My early life and adoption have been referenced a few times in this blog. In some instances, the entries are consciously cryptic. While still keeping some aspects shrouded, let me fill in a few details since my recent trip to Illinois led to a reunion with one of my “brothers.”
About five years ago I decided to learn more about my birth and adoption. My parents had made sure I knew I was adopted from my earliest years but I didn’t know anything about my birth or the circumstances that led to my being given up. I never had much interest in filling in those blanks until five years ago. While my parents were alive, I would never have wanted to hurt them by leaving an impression that their love was not enough. Yet, they passed away more than 35 years ago for my father and 40 years ago for my mother.
I truly don’t know why it became a fixation but the sense of abandonment and the need to fill in my story grew steadily over the past decade. Fortunately, Illinois had changed its laws to allow adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate. The idea of an “original” birth certificate in itself was disquieting. While I was adopted immediately after my birth and had a birth certificate that I carried all my life, I had an “original” birth certificate, the “true” certificate of birth that had been locked away.
When I received it in the mail, I was shocked. We all have tales we tell ourselves about our early lives whether we are adopted or not. I had one about my teenage birth mother. Instead, I not only saw her name for the first time but learned that she was 38 years old and that she already had three children. I also learned that I had been given a different name at birth (at least for the hours before my adoption was finalized). Why was I given up? Rationally, you know that it has nothing to do with you. It had to be life circumstances since this was a decision that was made before I entered the world. But why?
I used all of my internet sleuthing skills to no avail. One day searching YouTube for tips on how to undertake such research, I came upon clips from an Oprah segment. Yes – the Oprah show came to my rescue. An investigator that specialized in adoption searches having been adopted herself was profiled along with some touching reunions that she enabled. With a great deal of trepidation, I reached out and contracted with her. Within a few weeks, I had a packet of information on my birth mother, my siblings (I still don’t know what words to use so I waver whenever I land on any term. What does it mean to be a sibling? A brother? A mother?) and my birthplace.
Are you ready? My mother was still alive, lucid and healthy. I reached out to her eldest son and left him in a state of shock. A few months later, I heard back. He had talked to his mother. She was glad I had a good life but didn’t want to reopen this chapter of her life. It had been hidden for so long and it upset her to have it come to light. None of her children or grandchildren knew of my birth. In case she ever had nagging concerns, one of my aspirations had always been to let my birth mother know that I was adopted by a loving family and had a good life. I succeeded on that front by relaying a message through her son.
While I’ve never spoken with her, I did meet her sons for breakfast on the first leg of this ramble. We were all unsteady and tentative at times but the short conversation filled in a few new details on my birth family and there was comfort from simply sitting together. I’m not sure whether we’ll ever see each other again but I’m glad I had that opportunity. Most of this saga needs to remain private to respect that family’s privacy BUT . . .
A few months later, a big surprise. Another child was placed for adoption two years before me. Hence the decision to return to Illinois only a few miles from my original hometown of Beardstown despite my earlier visit in December. Last week, Linda and I stayed with my “new brother” and spent several days talking with Larry and his wife and meeting some of his children and grandchildren. More on that in my next blog entry.