Rick and Jason, Accidental Yet Extraordinary Dads

In 1966, Rick Rambo was born to a couple who weren't ready or able to raise a kid; he was given up for adoption almost immediately. Unfortunately, his new adoptive family wasn't much better. The parents didn't really want another kid; it seemed they were only looking for a play-mate for a previously adopted child.

And so, at the age of 9, Rick entered the foster care system, and stayed there until he turned 18. After he finished high school, he enrolled in the military. (When he realized he was gay, he was forced to keep that part of himself hidden from everyone. Rick was still in the military when “Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted in 1994.)

Jason Hanney was born in 1973, the son of a very young Mormon mother. Like many Mormons, he got married at an early age.

Rick's and Jason's paths crossed in June of 1995. Rick had recently been discharged (honorably!) from the military; Jason was a young police officer at the time. They were both standing in line to register as students at the University of Utah. As soon as their eyes met, Jason, Mormon and married, looked away. But Rick, not easily defeated (and unaware of Jason's marital status), struck up a conversation about the long line and their classes. The attraction was clearly mutual; they made plans to meet again. And again.

Jason (left) and Rick, 1997

After several dates and a couple of sleepovers, the men realized they would have to face reality. Soon Jason came out to his wife, in spectacularly dramatic fashion. The first major hurdle in the relationship was crossed. Several months later, the men decided that they would hang out “seriously." Jason then came out to his parents and family.

And Rick? Well, Rick was already out, never having been in the closet because he had grown up (as he describes it) “without anyone giving a sh*t about me"; so no problem with his sexuality. (Don't feel bad! He doesn't; he turned out just fine!)

Jason (left) and Rick, 2001

For the next ten years they worked on their careers, their education and their lives. They started companies and sold them, a law degree was obtained, a post-graduate education was completed (as a result of which Rick is now Dr. Rick!), there was a stint in alcohol rehabilitation, and more.

Then September 20, 2004, happened: a day of great importance. Jason's younger sister discovered she was pregnant. Unfortunately, she wasn't going to shoulder her parenting responsibilities. Keeping in mind the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child," the family decided to step in.

With Jason and Rick present, baby boy Josh was born. Rick gave Josh his first bath, provided the skin-to-skin bonding, and attempted to get the mom to attach – but those attempts remained unsuccessful.

So, with involvement of the biological mother being very limited, raising Josh became, naturally and smoothly, the responsibility of Jason and Rick, who both assumed the role of Josh's de facto parents. Josh spent his early years with Jason and Rick and with Jason's mother.

It becomes clear that Josh is bonding to Rick and Jason as his parents; but this is not allowed in Utah.

In 2008, when Josh was 3 years old, Rick was offered an executive position in Arizona. A family meeting was called. Together the family members come up with the following solution: Jason and Rick will become Josh's legal guardians in a voluntary capacity.

They knew that this would not create a climate of stability and permanence for Josh, but given the hostile environment for gay adoption and guardianship at the time, it was the best they could do.

After the papers were drawn up and executed, Jason, Rick, Josh and Jason's mom Sherie moved to Arizona.

Becoming Josh's parents was never the product of a desire to have children; it just kind of happened out of a sense of responsibility to care for a family member who couldn't provide adequately for a child.

The men never thought not to extend a helping hand. Neither did they realize that Josh would eventually become solely their responsibility. It just happened, and not a day goes by that they don't regret that lack of a decision.

Career opportunities took them to Texas, then to Minnesota, and eventually back to Texas, to McKinney.

Suddenly, in April 2013, there was a knock at Jason and Rick's door: Jason's sister was pregnant again, with a boy, who was due in early October.

The family convened to decide on and implement a course of action. This time the men would not become the guardians of the baby; instead, Rick would acknowledge paternity of the child on the birth certificate and therefore be recognized legally as the father!

Rich with newborn Maddie

Furthermore, the biological mother would give up all parental rights in favor of the father. As before, the mom hardly participated in the raising of this child; her contributions amount to maybe a few hours here and there, once or twice a month.

Of course, this isn't the best emotional position for Jason or his mother (who still lives with Rick and Jason and provides invaluable support for the family). It's hard for them having a challenging sister and daughter, but after all these years with Josh they have become familiar with the situation.

Josh holding 6-day-old Madeline

In any case, the family forged forward. Then there's a big surprise: not a boy; but a beautiful, smart 4-pound girl arrives, seven weeks early, on August 20, 2013! They name her Madeline Grace Rambo. (Madeline after the famous series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans.) Like her brother Josh, Madeline is loved dearly.

And now they are a family of four, plus one: two handsome, older (but study) dads, both corporate executives; a smart, good-looking brother who's 11 and already on his second passport, having visited 19 (!) countries in his short life; a beautiful 2-year-old princess; and a Queen Mum; all living in McKinney, Texas, surrounded by their many friends. They consider their family complete.

Jason and Rick are different on many levels. Jason is a man of faith; Rick is not. Jason is a very conservative, card-carrying (yes, he actually carries a card) Republican; Rick is fiercely independent of any party affiliation and is disgusted equally with most politicians.

Family photo, 2013

The kids call both of them Dad or Daddy. (And sometimes, “No, other Daddy!")

The dads are very active in their kids' communities: For the past five seasons, Rick has been the head coach of the Prosper Little League Giants, Spring 2016, AAA Division, in Prosper, Texas; additionally, in 2015 he was honored to be peer-selected as the head coach for the All Stars. Jason is the league director and a member of the board of trustees of the Prosper Little League.

Their community involvement doesn't end there: They are active philanthropists, with at-risk children and veteran's needs receiving Rick's attention; Jason's area of philanthropic interest is addiction among the homeless population; Josh's focus is on youth homelessness. (Maddie, however, is still in her pre-philanthropic phase; her favorite word is “mine!")

Josh and Madeline

It is clear that the members of this family live full, rewarding lives, filled with frequent laughs, but with moments of deep sadness as well.

They know they will always love each other and be loved. In the course of time, they will find out more about their family's unique path.

In our eyes, they are a perfect family.


Family photo, 2015

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