I contacted one of his relatives, she commented in amazement, “He always wanted a daughter; he would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that he indeed had one.”

The highly well-respected doctor doing the Pedigree Reconstruction Testing said that it was the first time he had ever done a test quite like mine, where the biological mother and biological father in question were deceased and they had to use living relatives from both sides of the presumed family to determine paternity. When the kind doctor had to break the news to me that my biological siblings’ dad was indeed not my birth father, he mentioned, “And by the way, your sister closest in age to you; hers was coming up inconclusive for awhile there.” I remember exhaling with a defeated sigh of relief, “Oh, no, please we can’t go there.”

Four “Absent” Fathers

1. January 28, 1910 — June 16, 1989, 79 years old, my bio father, geologist, he passed away several years before I started searching for him.

2. May 27, 1909 — March 1966, 57 years old, my biological mother’s husband, open-pit miner, never met him, considered my father by law; along with my biological mother’s name, he is listed as my bio father on my “only” birth certificate.

3. January 10, 1916 — September 7, 1973, 57 years old, my first adoptive father, house painter, from a first-generation Polish family, I only knew him for the first 6 years of my life due to alcoholism, domestic violence, and a bitter divorce with my adoptive mother. His name as well as my adoptive mother’s name is not listed on any birth certificate for me as ever being my parents, but both of their names are on my sparse, incomplete birth adoption records. By some accounts it was public knowledge that my first adoptive father had a serious drinking problem at the time of my birth.

4. January 19, 1909 — April 3, 2002, 93 years old, my second adoptive dad, radiologist. I believe I loved him more than anything in this world, probably more than I loved myself. But when I begged him to tell me the truth about the many lies, secrets, and inconsistencies concerning my life story his cold answer was, “I thought my inheritance would be more important than the truth.” At that point I realized—sadly his love came with ultimatums and a high price tag. I couldn’t win at this cruel game my parents were playing and I had to walk away from our relationship that was severed beyond repair. Crushingly, I learned on my own that he never adopted me like he had always told me since I was seven years old. As it turns out, I only assumed his last name without the court’s involvement.

There are no legal documents on file in any of the three states I have lived in throughout my life to indicate that one or more of the parties had ever bothered to try to rectify the errors/problems (deception) with my adoption at birth. It’s not clear the degree of difficulty or that it was even possible at that juncture to be listed as their child on an amended birth certificate. Obviously nobody ever thought it was important enough to give me what I truly wanted and needed…a deeper sense of belonging.

I can’t change the ending to this story. However, I choose to share the grief out loud as my way of letting go of the losses. My hope and prayer is that my painful truths will be a bitter-sweet reminder for more fathers to go give your daughters a hug, randomly call your daughters on the phone and just say, “I love you,” or find your estranged and lost daughters and make amends. Believe me–daddies are such a significant part of a girl’s life.

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13 Comments
  • Laura says:

    I am so proud that you were able to share this with me and everyone else that reads it. You have come thru so much and have turned out to be an AMAZING woman.

  • Lorene Fairchild says:

    What an arduous journey you’ve been on! Thank you so very much for sharing this with us. It’s so good to know we aren’t alone!

  • val says:

    A long journey to get there. Thank you for taking me along! Love to you my special friend!

  • You are right JoAnne every girl needs her daddy. My daddy is all I have left. Through the loss of my mom our ties are getting closer. God knows what you need JoAnne. He knows what’s best for us. There is a bible verse that says “He is the father to the fatherless” I pray in all you have endured that you come to know God in a deeper way. So glad you can share your heart and relate to so many. There are a lot of JoAnnes out there that need to hear from you. Love you my friend.

  • Jenny Valdes says:

    You are stronger then you know. Thank you for letting me be your friend and thank you for sharing your journey with me and the world. xoxoxo

  • Thank you for your transparency JoAnne….this kind of sharing is what reaches into the hearts of so many, encouraging and lifting up the broken hearted…

  • Jeff Hancock says:

    Thank you for sharing this with each of us, Joanne.

  • Jenny Frazier says:

    Sometimes the greatest way to let go and let it live is to put these truths into words. I applaud both your honesty and bravery. You know how I feel. Always, Jenny

  • Julie says:

    I tried to leave a comment but I don’t see it now so I’ll leave another one. Thank you for sharing so personally the struggle to find your biological father, and in turn, your struggle to belong. I pray that changes will be made so that future adoptees will not have the struggles you did. You are a true gem and I’m grateful to know you.

  • Susan says:

    I love that you shared your story, the time line, and your feelings about a girls father. It is amazing how children, who very quickly become adults, are often treated with such little importance. Possibly it’s why so many of us cherish ours and others. I feel a renewed sense of searching for more info on my father. While I would love to know him, who knows maybe he’d love to know me. Time to double check for breadcrumbs! Thank you, keep up the awesomeness!

  • glenda pycha says:

    Thank you JoAnne for sharing this story. You are amazing!

  • What a convoluted story. You have done well and are using your pain to encourage others. Blessings, Karen

  • JoAnn DiDonato says:

    JoAnne, You are possibly the strongest woman I have ever met. I’m proud to call you friend.

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  1. So sad, what a terrible experience. and I know it was only one of many for you. Love you friend!!!
  2. This fills me with sadness: “No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them.” What a tragedy that your mother was not able to accept love from you. My guess is that deep down, she didn’t feel lovable, and she had to cover that shameful fact up with a bunch of br…
  3. It’s insane that these findings were made but nothing was done about it. All these years later, you are still waiting for the wrongs to be righted.
  4. I love you❤
  5. I hope you are able to find more on the first chapters of your life. How twisty things became when people had to hide things…ugh. Sad.