(To understand the background of this story see, Familius Interruptus, the explanation of how I learned through a DNA test that my father was not my father, and that my mother had an affair with another man known to our family.)
I had four fathers. Two of my fathers were real, tangible people. Both were good men and both were good fathers. One of my fathers was my biological father. I knew of him, and people have told me about him, but I never really knew him. He died when I was five years old.
One of my fathers was my man listed on my birth certificate. He was the man I always knew to be my Dad. He raised me and until a few months ago, I was led to believe he was my real father.
But I have two other fathers. They are the two men who I never got to know. They are ghosts of my past. They are the relationships I should have had with both my biological father, and my Dad, but were kept from me in a shroud of secrecy, rumors, and shame.
My Biological Father
My knowledge of my biological father is limited. He was a business owner in Craig, a small northwestern Colorado town. Based on everything I can gather, he was an amazing entrepreneur, creating and maintaining a business in a market that was too small, and too poor for the quality and experience his company offered.
I have never heard anyone speak a negative word about my real father. His tragic death when I was only five, kept me from having any kind of relationship with him, and the shroud of secrecy that was maintained prevented me from interacting with the people who really knew him.
It is ironic and poetic that it is the next generation of my biological family that reached out to me after a DNA test proved the link between myself and their family. It was their actions that brought clarity and truth to my family history, and I am grateful.
I regret not knowing my real father and being able to know him as my father. I also am saddened to think of his sons and their mother. His death occurred when his sons were young adults. From what I know of my real father, he would have been proud of who they became, and of their achievements with their families, their work, and their church. My lack of a relationship with my real father pales in comparison to their loss.
The man who raised me worked hard all his life. He was often up on Mondays before five in the morning and on the road to the job site, over an hour away. He often stayed at the job site during the week, living out of a camping trailer. He operated heavy equipment, and as a child the words, Cat, Maintainer, and Scraper described the three types of heavy equipment that my father used to build roads and reservoirs.
I was the youngest of four sons to my Dad. I remember going with my family to see my oldest brother play high school basketball, my next oldest brother play high school football, but I don’t remember my Dad going see my next to youngest brother in plays, nor do I remember him coming to any of my school events. I suspect that when I was a child, my Dad was at the job site when our events were happening.
If my Dad knew, or suspected that I was not his son, I was not aware of it. I have indications that my mother and he had a strange marriage, but as a child, I had nothing to compare their relationship with, nor did I have any reference to compare my relationship with my parents. In hindsight, I knew I was not the child that my parents beamed with pride over, but I attributed it to being the last of four boys.
My mother posted an October 1968, Erma Bombeck column on our family scrapboard about the Caboose Child that was ‘planned about as well as a headache.’ At the time, I had no idea that my mother was probably well aware of who my real father was, but I didn’t understand the statement she was probably making when she posted this single article on the scrapboard.
I suspect my father also knew, and that is part of the story that is amazing and tragic. Most people would shun the bastard child, but to my knowledge, he didn’t. Our relationship wasn’t close, but he could have justifiably shunned me, and he didn’t.
That is the Dad I didn’t get to know. The man who probably knew I was not his child, but raised me anyway. Regardless of what happened one day in March of 1957, he chose to be my Dad. I wish that before his death, I could have expressed my appreciation for living with the knowledge that few men would have had the character to move beyond.
My Dad wasn’t a perfect father, but he was a father to me, when he could have rejected me. I had a relationship with my Dad that I knew, and I wish I could have had a relationship with the part of my Dad who had to deal with the reality that I was as a son of another man.
I am too late, but I want to express gratitude to my fathers, and wish them a belated Happy Father’s Day.