Being a part of the pro-life movement, adoption tends to come up pretty often. We talk about it constantly. We talk to our friends that adopt new babies or older kids. We talk about open vs. private. We talk about foster to adopt vs. private adoption. Should we only adopt children in our own country, or be open to other counties? Is it ok to adopt outside your race or culture? The conversation is endless. But I feel there is one type of adoption that is grossly overlooked. I think we forget about the people who adopt kids from their spouses former relationships. This heroic group of men and women deserve to be also recognized and appreciated. I can proudly say that my dad is of these people.
I almost never refer to my dad as my step-dad. In fact, the only time I say the word step-dad is to explain that he is not my step-dad. He is my dad, and my only dad. Allow me to explain.
(I am starting out with how my dad met us and everything leading to my adoption. If you want to skip that and read my “thank you” to my dad, feel free.)
My mom got married when she was only 18 years old. She got pregnant and had me when she was 20. My biological father wasn’t the best guy in the world and not a very good father or husband. So, when I was about 2 and my mom was 22, she left him.
I have always thought of my mom as a pretty tough chick because she finished school, worked, and took good care of me mostly on her own for a while. As far as I remember, I had visitation with my biological father and saw him sporadically. He did’t pay child support and didn’t always show up to get me in the best condition. I have a few memories of him, but nothing I dwell on or think about.
I am not sure how old I was when my mom met my dad. In fact, legend has it that I met him before my mom. We lived in an upstairs apartment in Houston, Texas. I was downstairs riding around on my big wheel when the man that I would soon call dad walked up and started talking to me. My mom saw this and came out to give him a dirty look. (Ah, love at first dirty look. How romantic.) My dad was there to visit our downstairs neighbor and it wasn’t long before he and my mom were set up on a blind date.
By the time I was about 3, Mom decided to move an hour south to Lake Jackson, Texas to be closer to my soon to be dad. Visits from my bio-father had become pretty sparse, and I only got a couple phone calls from him after we moved. Then he just stopped all together. No child support, no cards, no visits, nothing. And that was just fine. As far as I knew, I was about to get a new dad.
My parents got married when I was 5. I have always admired my dad for marrying a woman with a child. When he said “I Do,” he was saying it to both of us. It takes a different kind of man to take on a start up family.
I do not know exactly when the idea of my dad adopting me first came up. For the most part, I think I was pretty content. I called him dad, and his family was my family. Everything seemed as if this was exactly how it was always supposed to be. For me, it probably came up when I became very aware that I still had a different last name than everyone else. That can weigh pretty heavily on a kids sense of identity. Everyone else was a Johnson, except for me. I was still attached to this other guy that didn’t want me. So why would I want his name. I wanted to fit in and identify with the family that I knew and loved.
When I was in 5th grade, I started putting Johnson on all my school work and anything else I had to sign. We had started the process of adoption, so we figured, why not? I think I was 12 when the process was finished. Not much changed though. We had always been family, but now I had the last name to prove it.
But, after all that, my last name isn’t the only thing I got out of the deal.
Thank You, Dad
I didn’t realize what I was getting as a five year old boy when my parents got married. Now as a 36 year old man, a husband, and a father, I can look back and truly appreciate what my dad did for me.
Thanks to Mr. Don Johnson coming into my life, I have a man I can call Dad and a man my kids get to call Pawpaw. I don’t know what kind of person or man I would be without him. He is a hardworking, blue collar cowboy type of guy. It didn’t all rub off on me, but I think I got most of the good stuff.
Without my dad I don’t know who would have taught me how to ride a bike. Because of him I know my way around a horse. That’s right, folks! If you need me to saddle up a horse and ride with you, I can do it and look good, too. I can also drive a tractor and work with power tools because these are just a few of the things he taught me.
When I joined the Boy Scouts, he joined with me. We have been camping together in some very cool places. My dad drove me to and from practice for what ever sport I was playing, and sometimes helped coach. He taught me the importance of hard work, taking pride in your work, and how to support yourself. When I turned 16, he drove me all over town to fill out job applications. He drove me to interviews and wouldn’t let me get my drivers license until I could pay for some of the responsibility myself. He taught me to drive a stick, and helped me get a good price on my first truck.
In other words, he was a DAD.
Dad, has never stopped being a parent to me. I have never felt like something is missing. He fills the role of “Dad” in my life perfectly. I didn’t always make it easy on him either. Sometimes he would teach me things and I wasn’t listening. I didn’t always want to hear the lesson. Sometimes I just wanted him to stop lecturing and micro managing me. Never in a million years did I think I would turn out anything like him. But in many ways, I did. Thankfully he stuck with me and pounded me over the head about having integrity and character. He loved my mother, shared his values with me, and treats my kids as if they are his blood. I owe him a lot for that. I was the only kid he ever adopted, but that was enough for me.
I have met dozens of people with stories similar to mine. There are are many good men and women willing to step up were others fall short. To them I say thank you. You didn’t have to do it, but you did it anyway. It takes an exceptional type of person to be an adoptive parent. So if your mom or dad married one of these special people, please take the time to give them a hug. I know I will give mine one the next time I see him.