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.
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.
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.
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.”