Allyson Goodwin and her father Pierre Lucas.

''He wants to talk to me.''


''My sperm donor.''

I was telling my dad this as we sat across from each other in a deli in New York City, waiting on lunch. It was this past March and the day was cool, calm and collected. But I couldn't say the same for myself.

For the last 16 years, it has just been me, my mother, my father and my brother. But I always knew there was another man who laid claim to me. I was reminded of this every time someone used my last name.

''Why is your last name Goodwin and not Lucas, like your mother,'' one of my classmates in high school asked.

''My last name is really Goodwin-Lucas,'' I would reply, ''but because it was annoying to write I decided to drop the Lucas when I started high school.''


''Oh, OK, that makes sense,'' she replied.

But it really didn't.

My legal last name is Goodwin, the name my biological father goes by, the name of the man whom I last saw when I was 3 years old, the name of the man whom I apparently look like, never mind I have no memory of ever meeting him in person.  


No matter how many times I wanted to change my name or begged my parents to change it, I was stuck with Goodwin. But growing up I didn't want anyone to know why I was a Goodwin. I didn't want other kids to think I came from a broken home or that I was tainted because my biological father didn't stick around to raise me.

I wanted my friends, my extended family and anyone else I ever encountered to think that my household was normal. That I belonged to a traditional family unit. But having to write ''Goodwin'' on everything and then having my mom show up at parent-teacher conferences, introducing herself as ''Mrs. Lucas'' didn't help.

Lucas is the name that I've always wanted, the name that my stepfather goes by, the name of the man who thought I was the cutest girl in the world when he met 6-year-old me, the man who tried to make me eat broccoli despite my objections to this day, the man who has protected me and would do anything to keep me out of harm's way.


That's my dad.

The one who was very patiently giving me advice about my ''sperm donor.''

''So what does he want to talk to you about?'' he asked me.

Good question, I thought.

This man—my biological father—ignored me for most of my life. Never made it to any of my graduations. Didn't bother sending me a card. Never whispering, ''Happy Birthday!'' to me after I turned 5 years old.


He may be my father—according to my DNA—but I don't recall him ever being much of a father to me. In fact, most days I tried to forget that he existed. But that was shot to hell every time someone reminded me that I had ''that good hair'' or ''amazing skin'' or asked me if my father was dark-skinned because my mother is so fair-skinned.

Just looking in the mirror sometimes drives me crazy because despite the resemblances between me and my mom, I know that I look like him.

I don't know my biological father's family, but I know that based on the idle threats my mom would wield upon me that they weren't a bunch of people I wanted to be around.


''You know what, you keep acting up and I am going to send you to Minnesota with them Goodwins,'' she said.

''Why would you say that,'' I would tell her. ''I don't know them people.'' And I still don't.

He tried to call me a few times after my parents and I moved from D.C. to New York, when I was 8. He promised he would keep in touch. That turned out to be a lie.  


He promised he would get me the gift I wanted most for Christmas that year. A baby doll bouncy chair, just like the one toddlers use to learn how to walk. More lies.

He also told me, ''Daddy loves you.'' Biggest lie.

He may love me, but he stopped being my dad the moment he stopped being involved in my life.


If you loved me, you would want to help me and make sure everything was going well for me. If you were my father—like you seem to think you are—you would have been there for me.

''So you wouldn't be upset if I talked to him?'' I asked my dad.

''No. Not at all. I want you to do what you are most comfortable with, and I never wanted you to not have a relationship with him.''


I nodded my head up and down in agreement as tears filled my eyes. Why would I want to talk to this fake daddy when I had a real dad who has been there for me most of my life? How could I call up this guy who hasn't been around me for most of my life because he happens to share my genes, last name and facial features, when my father was sitting right across from me?

Whether I decided to call my sperm donor, I knew that my real father would be there to support me no matter what.

Knowing that I had my dad's support made the whole situation a little less scary. I didn't have to put all my eggs in one basket because no matter what relationship I started with my biological father or how long he stayed in my life, this time, I would always have my dad.


Over the next few weeks, I spoke to Mr. Goodwin two or three times on the phone. And of course, afterwards, I told my dad all about it.

''So how did it go?''

''I dunno. It was weird. He didn't sound the way I thought he would.''

''Really? How so?''

''I dunno. He just didn't.''

''Oh, OK,'' he said, chuckling at my lack of description.

''Don't worry, dad. He aint got nothing on you.''

''Thanks, Al.''

Allyson Goodwin is an intern at The Root.