I have a biological father. We have never met. I most certainly owe him a huge debt of
gratitude…my genetics, most importantly. My mother’s family is riddled with health
issues I have by and large avoided. My father and his family genetics must be
thanked…there is a strength in me that I can’t explain fully without his part of the
My mother told me that I was so like him…held my head as he did, walked like him.
I have often thought looking at me must have pained her so…a reminder of the
man she loved, divorced, and really never got over.
In the fifth grade, I discovered the man I believed to be my dad was really my step-dad. Rifling through a drawer, I came upon a birth announcement for “Claudia Dene Richards”. I brought it into the kitchen and said to my parents, “Isn’t this funny? There is a little girl out there with my same two first names.” My parents looked at each other, my dad left the room, and my mom tried to explain my life to me in a few sound bites. How can you explain a world turned upside down in the blink of an eye?
My daddy, as I will always call my step-father, was 87 on June 13th He was a life-line for me in many ways, the parent I gravitated to…the affectionate, funny, fun to be with parent. My mom was damaged, unaffectionate though dutiful. She carried a sadness in her and she was not well physically. My dad was the one who made me ride a roller coaster – he loved them, I did not – eat raw oysters (ditto), look up at the stars in the dark of night with a flashlight on the pages of the astronomy book. He gave me my first pair of binoculars and a book on the birds of North America. In college, he tried to teach me about Geology. As a petroleum engineer with a degree from Colorado School of Mines, he probably took it as a personal affront that I didn’t know igneous from Ignatius! He had so many little, creative ways about him, a curiosity about and joy for life that was infectious.
My life surely would have been different if my father and mother had not divorced before I was two. I most certainly would have been a different person. There is always the discussion about Nature versus Nurture….are genetics more important than the physical and emotional environment of our lives. My life was not perfect and I have many questions about what else was kept a secret from me that I haven’t discovered even today.
What I do know is that I have two men to thank for my life. Only one of them I call daddy.