Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pulling It All Together - My Story of Adoption

I had wanted to tell my story and had struggled with how to tell it, as well as with how to bring myself to tell the more difficult parts.  I decided to start this blog, and tell parts of my story individually.  My story of being an adoptee, and a birth-mother, and of finding my roots, is contained in the following four posts and in the following order:

Finding Mother (back in the days before Google and before DNA testing)
http://assortedtruffles.blogspot.com/2016/03/finding-mother-back-in-days-before.html

Reunions
http://assortedtruffles.blogspot.com/2016/03/reunions.html

Pappa Was a Rolling Stone
http://assortedtruffles.blogspot.com/2016/03/pappa-was-rolling-stone.html

I Am Bastard (the most difficult story to write)
http://assortedtruffles.blogspot.com/2016/03/i-am-bastard-most-difficult-story-to.html

While writing the above stories, I had allowed myself to re-visit the most painful aspects and had allowed myself to cry while writing.  There are some parts where I allowed myself to write from a purely emotional perspective.  Some of this was difficult to write, and I offer my apologies you find some of it painful to read.  Earlier attempts at writing had become too emotional for me, and I had found I was unable to continue.  I knew I wanted to get this story written, but also knew I had to be emotionally ready to write it.

I hope to write more, about other topics, in the future.  I've felt that I needed to tell this story, my story, before going on to tell other stories.  I am happy that this is finally complete, and I am ready to move on.

The writing of these stories is not an attempt to dwell in the past.  This is an act of closure - that final step I've felt I needed to take.  I hope to always be able to learn something from the pains of my past, and I hope that at some point, maybe those experiences will help others as well.

And so, with this, we close this chapter of my life and move on to the next.

-Kim

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Music to Search By - The Genetic Genealogy Sountrack

With all those other stories written and posted (which was an emotional undertaking for me) let's switch gears here to a lighter note...




"Pappa Was a Rolling Stone" had played repeatedly on the radio the entire time I was in search.  This had been my #1 theme song throughout my search, and proved to be truer than I had imagined as my search was concluded.







I Am Bastard (the most difficult story to write)

Walking into the abortion clinic, the picketers yelling things at us.  Judging us.  Oh the things they were yelling.

I thought, “You don’t know me, and you don’t know my story.”

I chose to come here today knowing damn well that I would have been aborted myself, had my mom had access to such a clinic so many years ago.  Had she done so, I wouldn’t be here today having to make this choice.

Do I have the right to live?

Some people, I’m sure even some of those picketers yelling at me that day, would have put me into that small group that are okay to abort.  This, because of the way in which I was conceived.  I know this because I’ve heard anti-choice people talk about “acceptable exceptions” to their proposed ban on abortion.  Situations where they feel abortion is justified.  I am one of those exceptions.  One of those people who even some of the anti-choice protesters think it would have been okay to abort.

Yes sir, mister “he who proclaims himself to be a pro-lifer”, if your daughter were pregnant with me, you might prefer that I were aborted.

I am Bastard, after all.

The abomination.

I’m well aware of this as I hear the things they are yelling.  Oh their judgement and oh the hatred protruding from their lips.  I want to yell back at them – but no.  This is my story and I walk it alone.

Maybe I should have never been. 

But I am here.  And now I have to make this choice for myself, and for my children.

When I was still a teenager, nineteen years old, I had to face my adopted mother and tell her I was pregnant.  She screamed, “Abort it!  Abort it!” which was not the response I had expected as we were Catholics.  Abortion was never an option in my mind.  It was not something I was willing to consider.  I left their home.

Out on my own, I experienced a series of unfortunate events over the next several months which had left me with nowhere to live and all of my belongings (whatever hadn’t been stolen from me at that point) packed into my old run-down car.  I returned to the home of my adopted family, to beg them for help.

They said I could live there, if I agreed to give the baby up for adoption.  I told them I agreed – to appease them – and so I would have a place to live other than my car.  I figured I still had a few more months to figure this thing out.

My pregnant belly grew to be a bigger and bigger embarrassment to those people and they hid me in the basement with the dog when my adopted-grandparents came to visit.  My dog was an attack dog, a large German Shepherd, and so guaranteed that no one would attempt to open the basement door – exposing the secret.

Funny thing, when you have a huge pregnant belly, that there is not much room for your bladder.  There was no bathroom in that basement and as the hours passed the urge to pee grew and grew.  I made a makeshift toilet out of a plastic bag which I lined an empty box with and remember how my dog was trying to jump up on me as I attempted to balance my large and awkward self over that box.  My dog thought we were playing a game.  I loved him.  He was my protector.  He guarded my room at night and didn’t allow anyone in.  He died a few days after my baby was born.

I had been a waitress for three years already, usually had no problem finding work, and could earn enough to pay rent and make ends meet.  I was, however, unemployed for the time being, and would have difficulty finding a waitress job with my big belly.  I knew I could do this – but I needed some help – at least for a few months – so I could get on my feet.

My adopted parents were landlords, they owned apartments, but they wouldn’t consider renting one to me.  They said they were worried I wouldn’t be responsible enough to pay my rent.

I went to the welfare office to apply for public assistance.  They said that although I was legally of age, because I still lived under my parents’ roof, my parents also had to complete some forms to verify their income so that I could apply for assistance.

My parents refused to fill out those forms.  They said their income was nobody’s business.

I tried to plead my case at the welfare office.  I tried to explain that though I laid my head under my parent’s roof at the moment, I was going to be homeless once my child was born.  I was begging for help.  I needed help more than anyone could imagine.  As I stood there, the only white face in the room, I was not only dismissed, but was literally being laughed at, mocked, and was told to, “go ask your daddy for help.”  I was a joke to them.

I pleaded, and tried to explain that "my daddy" was not going to help me.  The more I begged, the more they laughed.

I felt discriminated against that day, and felt that if my face weren’t white, one of those ladies may have wanted to help me.  (re-reading this before posting and considering whether or not to leave this part in – I don’t like it – I don’t like that I felt that way – and don’t like that this memory has stayed with me all of these years.  However, the fact remains that this happened.  I am not going to apologize for the way I felt that day, and I am not going to edit this out.  Those ladies were wrong to have treated me that way.  None of us should ever treat anyone that way.  It is not okay.  I hope we can all learn from such things and that those of us who choose careers in the field of helping others will do better – and not act like those ladies did that day in that South Chicago Welfare Office.)

I had already made numerous phone calls in attempts to find a place to live, a home for unwed mothers, a program that might assist me, something.  There was nothing.  Every lead led to a dead end.  Homes for unwed mothers had waiting lists that were two years long (which I still don't really understand how that can be given that humans are pregnant for nine months - but yes, I was actually told there were waiting lists two years long.)

I felt defeated.

I wonder here about those anti-choice picketers and where were they to help me when I needed help so desperately?  When I had chosen to give life but had no idea how I would manage to sustain it?  They weren’t there to help.  There was no help to be found – though I am a rather resourceful individual and have managed to survive many situations in my life that others may not have survived – at this point in my life, I was defeated, and there were none of those people (who like to call themselves “pro-lifers”) there to help me.

It was time for me to stop thinking about where I was going to live with my baby once it was born, and start thinking about where my baby was going to go.  I had eventually given up hope of being able to keep us together.

A lady I was talking to with one of the adoption help groups I was in contact with had advised me on the demands I could make with my child’s adoption.  It was her advice that I followed.

I spoke to various adoption agencies and asked a lot of questions.  

I selected an agency that would allow me to meet the potential adopted family before I made a decision, ask them to be present for the birth, continue to correspond with one another as my child grows, and that all sealed adoption records would be unsealed and open to my child on his or her 18th birthday.

I was given a stack of files to review, and selected a couple from that stack.  They lived several hours away but agreed to come to Chicago to meet me.  The agency was hesitant, as they had never done such a thing before – 

It was the 1980s and open adoptions were not yet commonplace. 

I remember asking the case worker if she would ever hire a babysitter for even a couple of hours without meeting that babysitter first.  She said no.  So I asked why she would expect me to allow a couple to raise my baby for 18 years without meeting them first.

The couple I selected had agreed to the meeting.  I think I was quite demanding at this time.  I felt I was left with little choice other than to give my baby up – but that at the very least, I could call some of the shots as to how this adoption was going to play out – and hopefully spare my baby some of the grief that my own adoption had caused me.

I had decided on names for my baby. The name I chose wouldn’t appear on the adopted birth certificate, but would appear on the original birth certificate.  If it’s a girl, her middle name would be my adopted mother’s name – as a reminder that the child bearing my adopted mother’s name is the one that she forced me to give up.

I was astounded when the adopted couple told me the names they had chosen.  The name they chose for a girl, while not the exact same name I had chosen, is a common nickname used by people who have the name I chose.

On my adoption records, my own name at birth was listed as “Baby Girl Cooper”.  I wasn’t legally given a name until my adoption was final when I was about 6 months old.  I had decided that my child would have a name from birth.

I also had concerns about feelings of abandonment at birth and how that might affect one throughout life.  I had been told that my adopted parents had taken me home when I was one week old and often wondered what I had felt during that week.  I had often struggled with feelings of despair, loneliness, and emptiness in my life.  I was curious as to how much of this could be attributed to the experience of abandonment in my first week on this Earth.

At my request, the adopted couple had agreed to come to the hospital, if possible, for the birth.  Because they lived a distance away, we realized that this may not be possible – but they agreed to try.

The day I had gone into labor, I was cleaning one of my adopted parents’ vacant apartments to get it ready for new tenants that were to move in the next day.  Contractions had started, but were far apart still.  I had become tired while cleaning, and had closed myself in an empty bedroom, and laid on the floor to take a nap.  When I awoke, I held my belly and cried.  My baby was leaving me that day.

This would be the last day that I would have her so close to me.

I came out of that bedroom, found my parents, and told them that I needed to go to the hospital.

My dad had to stay to finish the work on the apartment and my mom couldn’t drive, so I drove myself and my mom home to get my bag for the hospital.

My neighbor drove me to the hospital.  The adoptive parents had been notified and were on their way – but unable get there in time to be present for the birth.

Labor and delivery were excruciating and without pain medication.  I wasn’t prepared at all.  I was screaming and trying to hold my baby in as people were holding my arms and legs and pushing on my belly.

I heard the doctor, in a foreign accent, announce, “She’s a lady” when she was born.

They rolled my stretcher into the recovery room and left me there, behind a white curtain, alone, for what seemed like an eternity.  I was cold and my whole was trembling uncontrollably.  White curtains hanging on four sides of me.  Distant voices.  My baby taken from me.  It felt like a nightmare.

I lay there, trembling, not quite sure why my body was doing that.

Later, in my hospital room, I held my daughter in my arms and stared at her in awe.  This was the first time I had ever seen another person of my own flesh and blood.  I couldn’t believe this tiny beautiful little baby had come out of me.  So precious, so perfect.  I loved this child more than life itself.  I would give anything for her – even if the best thing for her at this moment is to put her in the arms of someone else.  I thought about my mom yelling, “abort it!” and couldn’t fathom the evilness of wanting to kill someone so precious, so helpless  - and for no reason other than this child was an embarrassment to her.

Nearly 30 years have passed since that date and I still remember clearly, looking at my perfect baby in my arms – and I cry, even now, as I write these lines.  She doesn’t know me at all now – and I wish I had some way to tell her just how much I love her, have always loved her, and will always love her.

Her adoptive parents arrived at the hospital in the morning.  We were all together in the room, and they held her, and I could see that they would love her too.

These lines, honestly, are difficult for me to write.  I have tried numerous times over the years to write this story – and always break down into tears at this point.   My other daughter, now an adult too, has walked in on me on occasion while I was writing and asked what’s wrong.  I tell her what I’m writing, and she tells me she is sorry.  

Deep breath.

I didn’t know much when I was 19 years old, but it was important to me that my daughter was able to hear my voice as well as the voices of her adoptive parents in those first days.  I knew she knew my voice from being in my womb the previous months, and felt that having all of us present those first couple of days would make for an easier transition for her.  I didn’t want her to live with that feeling of abandonment that many of us adoptees feel deep down within us.

As it came time for me to sign the final papers, I searched my mind for other options.  I did not want to sign those papers.  I did not want to let her go.

Two things were on my mind at that moment, that caused me to sign: if I don’t sign, me and my baby would be homeless, and, I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak I would cause her adoptive parents if I changed my mind at that moment.

I signed.

On the way home, my adopted dad patted my knee and said, “I’m proud of you.”

(fuck you.)

They dropped me off at home and went shopping.  I sat at the kitchen table, chain smoked, and cried uncontrollably.

When they returned home, I had to pull myself together – because we had a graduation party to attend at a neighbor’s house.  It was always about appearance – you know. 

My dog died a few days later.

In my first week home I had written:

* * * * * *
June 6, 1988
I bet it’s wonderful to have _____ at home now.  I know how long you’ve been praying and waiting for this day to come…
I still can’t get over how beautiful  _____ is.  I’m sure you agree that she was the prettiest baby in the whole hospital.  I love her so much,  I would give my life for her.  I cry because my arms are empty.  How I wish I could just hold her in my arms forever!  I want her to know that when she is ready to meet me, I’ll be waiting with open arms.  There’s nothing that I can ask of you that I know you won’t be giving her anyway, I only ask that you let  _____ know just how much I love her.  She won’t remember me holding her or telling her I love her, so please, tell her for me.
* * * * * *
I had returned to work a week later and it wasn’t long before I was living on my own.  Maybe another decade or so before I would cut ties with my adopted parents for good.

Though I was actively searching for my biological mother throughout my pregnancy, two more years had passed before finding her.  When I told her my story, she told me that had I found her in time, she would have done anything she could to have helped me keep my baby.

As the years passed, my daughter’s family had kept in touch with me and we had exchanged many letters and photos.  When I had planned the adoption, I had fully expected that this arrangement would be for eighteen years, and made sure that on my child’s 18th birthday, all records would be unsealed and available to her.  Unlike my own records which had remained sealed.  I had also expected that we would have a reunion when she turned 18.

For 18 years I waited in anticipation of that day I would be able to wrap my arms around my daughter.  Oh how I had missed her.

Ten years have now passed since her 18th birthday and there has been no reunion.  While I have spent my life in search of my own roots, it seems my daughter is not interested in hers.

For 18 years I lived with the hope of that day – but that day came and went.  I thought it might take her just a few more years to be ready – but those years came and went as well.  I eventually had to accept that the reunion I had long hoped for may never happen.

I hope that this means that my daughter has not suffered the longing and emptiness I had suffered in my life.  I hope that this means that my daughter is happy and fulfilled, longing for nothing.  I hope this is an indication that she is happy and that she has a good life.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the years that have passed and how not a single day has passed that I haven’t thought about my daughter and missed her and wondered how she’s doing.  I would think that as we’re approaching thirty years, the frequency of my thoughts of her would decrease and the pain would subside.

I had always wondered if my own mother thought of me on my birthday.  What I didn’t know was that as a mother myself, not only do I think about my daughter on her birthday, but not a day has passed in her life that I haven’t thought of her.

I will never turn my back on her.  If she ever chooses to get in contact with me, I will greet her with open arms.  She doesn’t know me, but I am her mother and I love her unconditionally with the entirety of my heart.

Perhaps one day she will.  I do have hope – but I realize that she may never.  I made sure that she would be able to find me without having to endure the struggle I had in finding my own parents.

I do know how to contact her and I have written her.  I don’t know how my letters were received – and I don’t know if the words I choose properly convey what I feel in my heart.  Sometimes I just feel – stupid – like I don’t know what to say or how to say it – or like I always somehow manage to say the wrong thing and totally screw things up.

Hopeless – sometimes.  Like I just can’t manage to get it right.

Now, I just send a simple, “happy birthday”, once a year.  Just to let her know that I am thinking about her – but hoping to not put any pressure on her.

If she ever chooses to know me, it will be in her time and on her terms.  I don't want her to feel responsible for the way I feel.  My pain is not her doing.  This pain was caused by those who chose to adopt me but then turned their backs on me at the moment I needed them most - and by my inability to figure out how to make things work without their help.

I want her to be happy.  I hope she knows that I love her and that I'm here for her should she ever want me.  I don't want her to feel pressured, or responsible.  I wish I knew how to convey that - but maybe it's better to just allow her space.

-

As the years passed after my first child was born and after finding my birth-mother, I married and had two children.  I later divorced, and found myself a single mother.

After having an endometrial ablation, and being in my 40s, I wasn’t thinking that I could even get pregnant again.  But then there I was.

I researched the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term after having an endometrial ablation and knew that it was possible, but also understood that there was a chance I would die in the process.  Also, my last pregnancy was high risk due to diabetes – so that, in addition to my age, and the condition of my uterus, created a risk to my life that I had to think long and hard about.

I had to ask myself: am I willing to die to bring a new life into this world?  Am I willing to leave my children to be orphans?  Am I done being a mother?

All of these things going through my mind that day outside of that abortion clinic as those picketers were yelling nasty things at me.

No.  You simply do not know my story.

I have chosen life and I have chosen death.

I have chosen sacrifice, and I have chosen self-preservation

I have chosen to be a mother and to protect my children – and yes – one I have chosen that one child never come to be, for the sake of the others.

But then, none of us should have ever been

Because I am Bastard.

***********************************************************

Re-reading this before posting and not altogether comfortable with everything I have written here.  I have allowed myself to dig deep into my emotions and explore my many “issues” in this writing.  Much of this has been painful, and I had allowed myself to regress a number of times in these posts and have brought myself to tears.  I am choosing to leave those parts “as is”, as they are representative of the emotions I have experienced – and portray the truth of my story.  I think it is therapeutic as well, to express such deeply intense emotions, rather than to suppress them.  Such emotions make us who we are and help form the people we become.

When discussing “trauma history” with a patient yesterday, she told me that losing her husband was a life shattering traumatic event for her.  I thought about this.

Losing a loved one is traumatic, though it is a trauma most of us will endure at least once, if not more frequently in our lifetimes.

I’ve heard it said that every relationship will ultimately end in one way or another.  This is a fact of life.  This is a pain we will all experience.  I don’t know that it makes it any easier to know we’re not alone in our journeys and our pains – but we’re not.

As for me – I am Bastard – the one who should have never been.  I am also mother, wife, and nurse.  I have saved lives, created lives, and held people’s hands as they have taken their last breadths.  I listen to the stories of those who have given up hope and who have lost the will to live.  I’ve heard stories of the pain endured by others that are incomprehensible to me.  I have gazed upon the face of death and survived to tell my story.  I am very well aware of the pain and unfathomable evil that exists in this world.

But then – you know – there are also angels who walk among us.

There is as much joy and love in this world as there is pain and evil.  Sometimes we just have to open our eyes and allow ourselves to experience it.

I consider my own pain as a lesson.  These have provided me with an education I could have never obtained in a classroom.  I hope that these lessons will serve to make me a better person.

-

...and a final thought on the topic of abortion:  I believe that we each should have the right to choose.  Each of us is faced with our own story that no one else can truly know.  Choosing to go to the abortion clinic that day was not an easy thing for me to do, but was something I felt I had to do given my situation.  I've married since then and my husband and I sometimes talk about what it would be like if that child  was here in our home today.  However, there was never going to be a child.  What I didn't know as I was walking into that clinic, but learned as we saw the ultra sound, was that I was already on my way to having a miscarriage.  My aging uterus is done.  A D&C and a tubal ligation later, and this is not a choice I'll be forced to make again.

As for those anti-choice protesters, I say: shut up and go help someone.  I mean - actually *HELP*SOMEONE*

-


***editing to add that my second born daughter has encouraged me to write & share this story.  I've struggled for years with 'how' to present it.  I hope I have done it justice here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pappa Was a Rolling Stone

He had long blonde curly hair, my eyes, and was travelling through Chicago in the winter of 1967-1968.

This, and my DNA, is all I had with which to begin my search.

Prior to DNA becoming “a thing”, nothing short of a chance encounter would put me in touch with my father.  I had always asked subtle questions of men I met, and especially of boyfriend’s fathers, to determine if any of them fit the profile I had of my father.  I had occasion to entertain the thought of going on a daytime television talk show to plead my case in hopes that my father would come forward.  Such a scenario never played out well in my mind – and usually ended with me being bombarded by a lot of creeps who are not my father.

It was the fall of 2013 when I saw a commercial on the television for Ancestry DNA.  After all of these years of wondering, it seemed it might finally be possible to get some answers.  The commercial – and the thought of the possibilities, left me covered in goose bumps.  I opened an Ancestry.com account in November of 2013 and began researching the various DNA testing companies and trying to understand how such testing might work.

(I’ve gone into detail about using DNA for search in other posts and so will refrain from doing so here.  I intend to present the story here, sans all the technical tutorial stuff.)

After research, I had decided to take my first DNA test with 23andMe.  It was a spit test, the kit including a test tube that I had to spit in and mail back to the company.  As I walked my package to the mail box one June 2014 Monday morning, it occurred to me that the day before, the day I spit in the tube, was Father’s Day.  I figured this was apropos, although wasn’t intentional.

When my results came back, I had a thousand genetic cousins, most very distant cousins.  The closest cousins were a 2nd cousin and three 3rd cousins – all of them anonymous.  Here was what I was able to see about these matches:



The fourth one on this list had four surnames posted (I grayed them out in the above picture, for privacy).  Those four surnames were my only clue for nearly ten months.

I had sent messages to each of those matches but had never received a reply.  I searched endlessly for an existing family tree that contained those four surnames, and for any connection between those names and any of my more distant DNA matches.

I then took the DNA test at Ancestry, and transferred those results to Family Tree, as well as uploading my DNA results to Gedmatch.  With those additional sites, I gained thousands more DNA relatives and had countless family trees to compare.  I spent hours upon hours comparing the family trees of my distant cousins, and rebuilding trees where information was lacking, in hopes of finding that spot where those trees intersect.

Because there’s a magic spot, you know.  There is a single point where all of the family trees of all of my thousands of genetic cousins intersect – and that single point is me.  It was like sitting here trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with millions of pieces, and not being able to find even two pieces that fit together.  I often was working on this puzzle before dawn and working until well past midnight.  I was researching and building family trees in my dreams.  This went on for nearly ten months.

Through this time, I frequently found myself looking at those anonymous top matches on 23andMe, knowing that if I could just get in touch with them…  any of them.  They held the key.  I began to accept that this was not in my power and I would have to solve my puzzle without their help.  But still…  there were those four surnames that haunted me.  This was a clue – I knew it was – and though I searched my mind over and over again, I couldn’t figure out how to use that clue.

I belong to a genetic genealogy forum and asked a lot of questions there and learned a great deal from the other members.  I had posted the screenshot of my top matches there and asked if anyone had any ideas – if maybe someone could see something in that clue that I was missing.

Kristen, the angel that she is, saw my post and took on the challenge.  In March of 2015 she had messaged me, having found a memorial posted on the Find-a-Grave website that had listed three of the four surnames that my anonymous 3rd cousin had listed.

I had emailed the owner of the Find-a-Grave memorial that Kristin had found and she had gotten me in touch with the father of my anonymous 3rd cousin on 23andMe.  It turns out that this cousin’s father had also taken the 23andMe test, and after several emails back and forth, both the father and the son agreed to share their DNA results with me so that we could compare our results with each other and see if we shared DNA with one another.

It turned out that yes, this was the father of my anonymous 3rd cousin, and while I share DNA with this cousin, I do not share DNA with his father.  This means that I must be related to this cousin on his mother’s side of his family tree.

This was the biggest breakthrough in my search – finding this 3rd cousin – because we know that one of his ancestors, within just a few generations, is also my ancestor.

The next step was to build his family tree.  The lady who had posted that Find-a-Grave memorial (who I now know is the wife of one of my second cousins and who I hope to meet in person this Spring as they are planning on attending a wedding in my town) had emailed some family history information she had collected – and with that, Kristin and I went to work building my cousin’s family tree.

People in the DNA discussion groups refer to this sort of a tree as a “Mirror Tree”, because it’s actually someone else’s tree.  Assuming that this cousin and I are third cousins, then one pair of his great-great-grandparents are also my great-great-grandparents.  Since we’ve already ruled out his father’s side, we know that it must be one of the great-great-grandparents on his mother’s side.  

We built the tree starting with my estimated 3rd cousin, and focused on building the branches on his mother’s side.  The goal here is to see which of those branches have ancestors who are also ancestors of my other DNA matches on Ancestry.com.  Unfortunately, some of those branches contained recent immigrants to the U.S., and could not be traced far enough back to capture hints from my more distant DNA matches.  The branches were too short to confirm any of them without having another close cousin match, which I simply didn’t have.

Oh!  If only I could figure out who those other anonymous 23andMe matches were!  But they listed no surnames, and left no hints whatsoever.

Since we had hit a dead end building the tree back, we shifted our focus and began searching for all of the descendants of those great-great-grandparents.  This part of the research became very time consuming.  Much of this research involved searching newspaper archives, especially obituaries, to find the names of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their spouses.

With a tree full of all of these descendants, we began looking specifically at the male descendants who would be around my father’s age.  We built family trees for each of them to see if I have DNA matches on any of their other branches.

After four months of two of us working full time on this puzzle, it seemed there still wasn’t enough information to solve it.  At this point, having most if not all of the cousins in this tree we built, surely one of them was my father – but which one? And how could I know?  We realized that we wouldn’t be able to get any closer to solving this puzzle without another close DNA match.

Exhausted and inpatient, I decided that rather than waiting for another match to randomly appear, I would purchase extra DNA tests from Ancestry and be pro-active and asking potential cousins to test.  In July of 2015, my cousin, Tom, (who is married to the owner of that Find-a-Grave memorial) agreed to take one of those DNA tests.

When his results came back, they enabled us to rule out another half of the family tree we had built and narrow my search down to just two branches – to two sets of potential Great-Great-Grandparents.  It would take another DNA test to confirm which of those ancestors are mine.



A month later, the next cousin took a DNA test and his results did confirm which branch of this tree I’m related on.  It was my birthday, in September 2015, when those results came back and I found my Great-Grandparents (though at the time, I was still assuming they were my Great-Great-Grandparents).

This couple had seven children, and so there are a lot of cousins and a number of male cousins that would be around my father’s age.  On one hand, the thought of narrowing this down to my father still seemed daunting – but on the other hand, the list of potential father’s had gone from virtually any Euro-American man in the U.S. born in the late 1940s, to just a handful of men.  So – this *can* be done.



We built out the family tree to include the full trees for each of the male cousins, in hopes that I might find matches on their other branches that would indicate that they were my father.  While researching the family tree, Kristen and I also searched sites such as Facebook, Classmates.com, BeenVerified, and LinkedIn to find photos of these cousins as well as anything that might link any of them to Chicago at the time I was conceived.  We didn’t find much to indicate that one cousin was more likely than the others.  We did find that one of the cousins seemed to fit the physical description (the blonde curly hair).  We also found that a couple of the cousins were deceased, and that one of them had a rather long and disturbing criminal history.  As a result of these searches, one of the cousins (I’ll call him “Joe” here, though that’s not his name), the one with the blonde curly hair, had noticed my visit to his profile on Classmates and had gotten in touch with me – this also occurred on my birthday, the same day I confirmed my Great-Grandparents.

I explained to Joe that I was a cousin and was searching for my father.  We exchanged several messages back and forth and I gave him more specifics of my search…  then his sister messaged me… then his younger brother (I’ll call him “Bob”) messaged me.

Bob is the youngest brother, 20 years younger than Joe, and is my age.  His age excludes him from the list of potential fathers, although he could potentially be my uncle.  We spoke on the phone and discussed the possibility.  As we talked, it seemed there was a high probability that Joe could be my father.

There was more discussion regarding who should take the DNA test.  Joe was willing, but his wife was against him doing it.  Bob, my potential uncle, agreed to be the one to take the test – and received Joe’s okay to do so prior to doing it.  That test went out in September of 2015.

I realized then that my search was done, I had found my father.  Next thing was just to wait for the results of that DNA test, which should show that Bob was my uncle, to confirm this.  A thought occurred to me at that time – I had thought that another random cousin would pop up among my DNA matches – that needed random cousin who’s results would solve my puzzle, but who I was too inpatient to wait for.  The results of that random cousin would prove that I never needed to purchase those extra tests and that the answers would have eventually come on their own, had I just been patient.

I can’t tell you the level of anxiety I was experiencing while waiting for the results of Bob’s test.  My friends and family, on the other hand, would probably tell you that I was a wreck.  I would try to tell myself to step away from my computer for a while, to just be patient – oh but I am not patient.  I found myself compulsively and repeatedly clicking refresh on my Ancestry DNA page, hoping to see that number of cousins go up by one.

During this time I received a rather nasty email from Joe’s wife.  This email served to remind me of how much drama can be caused by adoptees in search and how glad I am to have not have had to gone through this with each of the cousins in this tree.  This email also seemed to confirm that Joe was my father – because as much as she was insisting that he was not my father, the words she chose and the level of anger she expressed were indicative of a woman who believed that her husband actually is my father.

On September 24, 2015, I log in to Ancestry on my lunch break at work and see that the number of cousins I have jumped up by one.  I click on it to see who my new match was, to see if Bob’s results came in and if it shows up that he’s my uncle.

It wasn’t Bob though.  It was that other random cousin I had suspected might pop up.  I wasn’t surprised by this (I had expected it) and even before clicking on her name to view her family tree, I already knew what I was going to see…

I already knew that I’m related to Joe on one side of his tree (because of the other cousins who had already tested) but to confirm that he’s my father, there will be a close DNA match on the other side of his tree as well.  I knew - when I clicked to view the tree of this new match, that I would immediately see the surnames from the other side of Joe’s tree.

But that wasn’t what I saw.

Dunbar.  I saw the name Dunbar, and knew immediately (because of the hours spent researching the trees of my cousins) which cousin had Dunbar in his tree.  It was Ray, the one with the criminal record, and the one who passed away at about the same time I started this search.  When Kristin and I first viewed his criminal record I was nauseated at the thought that this man could potentially be my father.

“No. No. No. This is not good.  This is not good.”  I began saying there at my desk that day at work.  This simply cannot be possible.  There must be another explanation.  This cousin – she must somehow be related on my mother’s side – and the Dunbar ancestor in her tree must be a coincidence.

No. Joe’s my father, I’m certain.  This is a coincidence.  We’ll figure this out.

Kristen and I researched trees over the next several days to try to figure out how this new match ties into my mom’s tree.  Obviously – she *must* be related to my mother.  The Dunbar name *must* be a coincidence.

What’s happening?!?!

My mind racing.  I’m denying what I’m seeing.  Then, a few days later, I began to realize…  but is this even possible?  My mind still racing.  Racing.  And the thing was, strange as it sounds, he was there with me – I could feel it.  I’m not one who “sees dead people”, but I could feel it and it was overwhelming.  When I left work one day, I drove straight to see a psychic (which is not something I’ve done in over 25 years), sat down at her table, looked at her, and asked, “Who’s here with me?”

She told me there was a father figure standing beside me.

While I do believe that people can be psychic and have gifts, I am also skeptical and tend to suspect that people who make a living of such a thing are apt to be con artists.  I’m not going to say that “I know because a psychic told me so”.  What I am going to say is:  I felt overwhelmingly that he was there with me, but didn’t know how to validate this feeling.  I went to the psychic needing her to tell me one simple thing.  I sat down and asked one simple question.  Her response was exactly what I expected her to say – and it was exactly the validation I had gone there to receive.

Searching the web for any additional information I could find about this man, his facebook profile spoke to me as if from the grave:



In one way, it seemed he was actually speaking to me here.  In a much more rational way, I realized that when he authored these posts, he didn’t know that I existed.  He had written these for another child of his, which would indicate that I have a sibling out there.  Also, if he were trying to reach out to another child of his, maybe he would have accepted me too, had I found him before he died.

Once I got past the whole denial thing and accepted that this new cousin isn’t related on my mom’s side and that the Dunbar name (which was Ray’s mom’s maiden name) was not a coincidence, I called Bob and let him know that he probably wasn’t my uncle – and that when his results come in, we’ll most likely see that we are 2nd cousins.

Sure enough, Bob’s results came back on October 9, 2015, and we are 2nd cousins.  I wrote Joe and told him that he wins the best cousin award for being willing to be my father.  He replied and told me he would have been proud to be my father.

I made phone calls to California, where Ray last lived, and spoke to people who knew him.  I learned that he did have another daughter, who he had been estranged from, and who he had been trying to get in contact with before he died.  I learned that he died on his birthday of an overdose, that no family could be located, and that his ashes were scattered at sea.  I learned that he was an alcoholic and had been homeless on and off much of his life.  From other cousins, I learned about my grandparents, and learned about my father’s troubled youth.

I realized too, looking at my own Ancestry profile, that I had opened my Ancestry account exactly seven days after my father’s death.  He might have been standing here beside me that day I saw that television commercial, the one that had given me the goose bumps.

My father was a troubled man and had done some bad things in his life.  I know this.  Had I found him when I was younger (when he was younger) I’d likely not want to have anything to do with him.  He was trying to do better at the end of his though, and I’m sorry I couldn’t find him in time.  Maybe I would have been able to help him.

What I gained from this search was some insight and understanding – into where I come from as well as into what made him, him.

With this insight, I can look at myself and know that I’m doing alright.

I flew to California with my children on the first day of January of this year.  We went to the ocean and I said goodbye to my dad.



01/01/2016
I have closure.

Reunions

Searches often end happy but sometimes end on a sad note.  We go into this with hope, but should be prepared that everything doesn’t end in a Fairy Tale manner.  I’ve been involved in various adoption forums over the past couple of years and have heard many success stories and happy endings.  I think those stories give us hope.

In last night’s post, I shared excerpts of letters I had written when I was young and in search for my mother.  It was interesting for me to find those letters and read what I was thinking at the time.  I had a driving force in me that was pushing me to continue in my search, even when that search felt impossible.  I was compelled to drive on, and not give up, yet I stated that my goal was simply to “know”, and that if I could simply see a picture it would be enough.

As an adult, the driving force to find my father, over the past couple years, has again been simply to “know”.

Embarking on my late 40s now – and I have all of the branches on my family tree for the first time.  I have the branch from England, the branch from Ireland, Scotland, Austria, and the branch that came to this land on the Mayflower.  I drew out my family tree on a poster and stuck in on the wall here beside me.

After all of these years of being driven to know – this tree represents having accomplished that goal.  This impossible tree - that I started wondering about 40 years ago, and started actively searching for 30 years ago, marks the accomplishment of what I have spent my life trying to understand.

That’s it.

If all I have is this tree on this wall, I have accomplished what I had set out to do.

I now *know* what I had longed to know since I was a child.

This is good.



All else, any other relationships that form and grow in the process of this or as the result of all of this, is an added blessing.  Such blessings were not what I set out to find, although I am thankful for them.

My Sisters…  on the other hand:

My desire to know and have a relationship with my sisters is different from the drive I had to learn where I come from.  I’m not sure I can explain this well as I’m not sure I have a good understanding myself.  I will try.

I was raised an only child.  When I was young and my adopted parents were trying to adopt another daughter, they had prepared a bedroom for her.  This empty room, beside mine, was pretty and always tidy.  It waited, and I dreamed of the day my sister would come to live there.

The room remained empty.




When I learned in 1990 that I actually have a sister, my heart was full of hope and joy.  She was still a child though, and wasn’t as excited to learn of me as I was to learn of her.  I was told she didn’t handle the news of me well.

I waited eight years for her to come of age before calling her myself.  We spoke on the phone the one time, and she was polite.  In a letter she had written me more recently, she told me that she had only just learned of me the morning of that phone call and was not prepared for my call and that it was traumatizing for her.  She was angry with me for having done that to her.

Memory is a funny thing, and I wasn’t sure that was exactly how it happened – but in reading the old letters that I had posted last night, I see that I mentioned, six years prior to making that phone call, that my sister had been told about me and didn’t take the news well.  I’m sure that when I finally made that phone call, I believed that she already had six years to think about it.  It never occurred to me that she was never actually told until that morning.  The last thing I would have ever wanted to do was traumatize her.  In fact, I recall talking to my mom before calling my sister, and letting my mom know that I wanted to make that call, and making sure that it would be alright.  Maybe my mom didn’t want to admit to me that she had never actually told my sister.  Maybe she told my sister right then, just before I made that call.  I don’t know.




As years passed I tried to remain patient.  I friended my sister on MySpace, and later on Facebook.  Other than accepting my friend requests, there was no communication with her.  We had the opportunity to meet once when we were both in town in 2012, but she had declined.

Through all of these years I had always wondered if my father had any other children.  I always imagined I probably have other siblings out there somewhere, but no idea how I might find them.  When I tested my DNA a couple of years ago, I realized there was a chance I could actually find siblings, and I was excited and hopeful for such a possibility.

As my mind wondered of the possibility of finding siblings, it kept returning to the one sister I know of but had never met.  Another 16 years had passed since that one phone call and I felt that was a long time to patiently wait.  I decided to write her a letter, to tell her how I felt, and ask her why she has declined meeting me after all of these years.

Her reply was difficult to read.  She was quite clear that she does not want to have anything to do with me and asked me to not contact her again.

When you’re in search, you need to be prepared for such rejection.  We go in with hope for the best, but must also be prepared to experience hurt.

As my search for my father drew to an end, I learned that he was trying to get in touch with another daughter prior to his passing.  No one knows her name, though I have confirmed that he had another daughter, with whom he had not been in contact, and who he was trying to reach.

I have another sister.

I hope that the cosmos will align in such a way that she and I might find one another someday.  I wonder who she is and how she’s doing.  I wish I could know her and be in her life…  but I must be patient.  Maybe someday.




The desire to know my sisters is somehow different from the drive I had to find my roots.  Finding my roots, I think, was more about knowing myself and understanding where I come from and what makes me, me.  I was compelled by a driving force within me to find my roots, and I kept pushing on, even when the search seemed impossible.  That thirst, however, is quenched with a simple family tree hanging on my wall.

The desire to know my sisters – this is not about finding myself, this is about relationship.  This is about finding those sisters and sharing a certain bond.  This is the desire of my heart.

This is me being a little girl and walking past that empty bedroom every day, longing for the day that my sister lives there.

This not a puzzle I’m compelled to solve.  Stubbornly pushing on is not going to bring this dream to reality.

The videos I'm sharing in this post are not my story although there remains hope.

I can only wish and hope and wait – and make sure that I am findable when the time comes to be found.

-

I began writing this post this morning with the intention of addressing the perception that my story is a sad one.  I had intended to point out that though there are sad aspects of my story, it is overall a happy story.  However, in writing this morning, I have managed to bring myself to tears.

How can I write of success and happiness when I have tears running down my face?

The tears are okay.  This is a part of life.  I hope that in sharing them, I will help prepare others (other adoptees still in search) for their own tears.  Life is unpredictable and we don't know how these things will play out in the end.  We’re full of hope and when we hear the joyous success stories of adoptees’ reunions, our hearts long that such stories may be our own someday.  It is good to have such hopes and dreams.  It is also important to remain grounded and prepared; and remain aware that every one of us does not have such a fairy tale ending.

-

As for me, I’m alright.  I knew that parts of my story would be more difficult for me to tell than other parts.  This is why I decided to tell it in blog format.  Here, I can tell parts of my story, at my own pace in my own time.

I heard it said that when you can tell your story without crying, then you have been healed.  I can’t quite do that yet, and honestly don’t expect I will.  I am one who is prone to tears – it’s just who I am.

What is not evident in this writing thus far is that I am also one who is prone to laughter.  There is great joy and awe in this world.  My life is full of love and I am not alone here.  Perhaps if it weren’t for the tears I shed, I wouldn’t appreciate the joy as much as I do.

I wouldn’t be writing at all if I weren’t emotionally prepared to revisit my tears.

I’m sending love & support to all y’all who are still in search.

-


Dear Sister,

Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, or what you will do, I love you.  I long to know you.  I vow to be there for you.  I’ve longed to know you my entire life.  I don’t want or need anything from you; I only wish to know you.

Oh how I long to see your face, hear your voice, and learn of your deepest thoughts.  I long to hear your troubles and your joys.  I long to hear your laugh.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I am sending my love out to you and I hope that somewhere deep inside you can feel it.  There is quite literally a piece of me that lives in you, and a piece of you that lives in me.  In this we are bonded, regardless of what the fates bring.

You are my sister and I love you.

Nothing can change that.

I am here.  When you're ready.



-Kim

Monday, March 14, 2016

Finding Mother (back in the days before Google and before DNA testing)

I don’t know why some adoptees search and some don’t.  I believe part of the reason I searched is because I never believed I fit in, and I just wanted to understand.  Another reason is simply that it’s always been my nature to search for answers to things and try to understand mysteries.

Or maybe those two things are tied together.  I remember being young and wondering about the meaning of life and why we’re here.  I suppose that understanding where I come from has a lot to do with understanding why I’m here.

On the other hand, I’m sure that feeling like a misfit was a huge reason as well.  I was not raised in a good adopted home and wasn’t nurtured.  I was constantly reminded of all the things that were wrong with me.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about all of that.  I know of a lot of others who have had similar experiences and I know I’m not alone there.

It was while my adopted parents were trying to adopt another child that I had learned I was adopted.  I imagine the social workers probably advised them that they should tell me.  I didn’t take it hard.  I was interested.  It sort of made sense actually, as I was already well aware that I didn’t fit.  I began wondering about whom my birth-parents were and fantasizing scenarios in my head of them.  One fantasy had Elvis as my father and Lisa Marie as my sister.  I always wanted a sister, and really wished my adopted parents would have been approved to adopt another child.  We had a bedroom prepared for a new sister – but she never came.

I became pregnant when I was young and my adopted parents pressured me to give my child up for adoption.  This story still breaks my heart and I have difficulty telling it without tears.  I will tell it.  But not now.

In my pregnancy, the desire to find my own mother had felt urgent.  On one of my phone calls to an adoption search group, a lady had told me about a specific legal form associated with adoptions, which would include my mother’s name, and was not sealed with the rest of the adoption record.  She explained that the only people who had the right to access this form would be my birth-mother and my adopted parents.  My adopted mother did, at this time, agree to sign the request for this form.  She had always gotten angry any time I mentioned my birth-mother, but considering what she was pushing me to do, I didn’t hesitate to insist that she sign the form.

I had also found the name of the doctor that had delivered me.  He was still in practice, and so I made an appointment at his office.  When I went in, I explained that I was not there for an exam, but had questions.  He was quite nice, and in fact, did remember my birth-mother.  He described her as a young woman who did not talk much (to him, anyway).  He said that her mother had come with her to appointments, and that her mother generally did all of the talking.

I learned too, that my adoption was not handled by Catholic Charities, as I had been told.  My adoption paperwork was completed by a hired lawyer.  I was able to contact that lawyer on the phone.  He never told me who had hired him – my adopted parents or my grandmother – but said he was doing a favor for a friend.  He said that this was the only adoption he had ever done in his career and that it was against his better judgment.  He said, “I always knew this thing would come back and bite me in the ass one day.”  He sounded angry that I had contacted him, and was not willing to help or provide any information.

When the requested document arrived from the court, it did contain my mother’s name.  It is, however, a rather common name, one that would be difficult to find.  I opened the Chicago phone book and found many pages of people with the same surname.  I typed up a letter, made copies, and began sending it to everyone in that phone book.  I only received a few replies, people telling me that they were sorry they would not be able to help, and wishing me luck in my search.

I visited colleges and looked through yearbooks, as I had learned that mom was a college student when I was born.  I found one picture, with a name close to hers, that I had copied and kept in my wallet for a couple more years.  I had thought it was her.

I wrote the newspaper too, and had an article published.

No luck though.

I was defeated.  For the time being.

I found her a couple of years later.

I had saved copies of correspondence between my daughter’s adopted family and myself.  I didn’t realize until I was reading through those letters recently that I had written so much detail about my search for my birth-mother.  It’s interesting what a funny thing memory is and how our memories change over time.  Some of this history had been slightly re-written in my memory – so it was interesting for me to read exactly what my younger self was writing at the time.

Rather than telling you about that search from my middle-aged memory, I’ll share excerpts from those letters with you:

June 6, 1988

I’m going to continue the search for my birthmother.  Please pray for me that I will stay honest in my search and that it will be successful.  I can’t help but wonder if my birthmother held me, if she loved me, if she thinks about me on my birthdays.  I can make a lot of assumptions, but I’ll never really know until I hear it from her.

June 8, 1988

Anyway, my main reason for writing today is because I heard from Cook County Supportive Services about my birthparents.  My birthmother was born in 1948 in Cook County, she lived in the South Chicago area.  She was English, Episcopalian.  She had one brother one year younger than her and one sister four years younger.  I was her first baby.  She attended the U of I and planned to return after my birth.  She wanted to be a nurse.  Her interests were: drawing, reading, sewing, and she taught Sunday school.  She knew I was going to a Catholic home, and she approved.  Her whole family knew about me and supported her in her choice.  She was 5’8”, 130 pounds, had brown hair, brown eyes, and fair skin.  She had pneumonia once as a baby and again at 11 years old, otherwise she was healthy.  Her entire family had a history of good health.

My birth-father was two years older than her.  He was English, Protestant.  Born in Cook County also.  He was 5’11”, 175 pounds, with blue eyes, black hair, and medium skin.  He wore glasses because he had myopia.  He had one brother and two sisters.  He was in the service before I was born, but was in his 3rd year of college studying engineering when I was born.  One of his parents had diabetes, other than that he and his family had a history of good health.

My birth parents stayed together throughout the pregnancy.  They decided on adoption together because they knew it would be best for me.  This leads me to believe they loved me.  I wish I could meet them.

I’m going to the U of I today to search through some old year books.  If I find any pictures, I’ll photocopy them and send you a copy.  I really hope that at the very least I will be able to see a picture.  I’ll write more later when I get home.

June 9, 1988

I found one picture, but I can’t be sure if it’s her or not.  The eye and hair color does match, and I do resemble her in the eyes, nose, mouth, and cheekbones.  That’s all that fits though.  My adoption decree says her name is _____L., the year book picture is of a _____L. (same last name).  also, this is from a 1975 yearbook, that would mean she graduated at 27.  Maybe it is her, I don’t know, you compare.   I think maybe this could be a picture of her younger sister though, but would a mom name her first girl _____L. and her second girl _____L.?  Maybe… maybe… maybe… maybe not.
(present day me adds here that I carried that yearbook picture around with me for two years and eventually learned it was not my mother.)
I keep on going back and forth, maybe I’ll never know.  Why can’t things be simple?  Oh well!  Kim (a friend also named Kim, not myself in the third person) seen a picture of a lady she works with on the next page, she’s going to ask her if she knew _____L.  I’m not going to give up until I talk to everyone in the world with the same last name, everyone who attended the U of I between ’66 and ’76, every man in engineering, every Episcopalian church, all the _____who were born in 1948, all the nurses, all the school teachers, everyone with an older sister named _____, and anyone else I can think of.  I’ll take out personal ads in every paper around the world and run them until I hear the last trump sound, I’ll put billboards up and down every highway reading, “_____ please call Kim who was born on __/__/68 at South Chicago Hospital at (my phone number)”.  I’ll wear a sign on my back, and put bumper stickers on my car.  Well, maybe I won’t do all those things, but I wish I could.

March 14, 1990

I was a basket case one morning when I came home from work!  I was crying thinking about both (my daughter) & my birth-mother, _____.  I started writing letters to both of them, then calling people out of the phone book looking for _____.  Finally I placed personal ads in both of Chicago’s papers looking for _____.  Guess what?  She called me three days later!  It was wild!  Our voices sound exactly alike and we have the same expressions.  We stand and sit alike too.  We don’t look too much like each other in the face, but there is somewhat of a resemblance.

Jose was at my house the day she called, so he drove me up to see her.  It was funny because every couple of minutes we would stop talking and just stare at each other.  Maybe Jose thought we were nuts.  I look more like _____’s brother.  My little sister is 10 years old, but I haven’t met her yet.  _____’s mother doesn’t want to meet me, her father is dead.  There’s a long story regarding my birth-father making it next to impossible for me to find him, I’ll share it with you one day.  Anyway – I’m happy to have met _____, as for the rest of her family, I’ll have more patience now.

Present day me adds:  In the above letter, I wrote, “There’s a long story regarding my birth-father making it next to impossible for me to find him, I’ll share it with you one day.”  When I first met my mother, I had asked her about my father, in hopes that I would be able to meet him as well.  She explained to me that the information given to Social Services about my birth-father was not actually my birth-father.  She had provided information about her boyfriend – though he was not my father.  My father was someone she had met at a party, who was out of town, and whose name she didn’t remember.  She had never seen him again, and he would have no way of every knowing that I exist.

April 26, 1990

When I met my birth-mother, it was pretty wild.  Jose brought me up there to meet her.  It was funny because every couple minutes we (_____and I) would stop talking and just stare at each other, I know Jose thought we were nuts.  We were just trying to see if we looked like each other.  We don’t look too much like each other in the face, but we have the same build.  We stand alike, sit alike, and walk alike.  We have the same voice too, as she excitedly pointed out when she first answered my ad, “I can’t believe it!  You sound like a tape-recording of me!”  and I’m saying, “what? Huh?  Tape recording? Who is this? What recording?”  

So she said, “It’s me! It’s me! Your mother!”  Then I understood.

Our personalities are pretty similar too, we have a lot of the same interests, and same bad habits too.  We don’t see each other too often because our hectic schedules just don’t permit.  Still though, I have peace of mind just (finally) knowing.

I never expected a lot, I just wanted to “know”.  I’m sending you this picture of her, it’s the only one I have now, but I’ll get another later.  You can see how she’s standing, everyone says that’s exactly how I stand….

March 15, 1992

…_____and I usually get together for dinner around birthdays and holidays.  Danny, my boyfriend, joined us for her birthday this past January.  We don’t look a lot like each other, but he couldn’t get over how much we talk and act like each other.  It’s uncanny.  I still haven’t met my sister, _____, 13.  She was pretty upset when she heard about me.  I know she’s going through a pretty tough time of life, I remember 13 well.  I’m sure she’ll feel like meeting me when she’s older…

Present day…

A lot has happened since writing those letters and it has been many years since I moved out of state, and many years since I’ve been estranged from my adopted family.

I took a trip back to Chicago with my kids in 2012 and they met my birth-mom then.  It was a nice visit and we had an enjoyable time together.  My mom had invited her mom and her other daughter to meet us for dinner, but they had both declined the invitation.  My grandmother has since passed away, so will never meet her.

It was November 2013 when I saw a commercial on the television for Ancestry DNA and it left me covered in goose bumps.  I hadn’t realized that DNA had finally come far enough along that it could actually help me learn where I come from!  Or more – maybe find my father!  This was something I’d never dreamed would be possible in my lifetime, and there it was – being advertised on T.V.

It was March of 1990 when I wrote, “There’s a long story regarding my birth-father making it next to impossible for me to find him, I’ll share it with you one day.”  That’s nearly 23 years from the time I accepted that finding my father would be impossible, to the time I realized that it just may be possible, and the answers may be in my DNA!

I began to research on line and learned that there were several companies offering DNA testing.  The price seemed high to me, and I wanted to make sure I was spending my money wisely, so continued to research and learn about these companies.

I guess it was early June 2014 when I placed an order for a DNA test at 23andMe.  The web site said to allow six to eight weeks for processing, so I expected my results to be back in time for my birthday in September, and considered this as a birthday present to myself.  I remember the day I spit in the test tube, because after I spit, it occurred to me that it was Father’s Day, and there couldn’t be a more appropriate day in the year to take a DNA test.  That was June 15, 2014.  The test was put in the mail the next morning, and I received an email from 23andMe on June 24, 2014 announcing that my initial report was ready.  Wow!  That was much faster than the six to eight weeks I had anticipated!

I took the Ancestry DNA test shortly after that.

I also sent away for my original birth certificate, as the laws had just changed and I was finally allowed to have a copy of it.

Imagine that!  In my mid-forties and being allowed to see my birth-certificate for the first time!

It was the end of July 2014 when I decided I should write a letter to my sister.

I was thinking about all this DNA testing stuff, and how I was hoping to find siblings out there – and this had me thinking more and more about the sister I already know about whom I had never met.

She responded promptly and made it very clear that she wants nothing to do with me.  I think I was accusatory and harsh in the letter I had written her.  I shouldn’t have been.  Maybe she would have received me better if I had worded my letter differently. Or maybe it wouldn’t matter what I said.  I know that she is an educated adult who works in the field of helping people – so I wrote what I wrote thinking she would be able to handle the things I said.  I was mistaken.

I’m angry at her now and believe she is heartless, but when it happened, I was heartbroken and cried for two days.

I know she doesn't want to be a part of my story - but this is my story and this is a part of my story.  She and I do share 25% of our DNA even if neither one of us chose that.  It is that portion of her, the part that also exists in me, that I am including in this story of mine.  I’ll leave the other 75% of her out of it.

The last time I spoke to my mother was just after my initial DNA results came in.  I was pleased with my health report and called to thank her for the awesome DNA.  I explained a bit about the DNA testing to her, and about how I had some cousin matches.  I also asked some questions to verify some of the genealogy work I had done on her side of my tree.  I did not mention that I hoped to find my birth father and hopefully find other siblings – I didn’t feel comfortable broaching that subject with her.

That phone call was before I had attempted to contact my sister.  Since my mother and I usually only talked a few times a year, it wasn’t strange, initially, that I didn’t hear from her.  But then my birthday passed, and Christmas…  and then a whole year passed… and I began wondering why I haven’t heard from her.  Part of me wondered if I hadn’t heard from her because she was troubled by my DNA testing.  Another part wondered if it was because her other daughter made a big stink.

I never called to ask, because, you know, rejection is a hard pill to swallow.

From June of 2014 to March of 2015 I had learned everything I could about genetic genealogy and spent countless hours applying what I learned to my own results.  If you’ve been in search, then you may know how frustrating endless hours of triangulation, spreadsheets, poster-boards, and mirror tree building can be.  If you’ve not been in search – it should suffice to say I often thought my head would simply explode.

It was in March of 2015 when an angel showed up having found something that would take my entire search in a new direction.  I’ll write about that on another day.