//my missing piece of the puzzle

I have been wrestling with how to share this new chapter of the story for quite some time now, and I finally was able to get my words compiled into one place.  After 30 years,  I finally found my father's family. Almost 31 years of never knowing who my father was,  I actually found a missing piece of the puzzle, and let me say - it was an incredible surprise.  

It has been over a month since I discovered my father's family.  I can't begin to describe the emotions.  Disbelief, happiness, shock, love, fear, pain, joy.  So many emotions, and I have had trouble understanding it all.  I found out a few days before Gabriel came home, so I was very wrapped up in that.  And then, we went to Texas and I actually met them (more on that!) and that was more to take in and process but we were go-go-go the entire time in Texas.  Once we got home, I have been focused on getting caught on housework and work....and I think a part of me has been scared to actually write something.  I am not sure why, it's just such a different experience than I have ever been in.  But here, I am.  I am ready to share, and if you're taking the time to read this - thank you for sharing my journey with me.  I don't feel obligated to tell anyone my story, I am definitely writing this blog for me, and with my intentions of not only remembering the moments, but also expressing how I feel, and still...yes, processing.

My mom was 20 and attending Baylor when she found out she was pregnant with me. She grew up in an extremely conservative, religious household, so when she realized she was pregnant, she was terrified.  She didn't have an actual dating relationship with my biological father, and she knew that the repercussions of having a baby single, at 20, would be difficult, especially just even facing her parents. She honestly didn't think she could do it - she went even so far as to go to the local abortion clinic to "fix" things, and no one would ever be the wiser.  Obviously, she didn't go that route, for which I am extremely thankful, but she did decide to drop out of college, move home, and tell her parents.  She left Waco without ever telling my father that she was pregnant.  I can't imagine the emotional rollercoaster she experienced as she moved back home and told my grandparents what was going to happen.  It takes a strong woman to choose to carry a baby at 21, alone.

This is one of my favorite parts of my story.  The man she married, the man I know as dad, always tells this story.   He was in highschool when he said God revealed to him in a dream that his oldest child would be a daughter.  And as he got to college and started living a more crazy lifestyle, he recommitted his life to God, and started praying NOT JUST for a wife - but for a family.   Flash forward to a blind date between him and my mom...she told him that she was four months pregnant on their very first date.  Not only did he NOT chunk the deuce, but he knew immediately that this was the family he had been praying for and he told my mom, "You're going to have a girl...my oldest is going to be a girl." 

When I was a kid, I didn't think too much of it, but as I've gotten older, I have often thought....if my brother, Richard, came home and said he was going to marry a girl who was pregnant with another man's child, I don't know that I would have had as much grace and acceptance.  I would actually probably be like "bro, she's trouble, run away" . Right?!  Yet, my dad chose us.  With so much love.  In retrospect, I honestly cannot believe how willingly he took on the role of dad as quickly and without hesitation as he did. It's amazing.

As a kid, I didn't question my family dynamics.  I didn't realize that I looked very different from my other siblings...my sister was very fair skinned, and kids don't see ethnicity features.  I didn't see the things that made my siblings clearly mixed and different from me - I just saw Hannah was my own skin color, and that was enough for me to know I was her sister, even though Richard, Josh, and Soph were both dark.   My cousins, Amy and Rosy, were twins and one was fair skinned and one was dark skinned - I was a part of a beautifully diverse family, and never once questioned it.  However, other people did.  And often.  

We started to go to a very "white" church.  I think my dad was probably one of three black men in the entire congregation of 2k people.  I am not sure what gave people the right to be so nosy or so forward, but I started getting asked OFTEN...."Are you adopted?"  I remember coming home almost every Sunday, my little know-it-all (who me!?), indignant self, "MOM! Someone asked AGAIN if I was adopted!"  Obviously, I didn't know any better, but I suppose this got my parent's wheels churning, and when I was nine, they finally sat me down and I don't remember exactly what they said but it was something along the lines of, "Mia, you don't share the same dad as the rest of your siblings."

I just remember feeling shock.  It was a Sunday...everyone was outside playing...the sun was so bright, I just remember thinking it hurt my eyes as I walked out of their room.  I was numb.  I sat there staring at my siblings, thinking "I don't have the same dad as you".  I remember thinking that some things finally made sense...why they all connected, and loved being adventurers, and I was the only bookworm who would rather spend her afternoon on the couch reading novels.  I don't know if those things are even due to my different father, but it definitely played a part in the justification to why I never felt like I fit in with my siblings.  Some of that was certainly self-imposed, and maybe even exaggerated, but it became a factor in shaping who I became.  My mom didn't want to tell me any details about my biological father....how they met, his name, or anything.  I understand now that my mom carried a lot of shame in her story, and she didn't know how to deal with that shame or heal her wounds.  But, as an emotionally volatile teenager, I just thought she was intentionally withholding that information from me...God only knows why I would think that, I am not sure to what end I thought she was trying to get.  I remember talking to my aunt about it...one of the few conversations I had with my extended family regarding my biological father.  She told me, "His name was David.  I remember he was so tall, and his eyes were just so, so blue."  It wasn't until I was 18 that my mom finally was able to tell me that his name was David.  Of course, I already knew, but I didn't tell her that.  I had carried his name so close to my heart, it was my little secret. 

As I got older, I felt more and more comfortable sharing my story.  Once I graduated highschool, I was often asked, "Don't you ever want to find out who your real dad is?"  I always felt this immediate pang of betrayal.  My "real" dad.  It made me think, what makes a real dad? Is it someone who works from dawn until dusk, providing food and a roof over my head, giving me love, support, and encouragement?  Because then my "real" dad has always been in my life, if that's the case.  I was always worried that if I looked for my "real" dad...the dad who had always been there might feel hurt.  I didn't ever want him to be hurt by me searching for my real dad.  I wondered if my dad would question...if he had been enough of a dad, why did I need to find the missing piece?  In retrospect, I wish I would have spoken to my dad about all of this.  It turns out, he actually started searching for David when I was around 18, but he had been looking in Waco, where he and my mom met.

Not knowing my biological father certainly brought up issues in the formation of my identity.  I always, always, always, wrestled with the idea of - if he knew me, if he knew I existed, would he love me?  If i looked for him, would I be wrecking a family?  I pictured myself showing up on his doorstep, with a wife and kids behind him, and shutting the door in my face.  I wasn't sure that if I did look for him, I was ready to face possible rejection.  It's one thing to not know who your father is, but it's entirely another to have him reject you.  Not knowing my father became something I was fixated on for a while, as a teenager.  To me, it justified every single reason why I didn't fit in, why I felt angry, why I felt unloved.  Of course, most of that is normal teenage angst, but I didn't comprehend that.  I believe knowing where you come from is important, regardless of circumstance, and it definitely left some holes in my identity. 

Fast forward to 2018.  I gave up on the idea of looking for my biological father.  At 30 years old, I wasn't about to shake someone's world up.  I was hanging out with a group one day, when one of the girls mentioned how she got her DNA results back, and how she thought she was Mexican, but it turns out she's 0% Mexican!  It started to get my wheels turning...I'd always wanted to do a DNA test, and see what I am....because I am so fair skinned!  I started looking into the different ones, and I finally landed on AncestryDNA because I loved the idea of building a family tree and researching.  If you know me, you know I am a huge history nerd.  I love learning about history, old things make me wish they could talk and just tell me their story.   So I landed on that particular DNA test!  I knew that it connected you to family, but I thought what are the odds that my biological father's family actually are in the system, right?

Well...I received my results back.  I am only 18% Mexican, if anyone is curious! haha! I joke that I had my black identity taken from me, and now my mexican! Who am I?!  Just kidding! 

The way this all played out is so interesting...almost unreal.  When I received my DNA results, I noticed that I had SEVERAL first cousins.  I didn't see any Davids, but I thought, "what the heck, I'll reach out to one of these cousins".   I sent two emails, one to a RF and one to an EC.  EC responded, and said "Oh, you're related to my mother-in-law Diane!  Let me forward the email to her."    Diane quickly emailed me back and said she didn't have any relatives with the surname Valdez, and what was my mother's maiden name?  I  responded "As strange as this sounds, I am sure, my mother did not have a strong relationship with my biological father. All the information I have of him is that his first name is David, and that he worked in Waco in 1986. My mom's maiden name is Eva Valdez."

Diane immediately messaged me three messages in a row - "Was David tall thin and very young at the time ..blue eyes?", "Can you describe David? Height, thin or stocky, color of eyes, hair, approximate age?', "What kind of work was he doing? Why was he in Waco? I possibly know a connection." and when I saw those messages, my heart froze.  I knew that she knew who he was.  

I replied and told her the description my mom had provided me...shaggy hair, blue eyes, tall and lanky.  She sent me the name of the first person I had emailed, RF.  Within minutes, I had an email from RF, asking me to call her, because she believed she knew a connection.  I started to look at their family trees, and I only saw one David, RF's son...and he passed away in 2016.   I remember talking my friend Mel on the phone, and I was so excited that I thought I had found David's family, but I think he had passed, and she was so adamant that it wasn't him!  "No, Mia.  no! That's not him.  You need to be sure before you think that's him." and I asked her, "Melody, why are you being so negative about this? This is something I have wanted to know for a long time." and what she said next, stopped me in my tracks.  "Mia," she said, "You've wanted to find him for so long.  I don't want him to be gone, for your sake."  

I hadn't even realized that.  If this David was indeed my father...he was gone before I ever even got the change to know him. 

I called Regina the next morning.  She said what I suspected.  "Mia, I believe that I am your grandmother."  There were so many tears on that phone call.  My grandmother's story is beautiful, but sad.  Not only did my father, David, pass away in 2016 from health complications, but his sister, my aunt, had passed away just 17 days earlier, from Leukemia.  The hardest part for me to swallow about this entire story is that my biological father never had kids of his own.  David told his mom that one of his biggest regrets was never having his own kids.  Except he did...he had me, and he never knew. 

I am crying as write all of this, and its a confusing emotion, because how can you cry and mourn the loss of two people you didn't know existed two months ago?

All in all, I know this was God-ordained.  Regina, my grandmother, told me that merely a few weeks prior to finding our relationship, there was a discussion in her Bible Study group about adoption.  She said "I would be so happy if someone were to knock on my door and say they were David's child".  And here I am, except the knock was a message on Ancestry.com.   I had the pleasure to meet Regina and David Sr., my grandparents, while I was in Texas, and I can't begin to tell you how amazing they are.  They welcomed not just my own little family, but also my parents, into their home.  And, I can't go without saying this - my grandfather cooked literally some of the best steak that I have ever had the pleasure of eatingAnd ya'll know that I don't eat a lot of meat anymore! haha.  The following Saturday, I met a few cousins, aunts, and uncles.  It's been a little overwhelming, but it's also so amazing to find a family, and to be welcome with such open arms.  It's a blessing, and, if I am being totally honest, a relief.  No more wondering if my dad would have loved me.  I know he would have. That is an incredible thing to be able to know. 

As I go through the album of pictures and the CD that my grandmother and grandfather made for me, I can't help but wish I had been there to experience some of those Christmas mornings or family celebrations.   I can't help but feel that I missed out on so much.  I can't help but feel that I was only two years too late.  But I do believe that all things happen for a reason, and for reasons that I don't know and will never understand, I will never be able to meet or know my dad.  But his legacy lives on through me and my son.  I gained not just a father, but an entire new family, and I am so honored to be welcomed into their lives. 

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