Monday, February 25, 2019

This Is Me: An Adoption Story, part 8

My adoption and search story has continued to unfold over the course of the past several months and I have a lot to catch up with. If you haven't been following along, I've now added 'next installment' links to the bottom of each post, so you can go back to part 1 and continue on.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Part 7:

In the last installment, I had found a link to my paternal side through doing 23andme DNA testing. (I continue to have concerns about the privacy of such data and for the secrets it can uncover, as well as their ability to cause unintended pain. My choice to go ahead was, in part, informed by my sense of urgency about knowing my own medical history. I would recommend caution and careful consideration ahead of spitting in that test tube.)

And the person I found that I shared a genetic connection with turned out to be my birth father's half brother. The two half brothers shared a father (my paternal grandfather), who had gotten divorced and remarried, having children from both marriages.

This is from an email I got from my paternal-side cousin in June of 2018:

[My father] remembers his half-brothers and reminded me he meet them several years ago.  Several of them have died but S is alive and well.  Dad called the half-brother he has contact with and found out S's phone number. Dad just talked to him and told him he has another daughter. S  would like the name of your birth mother and where you where born. 
Maybe your search is over.

"S" was my birth father. And he was still alive.

I felt an increased urgency to make contact, after being robbed of that chance with my birth mother who passed away in 2010.

The chronology gets a little fuzzy for the next few weeks, mainly because my paternal family tree is so large and complex. Over the next few weeks, I ended up having multiple conversations via email and text with a ton of cousins, aunts, and uncles. All of them were thrilled to meet me and welcome me into the family at large.

I even got an invitation to the annual family reunion in Utah. I thanked them, and declined, both because it was coming up a few weeks from then and my schedule was already committed,  and because I knew I would be utterly overwhelmed.

Part of my paternal family 'vine'
It's easy to see how complicated this can get! I started keeping everything in two family trees - one for my paternal side, one for my maternal side. This is the paternal side one, showing how my grandfather had 2 families. The left hand side is the family from my grandfather's first marriage.

The right hand side is the family from my grandfather's second marriage, which is my birth father's direct line.

Look at all the cousins!!!!

Ultimately, I got in contact with one of my birth father's full brothers and his wife who passed along my birth father's phone number with the confirmation that he did indeed want to talk to me.

So with shaking hands, a ton of questions, and more than a little uncertainty, I called and spoke with my birth father for the first time.

It was so strange. This entire journey has been strange and wonderful and melancholy and complicated. Here were two strangers on the telephone who were also undeniably joined through history and genetics. A father and a daughter connecting after 54 years of silence and family secrets.

He never knew I existed.

The maternal grandmother who had kept me a deeply buried secret in her family, and who so utterly rejected me when I had reached out in my last attempt to find my history two decades earlier, had intensely disliked him. She had actively worked to break up the relationship between Robin and her boyfriend - "S" - my birth father. And she'd been so successful, that "S" didn't know Robin was pregnant with me when she vanished from his life, leaving him heartbroken.

Like my first conversation with my Uncle Paul, there was so much of my conversation with "S" that I don't remember. I know we both laughed a lot, marveling at this wild story. We shared details about our lives. I told him about my husband and sons. "S" had been married multiple times and had three daughters with one of his wives. Which meant I had half-sisters.

Tragically, one had died in her 40s of complications from cancer. The other two were living on the west coast.

I walked away from that long conversation with my birth father feeling content. I finally had all the pieces of the puzzle about my personal history. I had contact information for more family. After being the baby of my family for so long, I was actually a big sister!

"S" and I talked about meeting in person. He doesn't travel due to old injuries and he is quite frail. But he lives in South Carolina, which is not too far for a road trip. It hasn't happened yet, but I want to make sure I don't miss the opportunity as I had lost with my birth mother and another member of this wondrous diaspora of rediscovered family who died just a few months ago. But that is a post for another day.

To be continued.. .

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  1. I have driven to South Carolina several times. Make it to my house and we can go together!

  2. Interesting- it didno't tell you who I am. It's Nightwing :-)

    A road trip anywhere with you would be fun but a trip to discover living family?! Yes!!!