I have had 3 or 4 blog topics rolling around in my head for almost two months now…But I am still not sure exactly how to go about saying what I need to say. However, I decided, that tonight I am going to try…So my apologies right up front if you find it hard to follow. It is going to come straight from the heart. And sometimes that is a messy place.
Several things have happened over the past few months that have made me pause and really think about what is truly important in life. I have known for quite sometime that family is the center of everything, but because “family” for me has been so very complicated, sometimes the lines are very blurry.
If you are new to reading my blog, then please know that I actually have more family than I ever imagined humanly possible?! Being adopted as a baby, gave me the family that are the first in my memory and those that I grew up with. They included parents, siblings, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, second cousins, and great nieces and nephews, and great aunts and uncles. Many of these family members are no longer living. Several are no longer part of my life because of the circumstances that surrounded the loss of my Momma. And a few are no longer part of my life because we have grown apart and don’t see one another very often, or we live very far apart.
But the loss of one of my favorite cousins, Julianne Williams (Cutteridge), helped me reconnect to a part of my childhood that I hadn’t revisited for a while. She was the only girl on either side that was very close to my age. She was a few years older than me and she was really my very first best friend. I had been in contact with her brother after her recent stroke and he let me know of her passing, shortly thereafter. He and her twin sons, as well as her husband, mother, grandkids, and other aunts, uncles and cousins were taking her loss really hard. She had made a decision to be cremated, but the family wanted to have a Celebration of Life for her and they asked me if I would like to share some memories. I was honored. And it gave me the opportunity to reflect on all of the times we had shared growing up, even though she lived in the big city of Indianapolis and I lived on a farm, in a very rural setting, about 7 miles from a small town in southern Indiana. We grew up about as different as two kids could, but even so, we had this very special bond as “cousins”…even without any blood being involved. I will always cherish the memories of the fun times we had as little kids and later as teenagers.
I attended her celebration of life and shared several different memories that stood out in my mind. I loved sharing that part of her with her other family and friends. And I realized how much she and these other cousins that were in my life because I was adopted were of major importance in my history…in my life. We spent a lot of time together as children. I have been trying to be more connected to them via phone, Facebook and other social media means and will spend time in person when we can.
Everyone is just too busy…Life has become too busy. I want to slow down and soak in these opportunities and connections, so I am making an effort to do that. I have also been in closer contact with some of my nieces and nephews and my great nieces…One of whom is very new and I have recently had the privilege to meet and hold at least twice. I met the other little one months ago, but want to spend more time with her too. They are beautiful little girls, who belong to my beautiful nieces, and I want to know them. And I want them to know me.
But to continue, about 5 1/2 years ago, after the tragic loss of my Momma (my REAL Momma, the one who took me in through adoption, loved me, cared for me, taught me, and raised me), I began a search for my biological family in hopes of finding a brother that I learned I might have. Imagine my surprise to learn that I had at least 8 other siblings, maybe more?! No wonder I felt like part of me was always missing?? After doing an Ancestry DNA Test, I learned that I also had a variety of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and even a living birth mother on the maternal side. And because of her refusal to reveal which one of two brothers is actually my father (The genetic genealogist and I have it narrowed to two brothers through DNA…They have both unfortunately passed away and according to records neither of them have any KNOWN biological children), I may never know which one was my actual biological father and if I may have some other siblings (half or step)? This also makes me feel pretty confident that my biological father didn’t even know about me or that I even existed? How unfair is that? We both possibly missed out on what might have been a good relationship. I know and have met and talked with some of my first and second cousins on the paternal side of the family and they have been kind and welcoming, but there is still a lot of mystery on the paternal side because they did not know anything about me and feel my father did not either. And frankly, there is still considerable mystery on the maternal side, as my biological mother will not share any information about our other siblings either, so we have not been able to locate all of them that I know and/or believe to exist. There are three that are still unaccounted for. However, I do want to say that I am extremely thankful for those family I have met and formed relationships with. Some of those I am closest with just had our second reunion in Orange Beach, Alabama in September. To our surprise, one of my cousins from the paternal side of my family was also in Orange Beach and got to spend some time with us too. And it was amazing!! Patty and her husband and Brad and I are planning to go to Texas over Christmas break to visit Uncle Robert and Aunt Dena and meet their family and friends there.
And then, there is my own beautiful family that I have created along with my husband, Brad. We have a lovely daughter who has given us three wonderful grandsons who definitely stole our hearts. We also have an amazing son, who is still a young man just starting on his own journey. I feel so blessed because they are all right here in the town where we live and we can pretty much see them whenever we want. And I love that…so much! They are my greatest joy! But along with this chapter, also came the family that I married into. A mother and father-in-law who treated me like one of their own, two sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, great nieces and nephews, and second cousins, etc. This family was very close for many years, but as everyone got older and some moved further away and some of them passed on, that closeness became less and less.
We recently lost my husband’s mother, Patty, who has been battling many health issues over the past year and had made a decision to move into a local nursing home about a year ago. She had a stroke almost 2 months ago and we just had her Celebration of Life this past weekend. Several of this part of our family spent time together Saturday, and vowed to spend more time together, and are especially trying to make plans to be together for the some of the upcoming holidays…Those immediately after losing a family member are especially tough, so I feel we NEED to be together to help each other through it. I know it really helped me when I lost my Momma.
Then, there is a whole other group that I now consider family and they are some of the family members of Patty’s husband…Patty is my biological half-sibling who I have become very close to. She and two of her sister-in-laws took a girls’ trip with me to visit Aunt Nan in Florida earlier in the summer and I got to know these two ladies…One of who is now fighting a battle with cancer and I love her dearly and I am worried and scared for, just like she is my own sister. I love that these two ladies and their families are now in my life.
I have some other wonderful people who are not connected as family in any way, but that I feel just as close to. My friend Jacqui O., who is from California is one of those…I met her during my DNA biological family search. She is also a Foundling. And she reached out to me very early in my search and we just “got” each other and understood the feelings each of us had about being abandoned, and adopted, loss of adoptive parents, and parting of ways with adoptive siblings, and then rejection from some of our biological family members. Being a foundling and going through all of those things we both did is not a common thing, so it gave us a special bond. I consider her one of my “sisters”, as well. I flew out to Cali summer before last to meet her and spent several days with her. My husband and I are planning a trip back this winter. Then there are friends and neighbors that I have known since childhood, who have stayed in my life through the good, the bad, the ugly and the unbelievable. Pammy, Troy, Kena, Vicki, Ann, Betsy, Suzanne, Kathy, John, Terry, and Sue…All like brothers and sisters to me.
We are all connected. There is kinship everywhere. Sometimes, it involves blood and sometimes, it does not. At all.
So to the whole nurture versus nature question…My answer is nurture. Those who were there as we were growing up, who knew us, loved us, taught us, and shaped us, I believe that is how we become who we are. Just because a woman gets pregnant and carries a baby and gives birth to it…does not necessarily mean she is a real “mother”. That is the easy part…The hard part is the raising, caring for, teaching, loving, and all that comes after. Many of us do all of this…We are in it for the long haul. But for those who couldn’t get pregnant, carry a baby or birth it, yet they take in a baby or child that came from someone else and do the hard parts…And do them with love and to the best of their ability, they are often the very special ones. And I was fortunate enough to have one of those in my life.
I just encourage everyone to recognize the people in their life, and how much they mean to you. Tell them. Don’t wait…We never know how long we will be here on this earth to do so. I hope you enjoy the pictures that I am sharing…They represent some very precious memories to me!