By Diane DeVaughn Stokes


She was beautiful. Still is. She had long blonde straight hair flowing down her back. She was only nine years older than me and three months pregnant with my precious baby sister, Cristy. I could not believe that this was my step-mom. Not to mention I had not even met my father yet! But if it weren’t for her, I would have never met him.

In 1969 I was graduating from high school at seventeen years of age questioning all sorts of things in my life, as most teenagers at that age do. But I always felt that unless I could meet my birth father, I would never be complete.

Up until that year I had never even seen a picture of him because my mom cut his head out of every photo she had of him and me together. I couldn’t blame her as he left her without any child support when I was only nine months old, causing us to live with my maternal grandparents. Mom was only nineteen and this had to be the most devastating episode in her life.

But you can bet that every kid who is adopted or estranged from a parent wonders what those missing people are like, what traits have they inherited from their parents, and they deal everyday with this emptiness of “Why did you not love me and want me?”

Once I learned from my paternal grandparents that my birth father was remarried for a third time to a wonderful woman who had two daughters from a previous marriage and a new baby on the way, I was hooked to meet them. I knew it would satisfy my soul just to talk to my father about the choices he made eighteen years ago, and having another sibling to love would be a bonus, as my mom was now remarried to the best dad in the world, and I had an incredible sister from their marriage.

However, when my mom and new dad graciously agreed that they would support me in this effort to meet Howard, my birth father, he was not so sure he wanted to meet me. When he received my letter maybe he wondered what I wanted from him after all these years.  Maybe he was afraid I would be angry and disrupt his life. And maybe he did not want to face the fact and be reminded that he not only left my mom and me, but also left us penniless.

It was my stepmother, Norma who encouraged Howard to pursue this opportunity to meet me. She could have been jealous of the situation, perhaps even wondering if there was an ulterior motive.  But she explained to him that it was the least he could do in meeting with me and answering the many questions I had about growing up without my father in my life. She told him it would be as cathartic for him as it would be for me. And it was.

I’ll never forget that hot summer day in Valley Forge when my grandfather drove me to meet my father for the first time. Norma greeted us saying that Howard was a basket case all day and was out riding around, but she knew he would soon return. Next thing I know, a man with long dark hair, an earring in his ear, and black leather pants, yes even in August, drove up on his Harley Davidson.  I was in shock to see this handsome, hunky guy standing before me.

This is my father?

He and Norma looked like they just stepped off the TV show Mod Squad. Howard asked me to hop on his Harley, which was the first and only time to this day that I ever rode on a motorcycle. He took me to Valley Forge Park where we sat and talked for an hour or so about all kinds of things. He was fascinated by how much alike he and I were in talents and abilities. He was most curious, however, about what my mom had said about him when I was young. I told him she never said anything bad about him, but she did cut his head off in all my baby photos.

That made him laugh hysterically.

Well, the rest of the story is a love story. Sadly, my father died five years after our meeting, but I visited him often prior to his death and grew to love my step mother who brought such joy into my life through her own caring spirit and the love I have for my sister Cristy.

And on the day of meeting my father, he made me a promise to visit me in South Carolina someday to meet my new dad and have a reunion with mom after all these years. That happened three months before he passed away. It was his greatest gift to me.

My life would not be as fulfilled if I never met Howard, Norma or Cristy. And I have two great step-sisters too! And Norma made it all happen, after I received the blessing to seek them out from my mom and new dad. She encouraged Howard to do the right thing and agree to my visit. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by all of my family who let bygones be bygones, and who put their own angst, hurt and feelings aside for the betterment of me.

Even though today I teasingly call Norma “Wicked,” as in wicked stepmother, and even presented her with a tee shirt with that name imprinted on it, she is wickedly etched in my heart forever. She could never understand the magnificent gift she gave to me in putting the pieces of my past together, making my heart full and complete today.

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes is the President of Stages Video Productions, Host and Producer for TV show “Inside Out” on HTC, and EASY Radio Host weekdays noon to 3pm. Her passions include food, travel and theater. You can reach her at diane@stagesvideo.com

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2 Responses to “Wicked”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    Having such an open heart brought you happiness you deserve to have. Kudos to you in your persistence!

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story is heartwarming. So glad you had resolution in your life with your dad. Your wicked step mother had a great part in helping you discover who your dad was.

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