Can I Call You Son?

David was 17 when a few words change him forever. His mother and father were having a bad patch and his mom had had a little bit too much to drink when she let something slip.
David, left, in his graduation picture. His biological half brother Kevin at around the same age. The two only recently met.

David, left, at 17. His half brother Kevin at around the same age.

She told David he was her favorite child and then slipped in something that it was “because she wasn’t sure if I was my father’s child,” David said. The next day she tried to backpedal, chalking her to having too much to drink. “But you can’t take something like that back,” David said. Now 54, David, who owns a small construction company in Colorado, said he could never shake what his mother said. “This was the most devastating news I had ever heard in my young life,” he said. “I had a very loving dad who would do anything for his children. He is my hero. My mom, she did the best she could.” But what his mother told him triggered a flood of questions. If it was true, David wanted to know who his biological father really was. He felt he needed to know so he could make sense of some of the differences he could already see that set him apart from his siblings, but for 20 years his mom wouldn’t discuss it, leaving him with one question: “Who am I?” It wasn’t until he tested with 23andMe last year that David got closer to answering some of those questions. The experience changed him for the better, he said. “The biggest thing I learned is that distance, time and environment cannot change the traits you were born with,” said David.Taz Tattoo's But David’s journey to get to that point was a long one. His mother’s revelation changed how he saw himself. Even though what she said also seemed to explain a lot, it also set him apart from his family. And it left him feeling angry. It took David another 20 years before he could confront his mother about what she’d said. But even then, she gave him a false lead and until the day she died ten years later, told him nothing more about it. “I gave up all hope of ever finding out the truth,” he said. Then late last year he tested with 23andMe, and he was matched with a first cousin named John. Then one of David’s brothers tested. The results showed that the two were actually half brothers, confirming what his mother told him so many years before. “I wasn’t really shocked,” David said. But seeing that result helped David identify that he and his first cousin, John, were related paternally. Now David knew that he was on the right path to identify his biological father. But he needed more information. David grew up near the border between Michigan and Wisconsin where hunting is a big deal and where out-of-towners often came during hunting season. David knew he was conceived around that time, so on a hunch he asked John whether any of his uncles were hunters. “He had an uncle who was,” said David. “The problem was, his uncle was married at the time of my conception.” It would be a delicate thing to ask about, but John talked to one of his uncle’s sons, who agreed to test. Waiting to learn the results were “the longest of my life,” David said. “I had to prepare myself for the possibility that I may of found out who my father was or that I had a brother I never knew of!” David said. He also had to prepare himself to be disappointed or rejected, he said. Meanwhile John wanted to make sure his cousin understood what it might reveal. For David the days of waiting were unbearable. He fretted that maybe he’d pushed too hard. But then he got a late night text from John. “David, let me be the first to welcome you to the family,” it said. David couldn’t believe his luck: “I can’t describe the emotions that were flooding through me.” He learned that his biological father was still alive, and that he had two brothers and they wanted to meet him. “I was thankful that they didn’t “kick me to the curb,”” David said. When he first talked to his brother Gregory, he was dumbfounded. “NEVER did I expect to be speaking to my brother,” David said. “We spoke to each other for over an hour and a half. We had so many things in common! We liked the same things. We thought the same way.” And after sharing some photos they saw that they also looked alike. David then talked to his other brother Kevin. Kevin and Greg invited him to visit them in Chicago and meet their dad, David’s biological dad. Excited David made arrangements to travel to Chicago from his home in Colorado. But before he went to Chicago to meet his biological dad, David traveled back home to Michigan to talk in person to his father, the man who raised him. “I told him that I have always loved him and always will but, he was not my biological father,” said David. “He immediately hugged me and said ‘I knew that David. I was never going to say anything because I don’t want to hurt you.’” It was as if a huge weight was lifted from David shoulders. His father told him he was happy that he was able to learn the truth. “He is an amazing man,” David said of his father. “The love and respect I feel for my Dad is immeasurable!” When David arrived in Chicago he first met with his brothers. “I felt from the moment I met my brothers an immediate connection to them and they said the same thing,” he said.
From left David,  John, David's 1st cousin,  his half-brothers Kevin and Gregory, and Harry, David's biological father.

From left David, John, David’s 1st cousin, his half-brothers Kevin and Gregory, and Harry, David’s biological father.

They noted not just the physical likenesses but other things. Their shared some of the same personality traits and oddly both David and one of his brothers had a Tasmanian Devil tattoo on one of their arms. Meeting his biological father also proved to be beyond words, David said. His biological father told him: ‘Wow this is something. Now I got three sons. Can I call you son?’” “You’re my father,” David told him. “You can call me anything you want.” His biological was most distraught that he had a son for all these years who he knew nothing about. And he was upset that he couldn’t remember David’s mother. But it didn’t hold him back from welcoming David into the family. “I was welcomed with open arms by my father’s family,” he said. “I can’t remember ever feeling the love that I had felt those four short days I was visiting.” One of his brothers soon came to Colorado for a visit and now they plan on making up for lost time. For his part David is still shocked that this mystery that nagged at him for most of his life has been solved. But he’s also fascinated by how even without ever meeting his brothers or his father, that he can still be so much like them. “How does one explain how much a person has in common with a sibling or father they have never met?” asked David. “I have always wondered why I did the things I did, who I looked like… now I have my answers.”
  • MrWonderful61

    I don’t know why someone would get all worked up about it. I’ve heard approximately 10% of the world’s population has a father different from the male that ‘should’ be the father. That is fairly constant regardless of socio-economic factors as well as levels of ‘civilization.’ God loves genetic diversity…

    • dhtaz

      Do you know both your parents? Have you always known both of your parents? You sound like you do. People who have never been down this road, are not capable of understanding why someone would get “worked up about it”.

    • jaguara777

      It is a big deal, when you were raised to believe that your parents ARE your parents.

      10% is a small minority and not common at all.

    • Dale Boyer

      Glad you can be so comfortable in the fact that you know your parents, “Mr Wonderful”. Speaking as someone who doesn’t know his biological father, and who was obviously living in a lie all of his life, I say David is the luckiest man in the world, right now. I would give anything to have the same experience he has had. Celebrate your own fortune if you must, but don’t denigrate the misfortune of those of us who are still searching for answers we might never find.

      • dhtaz

        Well said Dale!

    • Zannie Alvarez

      You must really lack imagination!

    • Margaret Owens Floeter

      When this happened to me, it turned my world upside down. We all have an identity we have built around what we know as reality, but when that reality is shattered, so is the identity. I had always believed I was a decedent of early Americans, then I learned I’m half Jewish and my father was a Holocaust survivor who grew up in Germany. So my history is nothing like I thought it was. This is very hard to take in and very much something to get worked up about.

    • Why are you posting here?

    • Al U Minium

      I’m 76 years old, and since a child have agonized over my paternal heritage being almost positive what I was told was a lie. It was important for me to know the truth. It’s a big, big deal for some of those 10 percent even if family medical issues are of interest. I learned last year who I am. All my newly found siblings are gone now. There were 9. My oldest brother was born in 1907 but I was able to meet his two surviving children, age 67 and 73. I could have met some of my siblings, even my biological father, as a youngster as they lived within 50 miles but without DNA I couldn’t prove anything.

      • Stacy Youst Sillen

        My father is about your age, and in the same situation, only he hasn’t found cousins yet. He’s the one who got the rest of us into this DNA testing, I don’t know much about the details of it, but I think it’s amazing.

    • Dale Boyer

      FOLLOW-UP. Here it is, 9 months later, and guess what? I have now found my biological father’s family! He passed away in 2005, so I will never have known him; but I have a brother, three sisters, two aunts, an uncle, and numerous cousins who have welcomed me as what I am: one of theirs! MrWonderful61, I still don’t know why you would have responded to David’s story the way you did, but I can tell you I would give anything to have known these people growing up. They are my family, and with them, I feel at home…I feel complete. I don’t expect you to understand that, since you’ve spent your entire life knowing your roots, your parents, your siblings; but it is without a doubt, the most overwhelming, fantastic, glorious thing I’ve ever experienced (second only to the birth of my son)! I was ready to give up when I read David’s story. It – and your response to it – inspired me to keep searching, so I guess I DO need to thank you for that. You sir, have no idea how lucky you are!
      To anyone else out there who feels like giving up, DON’T! It’s hard, and it’s frustrating, but the rewards are marvelous! Test with more than one company, upload to GEDmatch, and keep searching! God bless you, and good luck!

      • dhtaz

        Awesome Dale! I am so happy for you AND your family!

  • Scott23H

    Full siblings should share about half their DNA. For more on this go here:

  • Dale Boyer

    David, I hope you see these comments, as I would like to say, “Congratulations!” I am SO VERY happy for you. Your story gives me hope…I’m 54 as well, and tested on 23andMe in hopes of somehow finding my biological father. My story is SO similar to yours in many ways. I always had my doubts about “Dad” and his daughter’s DNA testing has confirmed that he was NOT my father. Mom passed away in 1991. DNA testing is my only hope of ever finding out who my father might be. I had started thinking that, at this age, I had waited too long, but maybe there’s a chance my dad is still alive and well. Enjoy your new-found family…cherish them, and never forget how fortunate you truly are. –Dale

    • dhtaz

      Thank you for your kind words Dale. I hope you are as lucky as I was and you find a cousin that is willing to help you. I tell everyone I know how important it is to check their DNA. There are many people that may be pleasantly surprised as my brothers were!

  • jennyct

    I have a similar situation where I confirmed that my sister was actually my half-sister. People would always ask us why we did not look alike, and as youngsters, we thought it was funny. My sister was short, small and slim hipped, while I was tall with an hour glass figure. I was serious and academically oriented, while she loved dance and giggles. Later, as teens, an aunt spilled the beans, and I found out my brother was also fathered by the same man. Interestingly, I turned out to be an only child of my then-married parents! Their ‘father’ refuses to talk to them about it, and his only other daughter is angry about the whole thing – kicked them to the curb (especially cruel to my sister) for sure! It doesn’t always have a happy ending.

    • dhtaz

      I’m sorry for the ending of your story. Mean people suck!

      • jennyct

        Yep, definitely. If I ever meet up with any of them, I won’t be able to control myself – and I’m a shy, low profile type of person.

  • Margaret Owens Floeter

    My own story is very similar to this one. If it weren’t for 23andme, I’d still be in the dark about who I am. Now, I have a “new” brother who I adore and a whole new ancestry. My father was a Holocaust survivor who, during WWII, became an agent for the U.S. govt and later was an accomplished physician. Now, I understand so much about why I was different from the family I knew. All thanks to 23andme!

    • dhtaz

      Margaret, I try and encourage everyone I speak with, to test their DNA. Hopefully more people will test and more people will get the results or at least answers i got.

  • Lisa Kocian

    I’m so happy to see this story. We bought a kit for my mother-in-law in the hope of finding some clues to her family history. She was abandoned on a beach in Gloucester, MA, in 1928, wrapped in newspapers. If we could find a first cousin we might get some insight into where she came from. Thanks for sharing!

  • JD

    I have a very similar story – almost identical. But I am a woman who was conceived in the spring of 77 probably in Illinois. My mother was married but both she and her husband knew I was not his. Still, the decision was made to pass me off as his. I have some 2nd cousins popping up in my list of DNA relatives. I will pay for any of their ancestors to put their DNA in the database. The DNA blew her secret a few years ago when I took action on my suspicions. And the DNA will solve the mystery, eventually. She says that she will not tell me who my father is because “it’s none of (my) business.”
    I would like to talk to David in the article. If you are reading, please get in touch!

  • TimM73

    Very similar situation. I attempted to do an family tree just before I turned 40 and came across my parents marriage license listing my mother as annulled. I’ve confronted her many times but she won’t tell me who my biological father is neither will my dad (the man that raised me). I’ve hired a confidential intermediary and submitted DNA to 23 and me. So far no luck. Congratulations!

    • dhtaz

      Keep the faith Tim. maybe you should show your parents my story. The relief I felt after finding out 100% who my biological father was, was amazing! It was as if this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Be honest to them and tell them how important this is to you. Hopefully, they will be honest with you. Good luck and take care.

  • Jim Sea

    Still looking myself. My mother told me a story of how her ex-boyfriend who she said was my father “tried” to sell her to a Chinese man during their time in New York in 1966. That is one of the many reasons she left him. My so called “father” was half Italian and half Irish. I was then born in 1967, raised in Massachusetts for 18 years by my Grandparents, joined the Marines, got a career in the Tech industry and never went back.
    Big surprise, I found out I was half Chinese or 48% paternally via 23andme. Evidently the story she told me was not quite true, but not totally surprising as it seems I was the only one in my family to join the military and not have a criminal history as well as mental health and substance addiction issues. I get the Asian flushing with any alcohol so I cannot drink alcoholic beverages even socially without getting ill. Both her and her ex-boyfriend/false-father have passed away early. That leaves only the Chinese man (Hunan) that knows the rest of the story if he is still alive.
    So I actually thank him for my genetics in mental stability and alcohol allergy! However, I am curious and not sure where to go from here. The closest 23andme match is a distant 5th cousin in China. When I was growing up this story would be upsetting but I am seeing it more and more the Norm!!! The baby boomer generation was very promiscuous with lots of secrets. See the “Stories We Tell” documentary on Amazon, very similar story, um without the prostituting LOL. Quite strangely I work on from USA, Idaho where my boss is located in Singapore he is full Chinese the rest of my direct peers under him are Asian-just coincidence???

    Congrats on closing your genetic loop!

    • dhtaz

      Thank you Jim. I wish you the luck and success I have had.

  • Rhonda Lawson

    I am so happy David that you were able to find your family and that they all welcomed you with open arms. It’s the kind of ending I think we all hope for. I have a friend who recently found her father and siblings who also welcomed her. My story is different in that I am an artificial insemination baby by a sperm donor. I know it took place in February of 1956 in Washington but don’t have much hope of ever finding out who the donor was. I don’t even think donor’s think of children that may have come from their donation. But like many others I have wondered about the things in me that are a little different than the other family members, mentally, physically and any siblings I might have as I was raised an only child. I have found some peace through my faith that I have a Heavenly Father who has always been there with me but still wonder about siblings or if there is anyone else out there that’s just a little bit like me.
    In any case, congratulations David and I hope that many more people find the family they are looking for.

    • dhtaz

      Good luck in your search Rhonda. There are a lot of people in your situation with sperm donors. There is a site called cyrokid. It may be of some help to you.

  • MrWonderful61

    Well, first, I’d think my wife was trying to upset me. Then I’d evaluate the possibility and come to some conclusion. I like to think it wouldn’t affect my relationship with my child, who I’d raised, up to that point, as my own.

    I mean, how can anyone really ‘know’ that their parents are their biological parents? No one was around for their own conception. No one saw their own mother carrying them to term. We assume things because other things seem consistent with others.

    If you found out that your child wasn’t really ‘yours,’ would you love them less?

    • dhtaz

      My Dad knew I wasn’t his biological child yet, I felt as loved as my brothers and sister. The point isn’t if I felt loved, it’s that when I found out that I wasn’t my Dad’s biological child, it hurt like nothing else I’d experienced in my life and unless you have been there, it’s hard to understand what that is like! To go from thinking you know your ancestry to not is a huge shock.

      My Dad loves me as much today as he did when I was growing up. If I was in his shoes, I don’t know if I could have stayed with my wife. It speaks volumes as to what type of man my Dad is!

      You are correct as to not knowing if your parents are really your parents but that isn’t really what this site is about.

      If I found out that my daughter wasn’t mine, I’d love her just the same!