This is a reprint/update of my post from May 10, 2009.
I was born in California to my mother and father. My father was a loser. Couldn't hold a job and didn't try very hard. According to my mother, marrying him was an act of rebellion. In her stubbornness, she made many efforts to make it work. But it didn't.
When I was 3, mom packed us up and we moved to Lexington, KY to live with her parents. My father also moved home- to Louisville, KY. From what I'm told and from the little I remember, he didn't come around much. I do remember my mom and I driving to Louisville and spending Christmas with his family. By the time I was 5, my mom was fed up with him never paying any child support, never making any effort to see me, of him just being the loser he was. She was getting ready to start dental school, my grandparents were about to move to Elizabethtown, KY and we would be on our own. She stopped making the effort to include him in my life. If he wasn't willing to put out at least a 50% effort, she couldn't afford the energy and time to make it happen. He vanished. Never attempted contact.
I was a fatherless child.
I started school. Most of the other kids had dads. But divorce was becoming a growing phenomenon. My mom had me go to a school sponsored group for kids of divorced parents. But I couldn't relate- the other kids all knew their dads and spent most of the time talking about visiting their dad or meeting dad's new girlfriend. I just didn't have a dad.
My mom had started dating a man when I was 5. Around the time my grandparents moved away, he became more prevalent in our lives. He wasn't around a lot but he and my mom were slowly getting to know each other and spend time together. Things got more serious between them. Mom was in dental school, he was in medical school. He was scheduled to finish a year before her.
They got married the summer before I started 5th grade. Mom and I would travel each weekend up to Cincinnati- where my dad was doing his internship and residency and such. Several weeks before mom and I made our sudden move to Cincinnati, a major event happened.
The man my mom married... adopted me.
I had wanted a dad. All my friends had dads. I don't recall any other single moms in my group of friends. And a dad just seemed like a nice addition to a family. Usually playful and funny, slightly embarrassing, strong and secure and safe. At least that is how things looked from my dadless perspective.
Being adopted was a big deal for me. It meant that I had stepped up. It symbolized full acceptance of me. It was a fresh start. As an adult, the hard part of my adoption was dealing with the fact that my birth father came to the courthouse and signed away his paternal rights. The lawyers made him a deal he couldn't refuse- we would have no claim on all of that child support he'd never paid. In the processing of that, it did feel like he was selling me off. But it was truly the most loving decision he could have made- even if it was done for selfish reasons.
On May 10, I became my daddy's daughter.
My mom and dad went to the courthouse. I stayed in the lawyer's office with his secretary (his wife). I remember being excited to play on her typewriter. And I remember the look on my dad's face when they came back.
Every year, my dad and I celebrate my Adoption Day. A-Day. When I lived at home, it meant a dinner out, just the 2 of us. Once I moved away to Indiana, it meant phone calls and cards. But we still recognize the day every year.
I wouldn't be where I am right now if my mom and dad hadn't gotten married. And I wouldn't have felt as much a part of the new family unit if my dad hadn't adopted me. And given everything else that was chaotic in my childhood... having that anchor of safety in my dad gave me a level of confidence that I know helped me become the person I am now.
My dad has been my dad from the word go. While he wasn't a perfect dad... there is a lot he has done that means more than words could ever say. When everything from my childhood started surfacing, he loved me and believed me and helped me. He paid for my therapy. He paid for my hospital stay. He paid emotionally for the horrible attention-seeking choices I was making. He paid for college- all 5 years.
Like any parent, he has made a lot of mistakes. But they are dad mistakes and I am glad to have those unique challenges in my life that only a dad can bring.
More than that, he has taught me about faith, spirituality, loyalty, determination, compassion, and sacrifice. Just like a dad is supposed to.
Happy A-Day to me and my dad!