For Father’s Day, let me introduce you to four fathers I have had. The last one will blow you away. (And that’s not just clickbait.)
Here they are, in order of when I learned of them.
(1) Paul J. Wilcox, Jr. Pictured with my adoptive mother Addie is my adoptive father. I met him when I was 8 or 9 months old. Dad was supremely practical. For example, when I was born I was diagnosed as retarded. He declared, “Well, if he’s not going to work with his head, we will teach him to work with his hands,” and for Christmas after my second birthday I got a toolbox with real tools (the toolbox and some of the tools I still have). Dad, a lifelong refrigeration technician, was skilled at repairing everything except modern home refrigerators and cars, and could build just about anything. He taught me many skills that I still use today.
(2) R Michael Frenchman. Pictured with one of the most loving people I have ever met, his wife Karen Crowe, is Michael Frenchman. He was labeled my father by my biological mother, who misled people in that respect. We met when I was in my 20s. Michael is indeed a Renaissance man, doing everything from working with UN programs, to being an independent reporter in Iran, to mentoring high school students in videography and animation, to producing live theater and video projects. Getting to know him has been one of the delights of my life. (He even inspired me to get my SCUBA certification.) Michael, along with my biological mother, made the prudent decision to place me for adoption, knowing their own lives were too chaotic at the time to raise a child.
(3) George Fortini, also pictured with my Mom. A few years after my Dad‘’’s death, Mom remarried George when she was 80 years old. The next few years were wonderfully happy for them, although Mom outlived him as well. George was crazily in love with my mother, and fit in well with the family. He wasn’t Dad, but pretty close, except with an even better sense of humor and cooking ability. Most important, he was wonderful for my Mom.
(4) Michael “Mickey” Rachlin. Well, this is the big surprise! After decades of searching, and over a decade of DNA sleuthing in search of my biological father, my cousin Audrey texted me last August and said, “I think I’ve cracked your case … but first, was there any reason you know of for your [biological] mother to have been in Texas?” I haven’t gotten to meet Mickey, as he passed away in July of 2020, before I was able to locate him. He never knew I existed, but, it is clear from other examples in his life that he would have loved to learn he had a son. He was the only child of Ezra Rachlin, who himself was a child prodigy pianist and conductor of, among others, the London Symphony Orchestra. I am still learning about Mickey through people in the family, but solving this mystery and expanding my known family has been huge, as you might imagine! I feel like I can only write in superlatives! I’m still learning what we had in common, but heard, from a stepsister, something I never was sure I would: “Oh my gosh, you look just like him!”
It’s been quite a journey.