MillikanAlumni
Time Line
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A Part of My Life
By
Diane Swenson, Yager-Lehner Willeford

I was born in 1943. My mother and father separated before I was born and divorced shortly after I was born. I never knew my father. I knew his name and until I was four years old and my mother remarried, I was known as Diane Swenson. When my mother remarried, I was adopted by my step father when I was ten. But to make matters easier for my folks, I was to use the name Yager-Lehner from the time of their marriage. I think life would have been easier for such a tall shy girl, who was moved constantly from school to school, if I had kept the name Swenson. Being new, shy, taller than the other kids and having a mouthful of a last name was pure Hell.

I never wanted to find my biological dad while I was growing up. My mom never discussed him, other than to say, "He came to the hospital after you were born, kissed you and left and joined the Army." Wow, I always thought that I must have been one ugly baby to make my father join the Army and leave us.

When my son Rob was getting married in 1990, my daughter in law wanted to know if my father was bald. My husband went bald at an early age and my sons have that tendancy also. I had to tell her, I really didn't know about my father. She thought that maybe I would want to find out. Just for the genetics. I was pretty convinced. Then my best friend found out she had terminal cancer. I learned from her, because she was only 46, that we don't have all the time in the world and you better make today count, because we might not have tomorrow. She helped me decide to find my biological father.

I did ask my Mom, and she was very agreeable. She gave me his birthdate and middle name. My husband was a firefighter and had an in with the sheriff's. So we were able to trace him through the DMV. (I know it's illegal, hush) Within three days after deciding to find him, I knew where he was and he was right in El Toro. Amazing for 29 years he had lived just down the freeway from me.

I wrote a letter to him, not wanting to mess up his life, but asking to meet him and find out about my genetic background. When he received the letter, he held it in his hand and told his wife, Virginia that it was from me, he could just feel it. She said, "Well open it you old fool." He called me immediately, however I was at work, so he talked to my husband Richard. I called him when I got home. It was very strange. We made arrangements to meet at my house on Sept. 16th. I remember the day, because it was grandparents day and my daughter and her husband had made plans to take us out for lunch with our little granddaughter and grandson. I was 49 years old and about to meet my father for the first time in my life. I was terrified. What if he didn't like me. I wasn't a skinny shapely young girl anymore. I couldn't eat anything at our grandparent's lunch.

The time arrived. He was knocking on my front door. When I opened it, he said, "You look just like your mother." I went into his arms immediately and hugged him for all he was worth. I called him Dad and never stopped until the day he died. I had about 2 and a half wonderful years with him. He had his version of what happened before I was born and my Mom had hers. It didn't matter. I had them both. Although they weren't together again before he died, his wife did spend a Christmas with us and my Mom. It's funny, but they are very similar. I also gained a sister Kathi, who is the same age as my daughter Cathy, and a brother Greg.

We have all kept in contact and are a real family warts and all. Two of my kids accepted my dad as their other grandfather, but my middle child Rob, never did. That was fine, I didn't take this journey for him, but for myself.

The time I had with my father was wonderful. I learned many things about him, some not so good and some wonderful. His spirit is always with me, guiding me.

No he was not bald, but had a full, beautiful silvery head of hair.

Diane


 



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