Father’s Day has a little more significance this year for Rick, a 53-year-old real estate agent in Key West.
Thanks to 23andMe, the lifelong bachelor learned late last year that he had a daughter, Baylee, a 32-year-old mother of two young girls.
“I am a dad and grandfather and no one had any idea,” Rick said.
No One Else Would Know
Baylee was conceived when Rick was 19 and her mom was 18. It’d been a brief encounter. Baylee’s mom thought the father was someone else. Rick had moved away for work and had no idea. He never had any other contact with Baylee’s mom. He’s still a little stunned, and yet thankful. It had all happened so fast. In early October of 2021, Rick received an unexpected message from a stranger, Baylee. They then exchanged texts about her 23andMe results, and Baylee asked Rick a few questions he thought were odd. But just as Rick was getting ready to delete the whole exchange, she mentioned a few things “no one else would know.”
This is Your Daughter
Instead of ending the conversation, they continued it the next day. First through social media channels and then a phone call. Beyond some of the details and dates, there were photos, including one in particular showing Baylee as a young girl sleeping with her mouth open. It looked almost exactly like a photo Rick had of himself at that same age, sleeping.
The photo gave him goosebumps. “It could have been me,” he said.
Rick’s mother was pretty sure this was indeed his daughter. So was he, but he wanted to be sure, so he and Baylee took a paternity test.
A few days later he got a call.
“This is your daughter,” Baylee said.
For Baylee it was equally unexpected. When she used 23andMe, her interest was in learning more about her health.
“This experience has been a life-changing one for me,” she said.
She hadn’t been looking for family. She’d grown up thinking her biological father was someone else, but that man didn’t want anything to do with her, she said. Her mom had met another man, named Carl, and married him. Carl raised her since she was a toddler and she thinks of him as her dad, but at the same time she felt like the black sheep in the family.
“I have always felt so different from my family like I was the odd sibling out, I looked different, I acted differently and the way I love is different,” Baylee said.
Get with the Program
After connecting on the phone with Baylee, Rick suddenly felt it all sink in. He had a daughter and the emotion welled up in him and he started to cry.
Rick had a full life. He was happy. But this was something different.
“You know, I’ve been a bachelor all my life,” he said.
It wasn’t just that. He was an only child and grew up without contact with his own biological father. And then while all around him his friends got married and started families of their own, he was on the sidelines.
“They were all ‘get with the program Rick,’” he said.
He was good with kids, kind of the fun adult who liked to play and be silly with his friends’ children. But he never settled down. Little did he know he’d been a father all along.
“For a while, I partied maybe more than I should have but I’m 14 years sober now,” he said. “And I think maybe whatever greater power that’s out there was waiting for the right time for both of us. I don’t know if I’d been ready if this had happened earlier in my life. I’m not sure how I would’ve handled it if I was still drinking.”
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Accepted and Loved
But he also wanted to make up for the lost time. Almost immediately he arranged to visit Baylee, and flew to Seattle to meet in person.
“Being called ‘dad’ affected me to my core, and to see someone look like me after having no brothers or sisters or kids, it was a lot,” he said.
Hugging and seeing her in person for the first time was one of the happiest moments of his life but also uncanny. Baylee’s husband, who is in the Army, started noticing how the two shared different traits and mannerisms, from the way they smiled to the way they both got “hangry” if they were hungry, or couldn’t take it if they could hear someone chewing. (It’s a thing, called “misophonia,’ and it has a genetic component.)
Rick also felt protective of Baylee. For one, he related to the need she’d had to connect with her birth father because he’d tried when he was younger to connect with his birth father and they spoke on the phone twice, but his birth father never reciprocated. Rick just let it go and they never spoke again. He knows how it feels not to find a connection with a birth parent. He also knew that Baylee, who was a good mom to her young daughters, struggled with some health issues. That was one of the reasons she’d used 23andMe in the first place. She was trying to learn more about her health.
“Baylee is a strong lady but she wanted to meet her daddy and feel loved and accepted,” Rick said.
Rick’s visit helped Baylee suddenly understand a little bit more about herself.
“After meeting Rick I found out where I get a lot of my personality from,” she said.
He was able to spend time with her and her husband Josh and their daughters Nevaeh and Jurnee. It was as if it was meant to be.
“We all took to him well and felt like this wasn’t the first-time meeting,” Baylee said. “It felt so natural for myself and my daughters.
In December of 2021, Baylee went to visit Rick in Key West, getting an opportunity to met his family, now her family, for the first time.
“It was wonderful and I was filled with love and acceptance,” Baylee said. “I must say how lucky am I too have gained so much love and family.”
And she struggles a bit to describe everything she’s feeling.
“It’s hard to say much about this experience because there are so many different kinds of emotions and feelings,” Baylee said. “But the word that come to my mind is “blessed.”
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Rick wanted to give Baylee the kind of acceptance and love she deserved.
When Baylee traveled to Key West, they built upon that first meeting, understanding that none of this is automatic. Building a true family relationship will take time, something both of them want to do.
For Rick, learning he was a father, and grandfather and then meeting and building that relationship has been a gift.
“I had life challenges but I got sober and I’m grateful for all that. I had a blessed life, and then to be given family,” he said. “It felt like hitting the lottery. Now I know what it’s like when people say ‘my heart is full.’”
Happy Father’s Day, Rick! We’ve been watching this video of you two hugging for the first time over and over again.