When I started this blog about a month ago, I hinted at some things that caused me to begin my search for biological family members. It’s a question I get often “Why did you begin your search at age 53, instead of when you were younger?”
It’s an understandable question. So I will try to explain it from my heart…because that is where the decision came from.
You see, for a little over 50 years, I was fortunate enough to have this amazing, loving, caring Momma who I loved so much. And more importantly, she loved me and I knew that because she always made it a point to tell me, and most of all, to show me. At six years old, on a trip to Tampa, FL, I learned I was adopted. My parents, and my newly adopted brother, along with my Mamaw, and my 7-year old cousin had gone to visit an older cousin on my father’s side of the family (the sister of my 7-year old cousin). That 7-year-old cousin and I were playing on the beach a few days after we arrived in Florida. He told me he had “a secret”. Several times. Finally, I begged him to tell me what it was. And just like that, I learned that I was adopted. Since I didn’t know this, I ran back to my parents and asked if what he said was true? My father was angry and walked away…leaving my Momma to do the explaining and smoothing over (this was definitely a pattern over the years…Momma handled the hard stuff, the touchy stuff, and the stuff that might make someone hurt or angry…you know, the “unpleasantries”).
Momma sat me down and hugged me tight and told me this was true. I was confused because we had just recently adopted my new baby brother and everyone seemed privy to that information and it was not a “secret”. So I questioned why they hadn’t told me already. She said they were just waiting for the right time…But went on to tell me that I should never feel bad about being adopted because, as she explained it, adopted kids are wanted and chosen by their families to be a part of it, so I should feel extra “special” that I was adopted. That made sense. And I was only six years old, so I went back to play on the beach and didn’t think much more about it at the time. However, when we returned to Indiana…things were very different. My father was so angry with my Aunt (his sister…the mother of my cousin who told me the secret) that he stopped speaking to her and continued to not speak to here for the next 46 years! I never really understood exactly what happened and my father would not tell. But I am sure it broke my sweet Mamaw’s heart…She wound up dying at only 63 years of age in 1971. I was 9 years old. A piece of my heart died then too. Losing her was surreal…It took quite a while for that to soak in. She lived next door and we spent lots of time together. She was nothing less than a saint, I am sure of it!
Fast forward to my pre-teen years, and a day when Momma and I were looking for something in her ceder chest. I came accross her Marriage License to my father, along with many other keepsakes. As we got closer to the bottom of that chest, I found what appeared to be another Marriage License to my father dated earlier than the one before. I asked her about why there were two? And she told me that her and my father were too young when they first got married and so they had split up, but later decided to get back together. Again, being a pre-teen and my Momma making absolutely NO big deal of it, I just kind of shrugged it off and didn’t really think much more about it. At least not for many years.
All right, now to the winter of 2014. By this time, my parents had aged significantly…both of them having some serious health problems, including both of them battling different kinds of cancer. Momma also had MS and had a mini-stroke and was no longer able to drive, and my father was not feeling well and was having some concerning symptoms, but he was beyond stubborn about going to the doctor, so the symptoms went on for at least 2-4 months. Brad and I finally talked him into going to the ER to get checked out. My family and I had lived next door to my parents for the past 14 years, so we pretty much saw them daily.
My father wound up being admitted that day and having a surgery the next day to do some repairs almost immediately. With his diabetes, healing was not happening nearly as quickly as he would have liked. He was becoming restless and very adamant about being released from the hospital. His doctor told him he would only release him to a rehabilitation facility where they could do wound care and physical therapy to help him regain strength. He chose one a few minutes north of where he and Momma lived and he signed himself in. The staff there were very kind and treated him very well from any interactions we saw and we saw a lot because it was close enough that visiting was really easy. And we did so often.
However, within a few short weeks, he again grew impatient and was being very demanding and aggressive with the staff. He wanted to go home. This was understandable; however, he still had a large open wound and was still very weak…he could barely transfer from the bed to a bedside chair or toilet. And since Momma weighed about a hundred pounds soaking wet and was not in great health herself, she was scared to death to bring him home and not be able to care for him properly or for him to fall and be injured further, which was certainly understandable. While he had been hospitalized and in rehab, she had stayed with us some and then my youngest brother and his kids had stayed with her at her house part of the time.
I did understand what my father was saying about not having any idea when he would be released and feeling “stuck” there at the facility he was in. I asked him if it would be allright to call a Case Conference and ask for a plan including some goals with completion dates, thinking that might help him feel better and keep him on track with making progress on goals to get out and be able to return home. He agreed that this was a really good idea. (Oh just a little detail…he had made Brad and me the first people to contact from the facility if they needed to share information, get permission, etc…so we were privy to all of his info, per his wishes). So I contacted the Director of Nursing to set up the Conference. In the meantime, I also talked to a colleague of mine who happens to be a licensed Social Worker and he suggested talking with a facility in Evansville (same city as previous hospital) called Health South…They are an aggressive rehabilitation facility. Their goal is to get patients back to as much independence as possible and back to their own homes! Long-term care is not offered there, like it was in the facility he was currently in. So I made a call and talked to one of their admissions people and they felt my father was a perfect candidate and felt that getting him admitted would be absolutely no problem, with his physician, Medicare and his other health insurance. I just kept this under my hat, thinking that if the Case Conference didn’t yield some definitive answers and timelines, this might be an option to throw out.
So the day we were supposed to have the Case Conference, I got a call from the Director of Nursing where my father was, saying that he had cancelled the meeting. I asked if she could tell me why and she said she was sorry, but she couldn’t. I told her I didn’t understand. She said that my father had removed me and my husband from his contact list and they couldn’t share any more information about him with us.
So later that day, I got a frantic call from my Momma. She said that my father had called her and my younger brother on their way to pick his kids up from school and that he had told them to come and pick him up…He said he was getting of there and going home! Momma was beside herself and said she didn’t think she could take care of him. I told her not to worry that the facility was surely getting home health lined up to come in and help with his care.
A little later I got a call from my younger brother saying that our father was now at home with Momma and that he was very worried. He told me that our father was irate with the facility staff and was cussing and being very aggressive. He said he got him in the car and started home….He said he was driving and our father was in the front passenger seat. My Momma and his elementary school aged son were in the backseat. He said the ride home was beyond tense. And quiet. He said he finally said something like “Well, dad, I bet you are glad to be going home.” At which point he said our father started trying to punch him while he was driving?! He said Momma was crying and shaking and that his son was screaming and crying. My younger brother said he stopped the car and told my father he could get out if he was going to be abusive. So reportedly he stopped and they made it back to their home. He said as soon as our father made it in the house to his recliner, he told my brother and his son to “Get the Hell out of my house and don’t ever come back!” So my brother and his son WALKED back to their house about a 1/2 mile away. And he called me to give me an update.
As soon as Brad and I got home from work, we stopped by my parents to check on them. We were especially worried about Momma because we knew she was a nervous wreck. We were completely ignored by my father, and Momma was obviously shaken. We had been helping her with her medications for a few months and she asked for an extra “nerve pill”…which was actually an anti-anxiety medication. We told her to call us if she needed anything and she promised to. The following Sunday, I called Momma to see if she wanted to come down so I could wash and style her hair and fill her weekly medicine tray (this had kind of become a habit) and she said she did. I saw her walking across the yard and she stopped at the bottom of the steps. I told her to come in and she said “I can’t.” I asked her what she meant? She said “Your father said I couldn’t come in to your house anymore.” I asked if she was kidding and she looked away and said “No….I am sorry.” She went on to say that he told her he would be watching out of his bedroom window to see if she came in to our house. I told her I couldn’t believe it?! She said she couldn’t either, but that my father said I could come up to their house and do her hair and fill up her medicine trays. I told her okay…I could do that for her, but I would have to gather up all of my stuff. So she walked back to her house and I gathered up what I needed and asked Brad to go with me. We went in and Brad sat in the living room with my father. He did actually barely speak to Brad, but put his nose up in the air to me and looked the other way.
I washed Momma’s hair at the kitchen sink. After I dried, curled and styled it for her, and filled her medicine tray, my father said to come into the living room because he wanted to talk to me. So I went into the living room where he was in the recliner and sat down on the sofa across the room.
He started by saying that he was very proud of how I had taken care of Momma while he was away, but the conversation quickly turned sour and he started shaking his finger at me and said that he was very disappointed that I had tried to put him away in a nursing home. I, of course, interrupted and said that I was by no means trying to keep him in a nursing home, as a matter of fact, I understood his frustration with the lack of progress toward getting back home and had consulted with some colleagues and had done some research on a facility called Health South in Evansville and…At this point he was now shaking his fist at me and hollering “Yeah, you and your fucking research! You were just trying to put me in a nursing home further away?” He was so angry and so agitated….It was very scary. I tried to explain to him that Health South was NOT a nursing home at all, that it was very short term rehab hospital and that they had an excellent reputation and patient turn-around time. He didn’t want to hear any part of it! He then told me “Get the Hell out of my house and out of my sight! And DON’T ever come back!” He told Brad that this didn’t have anything to do with him and Alex, just me, because he knew it was my doing. At this point I was already up and headed to the door, crying in disbelief, and trying to comfort Momma who was now crying in the kitchen. My father again told me to “Get my ass back down to my own house!” Brad was right behind me. He turned around and told my father “This has everything to do with me and Alex….If you are banning Sherri, then you are banning our whole family.” Brad asked how my Momma was going to get her medications properly? My father replied “If she gets them, she gets them. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t! It’s really none of your God Damn business!!” So we went home. I was in shock and couldn’t believe what had just happened?!
So, a little while later, Brad took all of Momma’s medicines that we were keeping at our house to their house and dropped them off. He stressed to my father the importance of Momma getting them properly and my father told him it was no longer his concern.
The following Sunday, my Momma’s best friend called me and said she had been asked to fill Momma’s medicine tray for the week and didn’t feel comfortable doing it and wondered if I would do it if she brought everything down to my house. I agreed. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. To my surprise Momma was with her friend!!! So they both came in and I hugged and kissed Momma and asked if she was okay? She said she guessed so, but was sure glad to get to see me and Brad and Alex. Her friend said I didn’t ask if she could come, I just said “come on” and we left. She said “Your father is sure in a mood.” So we filled the medicine tray and talked for a few minutes and her friend said she had better take her back, she didn’t want to cause any problems. She said she would try to stop in and check on Momma as often as she could. This made me feel a little bit better, but still, at the same time, It made me sick. Literally sick. Momma would sneak out of the house and call me on her cell phone occasionally, so that helped a little bit. At least I knew she was okay.
So the following Sunday, Momma’s friend called again to ask for my help with the medicine tray. I told her I could do it. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang and it was Momma’s best friend, who this time, was crying. I told her to come in and asked what was wrong? She said she tried to bring Momma with her again, but this time my father told her “She isn’t going anywhere. She doesn’t have any business down there!” Momma’s friend was visibly shaken by this. She said she didn’t know how much more my Momma could take, but she didn’t know what to do. I told her I didn’t either because she won’t stand up for herself or tell anyone what is actually going on. I told her that I had called Adult Protective Services and they said that unless my Momma herself reported a problem of being mistreated, there wasn’t really anything they could do. Her friend vowed to try to keep in close contact, but she said she wouldn’t doubt it if my father didn’t ban her next…
So one more week goes by and Saturday night is my son’s first prom. He was pretty much out all night and still sleeping by the time noon rolled around on Sunday. I had intended to go get a pedicure on Sunday afternoon, but had started reading a book and was still in my pjs and decided I was pretty happy just hanging out on the sofa. So by the grace of God, I did NOT leave my house….You will get the importance of this shortly.
About mid-afternoon, I heard my two dogs, Rowdy and Milo, barking up a storm out front. I went to the door to see my Momma almost “running” down her yard into mine. I went out on the porch and she hollered “I need help!” I said “Okay…what is wrong?” I honestly figured that my father had fallen and Momma was unable to get him up by herself. However, what she said next, stopped me in my tracks! She said “I need help. It’s your father. He’s tearing things up in the house and he tried to shoot me…He was trying to kill me!” I said “What??” She said “He had a pistol and he was trying to shoot me with it!” I told her to come on in the house and she said “I can’t….I am not allowed in your house remember?” I said “Well, this is different, we need to get you somewhere safe!” She said “No I can’t come in, he will shoot me then.” At that point, I gently took her hand and guided her up the steps of the porch and into the front door of our house and locked it behind us. She kept saying she wasn’t supposed to come in and I told her I couldn’t leave her out there in an unsafe situation and that we were calling the police. (Brad was at work in Louisville, KY) I called 911 and asked them to send officers right away and briefed them on what Momma had told me. They said they would send officers. I got Momma into the recliner in the family room. She was pretty hysterical and was crying and worrying that my father was going to find out she was here.
I asked her how she got away from my father. She said that he was pointing the gun at her and holding onto his walker and that he fell. She said when he fell, she kicked him back down as he was trying to get up, and she then ran out of the front door and down to my house. I asked her why she didn’t call for help and she said he had ripped the phone cord out of the wall and was throwing her things all around the living room. I tried to reassure her and tell her everything was going to be all right, but she was shook. And to be honest…so was I! This was pretty scary stuff!!
So…This was just the beginning of the nightmare that ensued. I can’t really write any more about it tonight because it is emotionally draining, but I will continue the story in my next blog. I am sorry this one is so long, but there is a lot of detail to this story that will hopefully allow you to see AND to feel the fear and other raw emotions in this situation and the magnitude of what all eventually happened….And how it all ties in to the decision I made to search for my biological family.