DNA Ain't Nothin' But a Gene Thang, Baby

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One of my favorite pictures of all times is one from the Xmas right before I turned 3 years old. It's one of my mom, my dad and I crouched in front of the tree, faces glowing with ear to ear grins. The clothes and the hairstyles are terribly dated. The photograph itself has faded considerably. But the message of it, the meaning behind it was clear: We are a happy family.

My mom and dad had only been dating a handful of months at that time. They'd met at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where my mom was an English Lit major and my dad was transitioning from majoring in architecture into business management. They don't talk much with that mushy reverence that some people do when describing how they met. I only know that they were attracted to each other enough to overlook major glitches that would have caused most other people to run in opposite directions.

My mom was 29 at the time that she met my dad. She'd returned to college in order to get an education and better provide for me. My dad was 23 and living as most 23 year old males do. Not being a romantic man, the most that he has said of meeting my mom was that she was one of the most beautiful women he'd seen. They began dating. She then introduced glitch number two.


My mom and my biological father were divorced when I was 18 months old. I know enough about him to know who he is, and do not consider him to be a bad man, but he was never really a part of my life. My mom was still young enough to continue dating, but after an initial date or two, the introduction of me into the mix would scare most potential beaus off. My personality was developed at a very young age. I've been chasing away men for years!

Most men tried to spoil me in order to impress my mom. I was a cute and precocious kid, but as we all know, cute and precocious wears thin REALLY fast. After receiving an expensive, hand-made horse head (you know, those stuffed ones mounted on a stick) from one date, I promptly dunked it in the toilet and declared that I was "washing its hair!" I don't think "ungrateful brat" won him any points.

But my dad was never one to buy things to impress. He was a student, so his income was never big enough to drop loads of money on me. Instead, he took me for hikes, describing vegetation and insects along the way. He built model rockets with me and we'd launch them from the middle of an empty field. His best friend taught me how to play backgammon right after I turned three, and he played with me for hours on end at my insistence. He had a quiet, consistent nature to him. It turned out to be the perfect balance for a borderline hyperactive kid.

By the time that I was just about 4 years old, he'd taken to introducing me to people as his daughter, and I'd easily adopted referring to him as "Dad." He and my mom had still not gotten married (she was still gun shy), but we were all living together. My mom would go to school during the day and work as a waitress at night. My dad worked the graveyard shift as a stock manager for Thrifty's. As I began to attend kindergarten, it was my dad who was there to greet me when I returned in the afternoons. He read books to me that my mom would never read, one chapter at a time. He taught me how to skip rocks in the near-by creek. He bought me Dolly Madison fruit pies even at my mom's objection.

I was the only kid in our household until I was 8 years old. My dad spent copious amounts of one-on-one time with me. He also did the one thing that many adults forget to do: He talked to me. He answered my steady stream of questions, always in an affable manner. He never used the condescending tone that most grown-ups do with children. He made me feel as if my contributions to our conversations were valid and welcomed.

My dad is one of the best MEN that I know. He's also one of the most amazing dads that any child could ever ask for. In a situation where he could have very easily walked away, where he would have been forgiven for not wanting to deal with the difficulties that would ensue if he dated my mom, he stuck around. He dealt with a child who was a horror at worst and mildly obnoxious at best. He did it all without ever asking for special treatment or recognition.

When I was around 12 years old, my biological father wanted to make an appearance in my life again. I'd grown so used to my dad, that the whole thing felt inconvenient and alien to me. While I agreed to meet with my biological grandmother and grandfather, I did so mostly out of a sense of curiosity. Once I'd met them, it felt awkward and unnatural. I already had two sets of grandparents in my opinion. I didn't want a third.

My dad never really talked about my biological father coming back during the 1 1/2 years that he made a half-assed attempt to be involved in my life. It wasn't until I was much older that my mother disclosed to me just how upset he had been. On the surface, I saw a man who was willing to allow me anything that I needed. Yet at night, he would lie in bed with my mom and complain over what he saw as an intrusion into the peaceful life that he had worked hard for me to achieve. While the exact words were never spoken, my mother spelled it out the way she perceived it. "She already has a dad," was the specifics he was talking around.

And he was absolutely, 100 percent right.

DNA might make a child. It might put two names on a piece of paper that can be defined as paternal and maternal contributors, but it will never delineate "mom" and "dad." These are titles that are hard fought for and won after years of blood, sweat, tears, puke, diarrhea, science fair projects and young broken hearts. Blood means nothing unless there is a heart pumping behind it and making it flow.

I hold no ill will towards my biological father. He wasn't prepared to be my dad. That's fine by me. I could argue that he did the best possible thing for me in under the circumstances. He stepped out of the picture to allow me to have the opportunity to have my rightful dad be a part of my life. If I look at it that way, I can send him thanks. He did the best that he could without realizing that was what he was doing.

I often wonder if I will ever find a man who will be able to measure up to my dad. Someone who willingly sacrifices so much for his family, and with very little celebration or fanfare. He works relentlessly to provide for all of us, forgoing massive amounts of sleep and personal time in the process. He was never a particularly affectionate man when I was growing up. I was never smothered with hugs and kisses, but it was all of his collective actions that lead me to always feel as if he was holding me. In my opinion, he is the absolute epitome of what a man should strive to be.

He took me into his heart when he had no obligation to do so and wove me so tightly into it, that he forgot that he is no blood relation to me. He has done the same for Midget, who is in absolute awe of him as well. She said the word "Papa" before she said "Dada."

He is the best thing that could have ever happened to me, and every day I feel fortunate to have been able to have him as a major part in my life. I wouldn't be half the person I am today, if not for him. And if you ever think I'm horrible... imagine what I would have been like without his influence. ;)

I love you, dad. I don't know if I will ever be able to properly convey just how much. My gratitude for all that you have done for me is bottomless.

Happy Dad's Day.

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