I got a lead about my half sister last week and it also came with an opportunity to connect with my birth father. The entire situation has my head spinning, because it makes me think about how I define the word "father."
My Dad adopted me when I was six years old, shortly after he married my mother. He's known me all my life, because he and my mother are from the same hometown. Mama knew when she was ten years old and saw him for the first time on the school bus that she would marry him someday. It's a very sweet, romantic story. She was right, but life took a few interesting turns before that would happen.
When she was in high school, she was encouraged to befriend a "new kid" who would ultimately become her first husband because she became pregnant at 17. In 1970 in Maine, that condition prompted an instant marriage. I was born in May 1971, and my mother's first marriage lasted until I was about two years old. They separated when my mother was pregnant with my brother Tony. In retrospect, it was inevitable. After all, they were kids, and the marriage should never have happened. My birth father decided to enlist in the Air Force, and agreed to give up his parental rights so my Dad could adopt my brother and me. I'm very grateful to him for that decision.
Daddy worked very hard to provide for us. I can't imagine how he must have felt when he decided to marry Mama. He had always been a party animal and suddenly, he was committing not only to my mother, but to her two children as well. I find he was very courageous to marry my mother. He had to stand strong in the face of his family's disapproval. Marrying my mother, who was divorced with two kids, did not make his parents very happy. They were devout Mormons and his choice did not mirror their values. He's always been his own person, but inside of all of us is a kid that only wants our parent's approval, so I have to imagine it was hard for him. Thinking about his challenges, they remind me of the same kind of challenges I've faced as an openly gay woman.
Daddy's strength of character and his love for us has helped me establish my own value system and heavily influenced how I define family. He and Mama went on to have two more children and I was blessed to grow up with three crazy younger brothers and two parents who always put us first. We didn't have a lot of material things, but we had each other and I carry a lot of fun memories with me from my childhood.
As I parent my own children, I think about how Daddy loved me without reservation. He wasn't a huggy-feely type of guy, but I never doubted how much he loved us. Today, both of us have to stop and remember that we don't share any biology. When I fill out medical history I have to make a conscious effort to shift my thinking to my birth father's side of family rather than Daddy's. There's a lot to be said for the nature versus nurture argument. In my case, Daddy's nurturing created an indelible imprint in my heart and shaped my character.
Today, I see how my son Hunter is so much like me, despite not sharing any of my biology. I love him unconditionally and he gave me such joy that I decided to carry his sister to expand our family. And Donna loves Skye as though she gave birth to her. My two girls are so much alike that it's scary! So, I believe that family is more defined by the love that is shared rather than the blood running through our veins.
Thank you Daddy, for starting a legacy of love that has created a wonderfully diverse Graffam family. I love you.
- Stacy Graffam
- I'm a lesbian mom in an inter-racial relationship, living in Bergen County, NJ. My wife and I are raising two beautiful children, an eleven year-old son and a six year-old daughter. I'll be sharing our adventures in faith and parenting on a regular basis. My entries are also published in Gay Parent Magazine (www.gayparentmag.com).