“You cannot know where you are going unless you know where you are from.” ~ Amie DiDia Farace
At 50 years old, I finally connect the dots of "who I am and where I come from", at least biologically.
Born in NY and moved to South Dakota as an infant far away from the multi-cultured Long Island. I grew up with the understanding that my older brother and myself shared a father, who’s name “Schulz” was on my birth certificate and he was back in New York. As the legend went, he went out for milk and never came home.
Growing up in South Dakota for me was not a great experience. My mother worked very hard as a single mother and did her best raising, now 3, kids on her own. We lived very modestly in a small trailer. For me, as one with dark hair and darker skin in South Dakota, I was the victim of much racial bullying. As it turns out I am actually very grateful for that as it led me to the sport of Boxing and Boxing saved my life. That’s a whole other blog!
I joined the Army National Guard at 17 and moved to Florida with a friend at 20, far away from South Dakota and in my own paradise.
Always curious as to why my brother who was just 18 months older than myself were so unalike until my grandfathers funeral in 2001 when I was told by a close family member, who had a few too many glasses of wine, that Schulz was not my Father and my mother had an affair with an Italian guy on Long Island.... hmmmm this started making sense.
My son Jordan Schulz was born in 2003 and with the absence of a father in my life that was incredible motivation to be a huge part of his, regardless of the fact his mother and I were never married and separated when he was just an infant.
So the curiosity remained for many years, and for many years I, little by little, gathered tiny bits of information within my own investigation. When I met my amazing wife and of course told her of how this mystery has affected me over the years, she surprised me with an Ancestry DNA test for Christmas 2016. With a simple drop of saliva into a tube, off in the mail, it went. We patiently awaited the results for 2 long months....and what do you know, I’m 50% Italian. And sorry to report to those from my childhood in South Dakota who knew me, 0% Mexican.. imagine that!
I wanted to finally address this with my mother who was in Florida on vacation so I sat her down with the results of the DNA test.. She again strongly insisted Schulz was my father. For a second opinion, we then got the 23&Me DNA test and it confirmed I was 44% Italian.
So last year during another visit from my mother we decided that my wife and I both would try and sit my mother down and have the conversation with her again. And that changed everything. After 49 years the secret finally started to see light.
My mother is a very strong and proud woman and finally admitted that while she was just 19 years old she had an affair with a married man and there “could be a chance” he fathered me. She shared some details about him including his name. Wow, after 49 years to finally hear the truth and attach a name to the mystery.
The investigation went into high gear as did my excitement and anxiety levels.
Since we had his name I emailed everyone on Ancestry DNA and 23&Me that I was connected genetically to on my Italian side. And for whatever reason emailed one connection who had a VERY Italian last name. And she, although not connected biologically on my Italian side, happens to help people find people for a living. And with the little information I gave her, what do you know, she was able to locate him in California!
Wow. Here I am at age 49, for the first time seeing my Biological Father’s face. We wanted to reach out to him, with very little expectations other than basically connecting the dots of who I am and where I came from biologically. We decided to call his business and ask anonymously about my mother and 1968. We made one call got the voicemail and hung up quickly. At this point, it’s still not 100% confirmed he is the guy.
Literally 2 days later I got an email from one of my geo connections on 23&Me as a reply to my “Seeking my Biological Father email”. Hi, Johnny, my name is Trent, I think we can help each other out here is my phone number call me. When I looked closer to our connection on 23&Me he was listed as my nephew!
We were excited to call him and when we did he confirmed my GeoDad was his grandfather! He wanted to help me connect with him but also wanted to help protect his grandmother who I learned was the same woman he was married to 50 years ago when I was conceived, with 3 grown children, aka my half-siblings in California. He also, of course, wanted to protect how the rest of the family would hear this news, after all. I am a bit of a bombshell of news! I learned he was very much a family man, with a close-knit beautiful family and neither one of us, wanted to disrupt that or cause any unnecessary heartache.
We decided a letter would be in order and he would deliver it with the hopes of a positive response to a request to chat. After many drafts, a very honest letter was sent assuring him I had no ill will and low expectations but also let him know he can have comfort in knowing I am alive and doing very well, with a loving wife and kids, and I am proud to be a sum of my experiences. I also included a recent photo of our family. His grandson would be the one to hand deliver this letter to ensure it was not discovered by anyone else but him.
About a week later....... the phone rang... “HEY JOHNNY!” Said the man on the other line, and at 50 years old I spoke to my biological father for the first time. :)
For the past four months, we have spoken numerous times. He mentioned he did know about me and has followed me and my boxing career online, he was a former boxer, duh! He also saw my family and son etc, but was hesitant to reach out and was very grateful that I tracked him down, and has been in constant contact. He has since had a conversation with his close family including his wife about me, and was given forgiveness and in turn, we now all speak together on the phone, she is a very sweet woman.
He is in Huntington Beach California and the next logical step is for us to officially meet.
So as I write this we are 36,181 feet in the air and just crossed the California state line.
Today I will meet my Biological Father.
California! We stuck the landing at LAX! Los Angeles is the city I dreamt of as a youth and teen in South Dakota. I always felt I belonged here for a rock star destiny during the glorious Hair Metal Rock years 1981-1989.
We drove from LAX to Manhattan Beach for a deep breath and quick view. Wow what a beautiful view and tranquil moment with my Rock. A perfect moment of clarity before we made our way to Orange to connect the aforementioned biological dot.
Those closest to me know about this story and as this trip grew closer each and everyone had a similar feel good happy reaction with a sincere wish of happiness and of course they wanted an update. Telling this story has been therapeutic, and inspiring as the look in one's eyes after telling, gave me an absolute feeling of joy and gratitude knowing I am living out yet a true life happy ending story in a world filled with a whole lot of otherwise.
So on the 5 hour flight to LAX I wrote out the story with the idea to post it to update my circle of friends and was hoping to bring hope to those who may be in a similar situation. Just before we drove to Manhattan beach I posted part one of my journey online. As we were leaving the beach I checked the post and was absolutely blown away from how our story touched so many people in such a beautiful and positive way! It was just the final nudge of confidence and support I needed for the drive to go meet my father for the very first time.
I can only compare the feeling with the day of a fight. The nerves in my stomach are on a clock, counting down until that moment of bravery, my mind is working overtime to calmly process the many racing thoughts, emotions, and anxieties, ...doubts. And my soul, my warrior's soul is standing proud ....holding it all together to do what I have always done whenever I was faced with adversity in my life ...breath, smile and walk through ... as the quote always went in my head.
About a block before we turned down Cully Street and as I was getting my final pep talk from my Rock I abruptly turned down a side street for a final gathering of sorts before I did what I always hoped and dreamed I would., look my father in the eyes.
We pulled up to his driveway where he proudly had an American and US Navy flag flying in front. I walked to the front door and it swung open and I was about to take my first step on the porch and at that time I locked eyes with my Father,..It felt like I was looking at myself and could see generations deep at the same exact time.
We embraced each other and said almost at the same time, I am so happy to see you. At which moment I seen the beautiful soul standing next to him just as she has for the last 58 years and last 40 in this home. She had a huge smile on her face and her arms wide open for an embrace!
We spent the next several hours talking, laughing, eating and catching up on some great Italian culture. The more we talked the more the two of them reminded me of my beautiful Italian Wife and myself. It was a perfect initial introduction and we were excited to come back the following day as they invited the immediate family over to meet us.
Through this discovery I have gained 2 half brothers and a sister whom will be there at the welcome party, along with her children, all who were very..., let’s say excited and anxious to meet me. Oh very rightfully so, after all I am a product of infidelity that was a direct heartbreaking effect to their most precious commodity, their loving mother.
Day two was another anxious day as I was not completely sure how I would be perceived by the family. I have, more than once, tried to picture myself in their shoes and what it felt like as a sibling with natural protective instincts for their beloved mother. I was certain I was going to be resented and judged. Credit my loving wife yet again with another supportive, I am your rock best friend talk.
We arrived first and everyone started arriving in perfect sequence to allow time for a quick initial visit with each of them. We were met with loving sincere hugs from everyone and then the food came out!!
Forget about it!!!! Meatballs, sausage, Baked Ziti, Eggplant, Chicken Marcela, Salad, Rose’s Famous Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake, Vanilla Raspberry Cake, Hand Stuffed Cannolis and a table filled with a loving Italian Family!! 🇮🇹
It was truly an amazing day filled with laughter, forks clinking on plates, hugs and some great stories, our family history! It was a wonderful feast where everyone sat at the same table for nearly 10 hours fully engaged in family. From my fathers' brother and lifelong friend Uncle Eddie to my half brothers and sister and their children. It was so comforting and it felt like we have known them all our whole life. We were genuinely accepted into the family with open arms.
Each one of the siblings took a moment to privately accept me unconditionally to the family which made my heart melt and most of all their mother, who bless her heart spent the day as all old school Italian women do cooking and serving, she told me she had a place for me in her heart, was able to forget about the past and from now on she now has 3 boys, welcome to the family.
I am very grateful for my current position and proud to say I am a product of my amazing experiences in life. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
I love how life is always teaching us and how we can always grow like a tree. Until Jordan and the responsibility of being a father, I felt purposeless.. he saved me and lead me into boxing where I met the most influential people in my life.
Until I met Amie I felt lost, ...one lost soul swimming in a fishbowl. She taught me about myself, showed me what a best friend is and what love is all about. Without her selfless loving ways and positive strong family-based anchors I would truly be one lost soul and would have never met my father and have the opportunity to now make as many happy memories with our newfound loving family.
Welcome to the Farace Family and the first day of forever.