In 1963, Russell was born into a family of divorces, not of his choosing. Russell was conceived sometime between mom’s first and second marriage. His mother reunited with her first husband and gave Russell his surname. It gets more complicated. Four years later, after another divorce and remarriage, husband number three adopted Russell and gave him a new name, and an unwavering “Dad” for life.
The union seemed perfect. Dad loved Russell very much. He was a precocious child who, like all kids, only wanted to play and be loved. He and his brother and sisters were given lavish Christmas holidays, traveling vacations and lots of love. But the harmony was short lived.
Dad and Mom argued constantly. Pressures of full time jobs kept them both from home more hours than he could count. He was given responsibilities at home that should have been assumed by his parents. He tried hard to please, but no one seemed to notice.
When Mom and Dad divorced, Russell took it in stride and joined the army. A lover of music, he also became a disc jockey in Germany. It wasn’t until his return to the states at the age of 23 that he learned that his mother’s second husband of only four weeks in 1962 was actually his biological father. His name was Dave. He had long since disappeared.
Happy with one Dad for life, Russell had no interest in learning more about Dave. But when he reached his mid 30’s, curiosity welled over. What did he look like? Did he have any medical problems he should know about? Would Dave accept him?
Russell shared those feelings with Dad because he knew that the love between them would never wane, and they were secure in their relationship. Dad offered to help locate the man, if it were possible.
The search ended quickly. They set a date to meet. Wrought with anxiety, Russell had no idea what to expect.Undoubtedly, neither did Dave.
The rendezvous went well as natural father and son set eyes upon each other for the first time in 38 years. Now, Russell could see and feel the genetic link between him and his history, roots so important to so many. He studied Dave’s physical features, mannerisms, attitude, and most of all, an examination of the heart. It was like looking in a mirror. There was no doubt, Russell was this man’s son. From that day on, he called him “Pop.”
Dave was a decent, hard-working man who openly accepted Russell and shared his life’s experiences. He, too, had been a music lover and — of all things — a disc jockey. They embraced, because it was right. The union by two human beings who shared the same blood brought Russell into a new family, with two new brothers and a new sister, all of whom received him with open arms.
Some might think Russell’s adopted Dad was apprehensive, that he’d lose a piece of that father/son bond that he treasured so much. Rather, he stood in envy. For he understood the craving to know one’s roots, wishing and hoping to feel the touch of a natural father, the voice of love and authority, the sense of security and that intangible link to one’s origin.
You see, Russell’s Dad had also searched to know his true father. But that would never happen, because the man died in 1941, when Dad was only 2 years old. He would never have that precious union, that Field Of Dreams, that Russell would treasure for life.
In June of 2002, Russell married the woman of his dreams in a small chapel in Maggie Valley, with his two fathers standing proudly side by side. As the ceremony began, Russell turned around and eyeballed them both, saying, “Ain’t love wonderful?”
Serendipity has a way of entering the lives of those who seek it. As it turned out, it all happened just in time. A year later, Dave passed away.
Today, Russell is a proud stepfather of two growing boys.
And I remain a proud Dad.
(Marshall Frank is a retired Metro Dade homicide detective and writer.)