The discovery of my new family.

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A cloudy November day.

I was adopted long ago when I was 3 months old. At the time in Michigan, the adoption process is conducted with secrecy comparable to the Manhattan Project. I suspect the FBI might be able to crack the secrecy but I don’t think anything less would have done the job.  But now DNA testing is run-of-the-mill. I pop one off in early November, mainly to try to find any genetic markers for diseases since I don’t know my biological family.

November 29th I get a hit on my 23 and Me  DNA test. I discovered a cousin who I sent a generic message to. Almost instantly I get a message back. My biological family has been looking for me for decades. My mother is terminal and wants desperately to see her lost son before she dies. The revelation is a bit of a shock.  Friday 30th I am on my way out on a flight to South Bend, Indiana with a layover in Minneapolis.

A note here. Many decades ago I got a call from my adopted father’s new wife’s daughter indicating he was in the hospital. (I’d never met stepmom or stepsister.) I’ll get out there in a few days and wish him well. No real indication of emergency but I suppose I may have missed it. We “Aspies” aren’t good at picking up subtle clues.

A couple of days later I get a call from my father’s neighbor indicating I had best get out there immediately as “It wasn’t looking good.”  So I hop a plane out there as quickly as I could but before I get there he’s had a stroke and died. I was touchy about that for a long time. So when I hear this about my undiscovered biological mother, I’m on the plane the very next day.

Won’t bother you with the later detestable behavior of my step sister except to say it was detestable.

 

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Deer scrapings

I meet a cousin. Then two sisters and four brothers. Then more cousins and nieces and nephews than I can count. Mom is in the hospital, coherent maybe ten minutes a few times a day. Two days after I arrive she is transferred to hospice. Her kidneys have failed, dialysis sends her into AFib so that is a no-go. Her BP is 37/22. I didn’t think you could be alive with BP like this, let alone intermittently coherent. One day later she is dead.

The hospice was located in a rural area on the outskirts of Elkhart Indiana. I took a walk alone thru the surrounding forest area wearing her old jacket since I’d never been able to walk with her. It smelled of a brother’s cigarettes, one of my siblings who had taken care of her before she entered the hospital.

There was snow on the ground. I knew that all the barren trees and shrubs were still alive but winter cannot help but remind one of mortality and death. I note where the deer have been scraping the snow for greens hidden beneath. A flock of noisy geese flies overhead on the migration south. Something is living in a man-made pile of construction debris and soil. Somehow, it reassures me.

 

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Geese en route to warmer climes

 

It took me an hour but I pretty much got my head sorted out. Then it was off to the funeral home with her body and setting up for funeral arrangements. I have to return on Saturday but the funeral won’t be until the Thursday after that. I didn’t have a chance to visit my adoptive family in Michigan but I did have the chance to spend the next couple of days with my biological family in Indiana.

I’m back home now, somewhat alone, as is my preferred state. My wife offers me support but I don’t need any. I am slowly digesting what I’ve learned. A family history that stretches back to George Soule on the Mayflower and very distant relatives that include Oliver Hazard Perry, Commodore Matthew Perry, Dick Van Dyke, and Richard Gere. But none of the fame or the affluence seems to have trickled through to my more immediate relatives who are even poorer than my adoptive ones were.

 

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Somebody is living in here.

My father was a truck driver almost twice her age who took advantage of her. She was 18 or 19 when I was born and not not the sharpest tool in the shed. He was in his mid-30s. He also later had three “illegitimate” children by her sister and four earlier by a previous wife who had died. “Dad” insisted that I wasn’t his son. He would take my mother on long trips with him because he didn’t want to not have readily available sex. Somehow I got picked up by Children’s Protective Services as an “abandoned” child when the aunt – whose care I was left in – herself went into labor.  “Dad” refused to assist Mom in reclaiming her lost baby so I went into the adoption system, not to be seen again for 62 years.

I was born at home because they couldn’t afford a hospital and then adopted at 3 months without ever consulting my mother. (Explains why I’m not circumcised. Hospital births at the time were invariably circumcised. This led to some nasty teasing in the locker room.)  I suppose I could do Ancestry DNA and confirm what I believe to be the truth but I suspect “Dad” was just a lazy lying bastard who didn’t want kids yet.

A few years later he died of lung cancer from a massive smoking habit. No insurance of course. CPS was now looking to take away the rest of her children so they fled the state.

I would have been the eldest son. Much of my childhood would have been in a dirt-floor shack in a Kentucky hollow where I and my siblings would have gone hungry and the only meat we’d see was what we killed. My mother had the mind of a fifth-grader without the education. Everyone left home the instant they could for whatever work they could find anywhere they could.

They are good people.  Not racists. Not sexists. They are making life work with a lot less than most of us take for granted. Most of the time they are happy despite the hard times and despite horrific childhoods. They do what they have to do to survive.

Fast forward a few decades. The family is still comparatively poor. (At least they don’t live in a dirt floor cabin. Housing in the midwest is comparatively cheap.) Most have jobs but a couple of brothers are in bad shape, unable to hold down a job. One sister and her wife (You heard it right. Wife.) are adopting a little girl. Both have regular work in Elkhart. (There is a worker shortage in Elkhart and South Bend now for assembling RVs but two of my brothers are psychologically incapable of holding a steady job.) I stayed with them most of the time. The little girl is the apple of my eye and the most adorable and lovable thing I have ever seen. (Except my own kids.) We played with dollies and ponies several times during my stay.

Seems this little girl had been molested by her father at a very young age. It was only caught because she’d mentioned it to another family member. CPS took custody of her and her brother, dad ran and went into hiding in Detroit and her mother didn’t care. My sister-in-law was the child’s grandmother and she and my sister offered to adopt. I am going to do whatever I can to get her a good education and any therapy she needs. My resources are limited too.

Things run in my family. A lot of my relatives had COPD that shouldn’t have. There’s a lot of osteoporosis and diabetes. I think I have dodged the bullet on the last three but who knows what will show up in my waning years. Osteoarthritis, attention disorders, vertigo, and Asperger’s are there in full measure. There is a lot of depression too but that could easily be environmental.

Interestingly, the guys in my family seemed to like not wearing any clothes when they were young. This apple did not fall far from that tree and instead of blowing it off, I had nurtured it. For much of my life, I had a lot more freedom to be me. 😀

I have one nephew suffering from PTSD from Iraq. One time there was a loud bang and he threw himself over his wife and covered her. He is 6’4″ and 250 lb. She is about 5 feet tall and maybe a little over a hundred pounds.  She walked away with bruised ribs. He got her interested in clothing-optional living and the two of them cornered me and quizzed me about nudist opportunities in Indiana.

The family reunion is on the first weekend of August in a campground and I hope to bring wife and children. For now, I have to send flowers to the funeral. I guess she loved roses.

9 Comments

  1. BiblioNyan

    Wow… it sounds like you learned quite a bit about your history. I feel like that would be very overwhelming to an extent depending on the person. How do you feel now after meeting everyone? Did things go better or worse than you expected them to?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fred

      To the extent I had expectations, things went as I expected. I was welcomed into the family. I felt uncomfortable in large groups with lots of chaos and noise but one-on-one I was perfectly fine. I think I managed to get a throat infection from someone.

      There was this little bit about “Dad” claiming I wasn’t his. I could pursue that. Imagine if I found out I had yet another family lurking somewhere.

      I was struck by that old familiar feeling of being an alien. Of standing apart and watching the whole thing from a great distance. It is a feeling that has defined my entire life. It was intermittent but it was there.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. BiblioNyan

        I’m glad that it wasn’t a terrible experience. I imagine I’d be very uncomfortable in large groups as well. I feel like with all of the different ways a meeting like this could have gone, this wasn’t bad. I wish you the best with the upcoming reunion.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Fred

      Some people think I am cold and emotionless.

      I’m the guy who comes across a major traffic accident and quietly stands there, thinking my way thru to a course of action while everyone else runs around emoting. (The trait has come in useful a couple of times but mostly just keeps people away.) Afterward, I will describe the situation as though I were a Martian watching it thru a telescope. Doesn’t mean I don’t care, it is just how my mind works.

      My tears don’t start to come out until later.

      Liked by 3 people

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