Family

I Attended My Uncle's Funeral — And Found Out He Was My Father

Photo: Mladen Mitrinovic / Shutterstock  
father and child looking at the sunset

It’s not every day you attend your uncle’s funeral and also find out he’s your father.

For me, seven years ago, that’s exactly what happened.

I headed up to another state to attend what I thought was my uncle’s funeral and came home knowing he was actually my biological father, even though technically, legally, he’d been my father from the day I was born.

Confused yet? Welcome to the crazy that is my family. 

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In North Carolina, if a woman becomes pregnant and is legally married, her husband goes on the birth certificate as the father — at least, that was the law when I was born; I’m not sure if that’s still the case today.

My mother was married to my “uncle” when I was born, even though they were no longer together. They’d been separated for quite some time and she was living with and in a relationship with my “father”, his brother.

Since she was still legally married to Jon, my “uncle”, by law, his name went on my birth certificate. I’m not sure when I realized this, probably not until I got my first work permit and saw my birth certificate for the first time. I remember asking my mother why my Uncle Jon’s name was listed under father and she mumbled something about legal BS.

I was never told the truth until the day Jon died — my grandfather got a little too drunk the night of his wake and told me the truth.

That’s been seven years now and I still think about whether or not my life would be different had I grown up knowing who my real dad was and whether things would have changed had I been given the chance to know him as a father instead of viewing him as my uncle.

Honestly, probably not.

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 I spent about the same amount of time with him as I did with my dad and He didn’t treat me any differently than he did his biological kids. (Even though, again, I was his biological child.)

My grandfather told me Jon knew he was my father, even though he kept that knowledge to himself.

I’m grateful for the time I did have with Jon. Every moment I spent with him, even not knowing who he really was, were moments I wasn’t subjected to Frank, my faux father, and his abuse, and later, abuse from my step-father, Charles as well as my own, mother.

As I’ve gotten older and had children of my own and raised them with the help of my wife, who isn’t their biological mother, I’ve come to realize it isn’t necessarily about who is blood and who isn’t; it’s about who shows up. 

I had no idea Jon was my bio dad until after he was gone. Sure, I knew he was biologically related to me, but that didn’t even matter. He wasn’t under any real obligation even then to spend time with me — not legally anyway.

He could have left me at home to suffer and no one would have batted an eye. But he didn't.

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Neither my wife nor I have any blood family to speak of that we have anything to do with, other than our kids. But that doesn't mean we don’t have a family. We’re lucky enough that we’ve finally found a family on our own who cares about us and wants to be a part of our lives. They support us through the good and the bad, the way family should.

It’s unfortunate it took a death for me to figure out who my real dad was, but better late than never.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from spending my life not knowing who my father really was came from my grandfather. He spent years of his life carrying around the secrets of his children, taking on their burdens, the crimes they committed, and feeling guilty about how they turned out as adults.

He found it hard to enjoy life because of his kids and their secrets and I refuse to live that way. I won’t allow my family or anyone else to dictate the terms of my happiness.

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Damian Delune is currently incarcerated. He writes about what prison is really like and the effect it has on families.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.