How Can “Moving” Have Such Different Implications?

So, I know I have been all over the place with my blog.   Some of that is because a few of them were written “in the moment” because some really good things were happening and I really wanted to share those!   Many of the others about the “back story” have been hard, some nearly impossible, to relive and put into words, but I am going back there again, as this has been weighing heavily on my mind.

I wrote about a trip to the beach with my Family immediately after Momma died.  Later that same Fall, Brad and I went back to Orange Beach, Alabama to visit our friends, Troy and Natalie.  It was good to be back in the place where I felt so comfortable and it was weird because it became really evident that Momma was there with me.  When we arrived and checked into our condo, there was a cutting board out on the counter…in the shape of an owl!   And the next morning, when I made coffee, I reached into the cupboard to get a cup and there were a bunch of small, fragile, white china cups and there was one gray mug.  I, of course, chose the mug.   I was surprised to see that it had the initial “G” on it, which was the first letter of my Momma’s first name.  I don’t feel like those things were a coincidence.  We enjoyed our trip, but when it was time to leave, I felt a real sadness and emptiness.

On our way home, I told Brad I wanted to stop by the cemetary.   Before we left, I had visited and found that Momma’s monument still hadn’t been delivered and had called to check on it and was told that it should be coming any day.   We stopped near the spot where she was laid to rest and realized it had been delivered!  It was very bittersweet…I didn’t expect it to be quite so emotional.  It made everything very…final.   And there was a vase on the side and it was empty.   I told Brad we had to run somewhere to get some flowers until I could have some made.  So we ran to Walmart (since it was only about 6 am) and picked up some flowers so it wouldn’t look like Momma had been forgotten.  I went to the flower shop later that day and ordered some flowers from the flower shop where my friend worked.

About a month later, we flew to San Antonio, Texas to see one of my best friend from childhood and her husband, Pam and John.  Although, she and I had talked on the phone and such, I hadn’t really been able to tell about everything that had happened.  And it is very different talking in person.  You see, Pam had been my friend since first grade and throughout school, and had spent a lot of time at our house while we were growing up, so all of this was very personal for her.  We had a great visit…we laughed, and we cried, and we shared a lot of old memories.  And being in San Antonio and seeing the sights was a great distraction.  Again, as the trip came to an end, I felt sad and somehow empty.

I decided I needed to talk to someone.   I still had so many unresolved feelings about everything that happened.  I asked for a referral from our Employee Assistance Program at work and there was a female therapist on our provider list in Evansville, so I set up an appointment with “Gloria”.  The day that I went to see her for the first time,  I put the address in my phone and was shocked to find that the office was directly accross the street from the cemetary my Momma was in.   Another sign.  I immediately liked Gloria and told her what had happened and she seemed to genuinely be in disbelief.  Obviously, I had an extra-long first session.   I told her about all of the traveling we had been doing and she asked if I felt I might be “avoiding” the situation?   Well, I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, I guess I probably was.  She said it was very understandable in light of the situation, but suggested that eventually, I would need to deal with my feelings about it.   She also asked me if we continued to live next door to my father after everything that had happened?   I told we did.  I told her that I loved our home and that my younger brother and his kids were still staying with us and I didn’t really want to leave it…It was so close to where I grew up.   And I told her that I wasn’t going to let my father bully me out of the home we had worked so hard on to make it just the way we wanted it.  She told me she was concerned for our safety and made me promise to be really cautious and careful.

After Thanksgiving I had new winter flowers made for Momma’s monument and put them on that weekend.  In December, Momma’s friend, Sue, and I went shopping in Evansville and to Red Lobster to eat…it was Momma’s favorite place.  After dinner, we went to the cemetary and when we walked up to Momma’s grave, we noticed that there was a whole cob of field corn stuck down into the flower saddle on the top of her grave.  My friend and I looked at each other…And we both knew.   We knew where this came from.   We were in Evansville.   There were no cornfields nearby.   It was way past Halloween for it to be a teenage prank.  But just to be certain that we weren’t wrong, we went up to the office to ask if there would be any reason that there would be an ear of corn in the cemetary.  The personnel assured me that there were no squirrel or wildlife feeders within the cemetary, so he had no idea where the ear of corn could have come from.   But as I said…we knew.  You see my father had been a farmer and was always somewhat obsessed with his corn crop…I recall a picture of me in my baby crib, sleeping, and he had laid a cob of field corn on me and taken a photo.   He thought it was funny.   I was pretty sure he would know that I would realize where the cob of corn came from.  It was a form of torment and intimidation in my mind.  And just mean.

The holidays were very difficult that first year…Without Momma being there, it was not the same.  She loved them and had hosted them for many years.  Our family that had remained close spent Thanksgiving together and we remembered Momma in a special way, with some old photos we put together, certain food we prepared and ate, and a group photo we had taken together.  We tried to celebrate, as we knew that Momma would want us to be happy.  And somehow, by the grace of God, we made it through.

About mid-December, my younger brother and his daughter and her friend who was visiting, were out in our side yard shooting clay pigeons over the field.  My father came riding down close to them on his Gator and yelled out to my brother that he needed to get all of their “shit” out of my grandparents house that they had lived in before all of this had happened with Momma.   He said “We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way!”  My brother, his daughter and her friend came into the house and I could tell something was wrong…My neice said “I think my grandpa just kicked us out of our house the week before Christmas?!”   My brother reiterated what was said.  Unbelieveable.  But not really…Anything was believeable at this point.

So, the day of Christmas Eve, my younger brother and his two kids went down to their old house, that had no electricity and no heat, and gathered the rest of their personal belongings and took them to a storage unit.  It was beyond sad.  And pathetic.  But it was over.   And I told my brother to look on the bright side…that now my father had nothing more to hold over his head and to control him with, as he had done for quite some time before all of this happened.

We tried to make Christmas as “normal” as possible.  But it was a “new” kind of normal.   One without Momma there.   It was different.   However, we made the best of it we could and we all leaned upon each other and were thankful that we had time together.

After the first of the year, as I continued with my therapy, and had started to really come to accept what had happened and also came to accept that maybe staying in our current home wasn’t really worth it.   Always feeling like we were on the lookout for an intrusion, and realizing that we would never again be able to enjoy our outdoor living space like we had in the past, as well as the fact that when we looked out our front window or door, there were just bad memories.  And when we left home to go anywhere, we either had to drive by the house where my father lived or my grandparents house where my brother and his kids had lived and been kicked out of.  And my father had hired contractors to start work on my grandparent’s house.  We just assumed he was going to rent it out as they appeared to be putting in new heating and cooling, new flooring, and having a new roof put on.  This house had been in very poor repair for several years while my brother and his kids lived there. What was really a surprise was that my father did all of this work to this house, so that my other brother and his wife (or ex-wife or girlfriend) could move into it.   That was a slap in the face to my younger brother, for sure.  And another reason to feel uneasy living there.

So, Brad and I made a decision that we were going to put our home on the market at the first sign of spring.   However, before we got to that point, my younger brother was severely injured in a very bad accident at work and almost lost his foot.   He had already found an apartment and was waiting for it to open up, but this would definitely put a damper on that plan, as he was unable to work for a period of time.   And he needed some help since he needed to take it easy, so we decided we would have to put off our plan to sell a little bit longer, as we wanted to make sure that my brother and his kids would be able to move and be safe.

We got busy working on our home anyway, preparing it to sell.  We cleaned and purged and painted and updated.   My brother had complications with healing and wound up having to have an additional surgery, but then was finally on the mend.  And then, finally able to return to work.  He found another apartment and made arrangements to move.  We put our house on the market in May.  And we started looking for a home to buy.   This turned out to be much more difficult than we had expected.  We looked in the county we lived in without any luck and finally talked to a builder who drew up some plans, and we started searching for some property, even though we really did NOT want to build.  We decided to look in the neighboring city where I had worked for the past 20 years.  After looking at several homes that were not exactly what we were looking for, we talked to a couple of builders there and were looking a two different properties to build on.

IMG_3626

In the meantime, the realtors had shown our house multiple times and we had a few offers that weren’t quite what we wanted, but then we got a great offer and we accepted it!   And before we knew it, we were in the process of selling our home!   Now the pressure was really on to find a place for us!!!   We were beginning to think we were going to be in a rental for a while…This was not a desired outcome, but it might be our only choice.  My brother and his kids had moved into their new apartment and we were able to let them take some of our furniture we wouldn’t have room for with them.  We were excited for them to have their own place.  My brother told me I wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it was to be away from my father and other brother, living where we were, and how great it was to not have to see the visual reminders every day.  He told me he couldn’t wait until we could get away too!  I was so ready!!

Then one day, shortly thereafter, this house popped up on Zillow and it was a brand new construction, never lived in, and it had just come on the market.   We got in contact with our realtors and told them we wanted to see it.  We had an appointment the next day.

And when we walked in…We knew.   And our realtors knew…And they smiled.  (They had decided I was a little bit picky!)  It was…almost exactly the house plan we had drawn up.   It was an open floor plan, one level, 3-bedroom, 2-bath brand new home.   It had basically everything we had wanted except a fire place and a walk-in shower.  But we LOVED it.  And it was in a nice neighborhood on the edge of town.  We told the realtors we wanted to make an offer.  (We figured this one would NOT be around long!)  So, we talked that evening and decided upon an offer and let our realtors know so they could submit the offer.

IMG_3628

At the end of that week, I had a trip planned with a good friend of mine to go antique shopping in Shipshewanna in Northern Indiana.  It was August, so it was hot.  I got a call from Brad the first day we were there and the owners had come back to our realtors and said they had multiple offers and would be accepting the best offer…Sort of like a bidding “war”.  We felt we had made a good offer, but had left a little room for negotiating.  We were really unsure of what to do…But we really wanted the house and did NOT want to lose it to another bidder.   Boy, it was really stressful and we were trying to decide what to do?   While my friend and I were shopping at this big open air market, I began to notice that almost everywhere I looked, there was some sort of owl….Owl figures, owl pictures, owl jewelry, owl books, owl pillows, owl dish towels, owl purses, stuffed animal owls, etc.   Finally, I felt so overwhelmed that I just started to cry.   My friend asked me what was wrong and if I was okay?   I told her about seeing all of the owls and that I felt like Momma was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t know what??   I felt like it had something to do with the house and the decision we were trying to make about our offer.  I called Brad a bit later and we decided to submit an offer very close to the asking price and hope and pray it would be accepted.

I barely slept that night and was on pins and needles the next day, which was when the offers were due.  We had no idea when would hear whether we had the top offer.  Luckily, we heard later that evening…And it was good news!!   Our offer had been accepted!!!  It was such a relief…And I couldn’t help but think that somehow Momma had a hand in it.  All those owl sightings had to mean something!

So, we were beyond happy, but a little freaked out at the same time.   The people buying our house were doing a VA loan and there were some additional things that we needed to do to get our home to pass their stringent requirements.   That was scary because we needed our home to sell and we wanted to close soon so that we could set a move date and set the closing for our house.   The timing was nerve-racking!    The other stress I was dealing with was the fact that we were moving into town and we were going to have a fairly small yard…just a single lot.   We were moving from 3 acres out in the country.  And we had my two boys, Rowdy the English Bulldog and Milo, our Rescue Boxer.  They were used to having the run of the three acres we lived on, as it was invisible-fenced.   They had a dog door out of the garage and could pretty much come and go as they pleased without any worry of them bothering anyone else or getting away.   They spent a lot of their time outdoors and came in to eat and sleep and sometimes to play or snuggle.   It was evident that our new home was going to be a whole different kind of situation and setting.    After much thinking and praying and discussing, we decided, it would not be fair to move them into the city and take away their ability to have the freedom they were used to.   This was definitely a downside…I LOVED them both.  And I couldn’t imagine not having them around.  They were good boys, but they deserved to be happy too.

So, I began looking for them a home, by posting our dilemma on Facebook.  Almost immediately, I had a message from my cousins who live in Florida that they would love to give both of our boys a home with them and their four kids!   This was great news as they had visited when Momma passed away and the kids loved our boys.  And this would mean they could stay together.   So, we made a plan to meet up in Georgia in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, we were able to close on both houses and we started packing and getting everything ready to move.  Boy, what a job?!  It was bittersweet, but it was exciting and it felt like freedom!

The weekend before we were moving, we drove to Macon, Georgia to meet up with my cousins.  I could tell Rowdy and Milo sensed something was going on…they were so good on the trip and so loveable when we got to the hotel.   Saying good-bye to them was one of the hardest things I have done, but seeing them with my cousins and their kids, made me know it was the right decision.   They were going to get lots of love and attention…And they were getting to live in FLORIDA?!  Seriously, they are retiring before me…and would be close to the beach!   I was still sad and cried several times on our drive home and that night when I went to bed.  We were super busy, but I realized how very much I missed them and told Brad that we were going to have to get a puppy when we got moved.

IMG_3630

So the day we were taking the last load of stuff out, I looked around at our big empty house.  And as much as I loved it, it hit me that it was really just a big empty house…a shell.   It was no longer our home.   WE were what made our home, not the house.

We moved into our new home and having a totally clean and fresh canvas to work with was incredible!   I love decorating so I had a blast setting up a new house, although since we down-sized, I did not have as much room and didn’t have space for all of my belongings that I loved and had collected through the years.  So I had to part with some things and put some things in the attic and pick out my very favorites to display.  But it was okay…I loved our new house and how it looked.   And felt.  It was no time at all before it was looking and feeling just as “homey” as our old house.

We also found a little tiny French Bulldog puppy in Bloomington, Illinois.  And we went and picked her up shortly after we got settled in.  She was the runt of the litter, but I thought she was perfect.  And I named her Chloe Mae…Mae was my Momma’s middle name and it just seemed to fit this tiny girl.  She was just the right addition to our new home.

IMG_3633

So, we had been living there a little over a month and I had just been talking to some friends about how good the move had been and how wonderful it was to not have to have the daily visual reminders of what had happened; however, I must have jinxed the happiness…

One day at work, early in November, I got a strange phone call.  It was from a gentleman who claimed to be an attorney for the parent company of the cemetary where my Momma was laid to rest.  He was calling to let me know that my father had filed a lawsuit against the cemetary and their parent company.   I didn’t understand.  I asked why he would file a lawsuit against them?  And the answer that I got was so crazy and so unexpected that I was literally left speechless.

Evidently, the lawsuit was filed because my father felt he should have been the one making the decsion about where my Momma was laid to rest since she was “his” wife.   Therefore, he was seeking a Judgement for my Momma’s body to be exhumed from her current resting place and moved to a location of his choosing.   What the Hell???   Was this for real???   Or was this just a sick prank???   I told the attorney I apologized, but I was skeptical and requested that he send me something, in writing, because this just sounded too bizarre?!   He said he would be glad to do so.   He said that I wasn’t named in the lawsuit…but because I was co-owner of my Momma’s plot, they felt it was essential to notify me, as well.   I thanked him (?) and asked that he plaease forward me the documents.  He said he would.  This was on a Friday afternoon.

I went down to one of my co-workers offices in the building I was in, who was also a very good friend, and proceeded to tell her about the phone call and to fall apart.   She was also in disbelief.   She said “Surely, this is a hoax?!”   I told her, as sick as that would be, I certainly hoped it was.   I called Brad and he couldn’t believe it.  He also thought it was someone playing a sick joke.  I called my daughter and told her and she also couldn’t believe it.   I kept checking my email, but had not received anything by the time I left work…So, I was beginning to think maybe it was just a sick, sick joke.

I decided to contact the actual cemetary office and ask them if they knew anything about this.   The office assistant who I talked with did not; however, she did tell me that back in the spring, my father had come to their office with a document from the Dept. of Health with their permission to exhume the body and demanded that it be scheduled.  The date that he had requested it be done was May 29th.   WOW!   Just Wow!   That date is Brad’s and my wedding anniversary AND my younger brother’s birthday.  The date that he had filed the paperwork with the Dept. Of Health was the day after we put up our “For Sale” sign on our house.   I asked the office assistant what had happened with this request.  She said that he was told that while he did have to have permission from the Dept. Of Health to exhume a body, that he also had to have an order from a Judge for the same.  I was now prepared for the worst…because this confirmed that he was actually attempting to do what this attorney had said.

I was beside myself to say the least.   I called my younger brother to let him know what was happening.   He was livid!   He couldn’t believe that this could possibly be happening?!   I called Momma’s family and let them know and they were appalled and also in disbelief.  I also called Momma’s best friend and told her.   She said she had never heard of such a thing?!   But also said she wasn’t completely surprised at anything that my father might do.  I contacted my neice and her mom and they were also in shock.   Everyone I called was just floored by this possibility!   I messaged my therapist and told her I was going to need to talk…soon.  I went to the cemetary that weekend to see if everything was still intact.   It seemed peaceful, but it also seemed surreal.  Could it be possible that a Judge would allow my Momma to be disturbed from her resting place, near her parents and grandparents…Her body to be dug up and moved on a truck to another place?   And where would it be??   I was just sick.

But Monday came, and I was even sicker because I received a copy of the lawsuit that my father had filed.  It was for real.  And it was filed about the time we put the “Sold” sign in our yard…Imagine that??

IMG_3629

I could hardly believe it!!!   And we weren’t really part of it so I wasn’t sure what I could do?   I had an appointment with my therapist later that afternoon, so you can imagine our conversation.   She was also in disbelief.   She said she had never heard of such a thing??   She said “You do realize this is how your father is choosing to punish you for selling your home and moving and getting out from under his thumb?”   I told her I knew it was most likely done to hurt me.  And Brad.  And my younger brother…especially in light of the first requested date on the Dept. Of Health document to exhume and move Momma’s body being our anniversary and his birthday.   I asked her if she knew of a good attorney from Evansville, where the cemetary was located?   She said she did and gave me the name and number and told me to tell her that she had referred me.

So, I drove across the street to the cemetary and called this attorney from Momma’s gravesite.   She was also in disbelief….But she said she would talk to the other attorneys in her practice and see if anyone had dealt with anything like this and she would get back with me.  She asked me to send her the document if I could, so I did so.  And I waited.  And later in the afternoon, she called me back.  And she apologized.   She said that none of the attorneys in her office had any experience with anything of this nature so they didn’t feel comfortable taking it on.

IMG_3620

I was about to cry when she said; However, I do have someone who used to work for our firm, who now works for another firm, and we think she would be perfect.   And she gave me her name and number and told me to tell her that she had referred me to her.  So, I made another call…And was put on hold.   I was silently praying to God for a miracle and to please let this attorney take this case.  And shortly after, I was talking to this kind, obviously intelligent attorney who was shocked by this lawsuit being filed after hearing a shortened version of the whole story, but immediately said that she would like to take the case!  (Thank you Lord!)  However, she said that time was of the essence and we would need to intervene in the case right away, since we weren’t named, so that we could make our objection known.   We set up a meeting with her for the following afternoon.

Brad went with me to the appointment and we immediately liked this attorney very much.  She patiently listened as we told her the story of the past year and a half.  She was in awe of all that we had been through already and APPALLED that this lawsuit had been filed.  She was extremely empathetic and she sincerely vowed to do everything she possibly could to keep this from happening to my Momma.   So that day, we hired her, on the spot, to represent us on Momma’s behalf.

And so it began…

 


 

 

Why? Why? And Why?

IMG_3602

Yesterday, I took a 3-hour drive South to be welcomed not only by my Sister and Brother-In-Law’s hospitality, but was also pleasantly surprised to be showered by even more hospitality from their Sister-In-Law, Barbara!  Patty and I made a sporadic decision on Friday, to have a Girl’s Day Out on Saturday!  No real reason.  We just wanted to see each other and hang out…You know, like sisters do?!  We didn’t really have any big plans, she was just going to show me around the small town she lives in and the town she works in.

So having Barbara join us on our outing was just fine with me!  I am friends with her on Facebook and I recalled that she also loves the beach, so I figured we would get along just fine!  We headed downtown to a little dress shop where I was encouraged to partake in a little retail therapy…They had to twist my arm, but I gave in.  Then we went to a newly opened shop accross the street where they had a variety of beautiful things, including a lot of handmade and usual jewelry pieces….Right up my alley!!

Patty and I were looking at some engraved necklaces and bracelets and found one that said something about “having a sister as a grown-up best friend, starts with all of their wonderful, shared childhood memories.”  We put it down and both just looked at each other…And said “Uh No.  That’s not us…We were robbed of that part.”

IMG_3600

You see, we just met last January at 55 and 60 years of age.  Up until then, we had never even met.   And she didn’t even know she had me as a sister.  She had never heard my name.  Or seen a picture of me.  Or been told about me.  And I had only recently learned about Patty after finding my Aunt Nan through Ancestry DNA testing.  Aunt Nan remembered Patty as a cute little bitty girl.  And she also remembered a younger, little brown-haired, brown-eyed baby sister named “Teresa” being with her sister, our biological mother.   When I initially contacted Aunt Nan, she was just sure I WAS “Teresa.”   Little did she know, that I was not “Teresa”…I was a much better kept secret.  And that there were many more secrets and twists and turns to follow.

I have written about the loss of my adoptive mother and all of the trauma that surrounded that situation.  That loss,  coupled with the loss of relationships with other adoptive family members on my father’s side of the family left a big void.  I feel certain they were told they had to choose…him or me.   And since he has the bigger wallet and bank account, you can probably guess who they chose.  My Momma had very few family members left and none of them were close geographically.  I had my immediate family, and my husband’s family, whom I loved dearly, but I was used to having lots of extended family.  And after we moved from the area in the country where I grew up and the county where I went to school and had made many friends, I really felt kind of “alone”.

We had also just been through a legal battle involving my Momma’s resting place and a lawsuit filed by my father, which I will get into in another blog.   But all of these things helped to push me toward searching.

However, as silly as this may sound, it was actually a novel “The Secret Daughter” by Kelly Rimmer, I read that I consider responsible for making me take action.   I will never forget staying awake all of one night back in the fall of 2016.  Brad woke up at about 4 a.m. to look over and see me still reading away on my Kindle…He said “What in the world are you doing still reading??  Do you realize what time it is?”  And the truth was, I had absolutely NO idea what time it was or how long I had been reading…I just knew that I could NOT stop now!!  And I told him so…It picqued his interest so he wanted to know what was so intriguing?

I began telling him about this book I was reading.  It was about this young woman who had gotten pregnant before marriage in the late 1950’s.  She was not allowed to stay with her family and her boyfriend was away at college.  So she was sent to a “maternity home” in a neighboring city.  She was alone and afraid.  And learned very late in her pregnancy that she would be expected to give the baby up for adoption, even thought she did not want to and neither did her fiancé, but the families were of no support and basically, she really just had no choice.  Enter this social worker from the Maternity Home who took a special interest and liking to the young lady and was so sympathetic to her pleas to keep her baby, that this social worker agreed to take the baby, personally, on a temporary basis with the understanding between her and the young lady that as soon as she got out and was able to get with her fiancé and get  married, she would give the baby back.   However, little did she know, her husband had a different idea.

IMG_3599

Long story short…The young lady NEVER got the baby back.  The Social Worker’s husband made a deal with the administrator of the maternity home to “change” the records, including the babies’ date of birth, name, etc. to match when she came to he and his wife and they kept the baby and raised her as their own.  And they never told her that she was NOT their own flesh and blood.

She found out in her late 30’s when she got pregnant and decided to have her own baby.  That is when the truth finally came out.   The young woman was completely devastated by this news…She was hurt, and angry and scared, and made a decision to try to find her own mother and hopefully, her father.   And she did.  And she had several siblings…And she was warmly welcomed by all of them!   The birth mother was beside herself happy…Giddy, would actually be a better word.  After they were reunited, they became very, very close and had a wonderful relationship!   Her birth mother told her how there was never a day that went by that she didn’t think of her.   But that she had agreed in a legal document to not look for her daughter, but said she had been hoping since the day her daughter turned 18, that she would find her so they could be reunited.  She was heart-broken that she had not been allowed to keep her baby and had always hoped and prayed for a reunion.  And that her daughter was happy and well taken care of.  It got me thinking about my own adoption situation and some of the things about it that just didn’t make much sense to me.

What if the reason my adoptive father wanted to keep me and my adoption such a secret was that maybe something like this had happened??!!   It would make sense as to why he went ballistic when I found out at six years old that I was adopted and why he wouldn’t want that informtion to get out.  And did it have something to do with my Aunt (his sister’s son had told me about my adoption) and her family…Is that why he didn’t speak to her for over 45 years??  Until my Momma left him??   And having learned what I had about him and how he controlled my adoptive Momma, and that she had left him once shortly after they were first married due to being treated badly, but had came back and then they got me not long after???   Was all of that just a coincidence.  My imagination was just absolutely running wild with itself!   Could all of this be inter-related?   I had so many thoughts and questions, and “what ifs’!!   And I had no idea how or from whom to get any anwers??  I knew so little about my own adoption that I felt anything could be possible, right?

So, later that morning, I called my Aunt and Uncle in Florida…They were two of Momma’s few remaining close relatives.   I got their voicemail.   I got a call back from my Aunt that night.  We caught up a bit and I asked her if she would mind to tell me what she knew about my adoption.   She said she didn’t know a lot and didn’t think my Momma knew very much either.  However, she said as best as she could recall, Momma had told her that I had been abandoned and left in an apartment in Evansville and was found by some neighbors who turned me over to Social Services.   I asked her how old I was when my parents got me.  She said she knew I was close to a year old, but didn’t know my exact age, but stated my birthdate as the one I had aready known.  This was all basically what I had been told by my Momma, but then my Aunt dropped a BOMBSHELL…She said “I do remember your Momma saying something about “them” thinking that there was a twin brother, but they weren’t sure where he was or what had happened to him?”   WHAT???   A TWIN???   Now my head was spinning….I said “Wait a minute…They thought there was a twin brother?”   She said that was what Momma had told her that she had been told.  I asked if they ever found him??   She said that to her knowledge, it was never confirmed.  I told her I was in shock!  She asked my Uncle, who was there with her what he remembered and he concurred with her story.   And the location.   And the timeline.   I was totally blown away!   I thanked them for taking time to talk with me and asked them to let me know if they remembered any other details and they promised me they would.  I then called my adoptive Momma’s younger sister and asked her if she remembered anything about my adoption or about Momma and my adoptive father getting me?   Surprisingly, she said almost exactly the same thing as my other Aunt, including the “twin” part…I asked her if she knew if they ever found or confirmed that there actually was a twin?   And like my other Aunt and Uncle, she did not.  She said she never heard any more about it, so just figured it wasn’t right or that something had happened to him.

To say I was floored, is a huge understatement!!   I was not prepared for what I had just learned!   Was there really a twin brother out there somewhere??   And why hadn’t my adoptive parents, especially my Momma, ever mentioned this to me?  Had my father forbid her from telling me?   Had she learned that the twin didn’t make it and she didn’t want to upset me by telling me that?   Or did he get kept by my biological mother?  Or father?  Or both?  Because he was a male?   Why didn’t my parents adopt him too?  Was there something wrong with him?   Were we together when we were left in that apartment?   Did we look alike?   How long were we together?   Were we hungry?   Did we comfort each other?  Were we cold?   Did we have on clothing and blankets?  What was his name?   Did he go to my school?  Was he in my class???  Oh my gosh….So many questions??   I went and got out my school yearbooks looking at the boys in my class to see if anyone looked like me??  Of course, the mind will see resemblances if you are looking for them?!

So….THAT was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back!   That was when I decided I had to find out if I had a twin brother, or any other siblings for that matter?!  At that time, I had no idea how one would even go about starting a search like this?   But I was determined to find out!!

After doing a little bit of internet researching, I learned that I could request my records from Vital Statistics in the county where I was born, so I began by going there and asking for my original birth certificate.   What I got was my birth certificate with my adoptive parents’ names on it.  Once they learned I was adopted, I was referred to the State Office of Vital Statistics.   I was told I had to complete some forms and they would be reviewed to see if they could give me any of my identifying information.   I did so…meticulously answering all of the questions I could and stating the reasons why I wanted to know.  I mailed that in on October 31, 2016.  About a month passed and I received a letter from Vital Statistics in Indianapolis and a form containing “non-identifying information”, which was virtually of no help to me.   However, I was relieved to know that it did confirm my birth date.  I also learned that I weighed 6 lb. and 1/2 oz., and was 18 1/2 inches long, which could be small enough to be a big twin.  But it was also very close to the weights of both my babies and they were single births.  There was nothing noting whether I was a single or multiple birth.  I learned that my biological mother was reportedly 24 when she had me and my father was reportedly 27.   But no names or anything else that would be helpful.

So, the next day, I called the new friend I had made at the Vital Records Division and asked her what I could do now?  She told me that my adoption record was sealed, which she had already told me was common and likely the case.  My recourse was to petition the court to appoint an advocate and ask them to release my identifiying information.  I talked to a friend of mine who was an attorney and got some coaching as to what to put in the letter and completed the additional forms required.  I mailed it November 16, 2016.

I got an early Christmas present on December 23, 2016 that the Judge had ordered the State Registrar to respond to this petition.  I called my friend at the Vital Records Divison again and asked what exactly this meant.  She said that it would likely result in an intermediary being assigned.  At that point, I would need to pay $400 in attorney fees and this intermediary would research my record and give me the information they felt I should be privy to.   I was trying to be excited, but somehow, that didn’t really feel like a “win” and it didn’t sound overly promising.

It was that same year on my December birthday that I found the DNA Detectives group, made a post about my birthday and noted being abandoned, caught CeCe Moore’s attention, got invited into Foundling Finders, shared my story and ordered a DNA test, submitted it and got assistance from CeCe Moore and some other special search angels when my results came in.

So fast forward to April 2017 when I first talked to my biological mother on the phone after I had messaged her asking if I could possibly be her daughter.  It was not a pleasant initial interaction.  She denied that I could possibly be her daughter, stating that my brother Michael was born less than 2 months after me, so it couldn’t be possible…The problem was, I had already talked to my brother Michael and he was actually 13 months younger than me, but she argued his birthdate with me.   She told me I likely belonged to her older brother.   I asked why she thought so and she said because I looked like a photo of him she had hanging on her wall.  (Well, he is my UNCLE, after all?!)  There was really nothing positive about this phone call and honestly at that point, I sort of hoped she was not my biological mother, because she didn’t seem very nice.

After consulting with CeCe Moore regarding her denial, she suggested Aunt Nan and I do 23 & Me DNA tests to see if our Maternal Haplogroups from our Mitochondrial DNA was a match.  This would tell me whether my parent was one of Aunt Nan’s brothers or sisters.  There were 5 brothers and 2 sisters besides Aunt Nan and Aunt Carol had already DNA tested and she was clearly my Aunt.

Skip forward to mid-May while I am in Florida visiting Aunt Nan.  And Sissy, who I believe to be my sister or half-sister, has come in for a visit.  Our 23 & Me results came in on our last evening there.   And to no ones’ surprise,  my Aunt Nan and I had matching Maternal Haplogroups…meaning that her sister WAS indeed my mother!!  And Sissy was indeed my sister or half-sister.   And Michael was my brother or half-brother.   Had I mentioned that I had a “pretend” brother named Michael when I was a toddler and pre-schooler (I was an only child at the time)?  How crazy is that?!   It would also mean that little Patty who my Aunt Nan remembered was also my sister or half-sister!!   WOW!   Just Wow!   DNA is giving us some cold hard facts, but no answers to “why?”

Sissy did an Ancestry Test and somehow talked our biological mother into doing one too.   I talked to Michael about doing one, as well.  Sissy also got her original certificate of birth and learned that our bio mother had 12 pregancies…According to this document, three of them were not viable and reportedly 4 of the babies who were born living, had since passed away by the latter part of 1966.  That would leave five siblings living.   Meaning if we found Patty, there was still at least one more to find.  I still wasn’t sure who I was at this point…Maybe I was Teresa, but maybe not?

Sissy’s DNA test came back showing us as half-siblings.  Shortly thereafter, she found her biological father’s name, but unfortunately found that he passed away about one year ago, so she would never get to know him.  She did; however, learn that she had a number of half siblings!   So that was exciting and a bit overwhelming.  And our bio mother’s DNA results came back, clearly showing me as her “daughter”.  So I contacted her and she returned my phone call.  She said, “So, I guess I am your mother.   You probably have some questions.”  Seriously??  Of course, I had questions…About a million, actually!   First one was of course “Why did you give me up?”   This immediately put her on the defensive.   She said that she had NOTHING to do with that!   I asked what she meant.  She said it was my father.  I asked the next logical question…”So who was my father.”   She said “Well, I will tell you about him and she gave me a name and then went on to say that he was a ‘mean, abusive bastard’ and he got mad one night and packed you and your brother up and left!”  I said, “Wait, so I had a brother??”   She said  “Yes, he is your full brother and his name was Tommy.”  I asked if he was older or younger?  She said “younger”.   I said “So Michael was between us?”  She got a little flustered and said, “No, no…Wait, you were the baby…Tommy was older.”   I asked her what my name was that she had given me and she told me I was “Karen Elaine”.  Hmmm…sure didn’t ring a bell or sound familiar in any way.

So, I guided the conversation back to our “father”.  I asked her if they were married?  She said that they were NOT.  I asked about him taking us and asked “So did he kidnap us?”  She said she wouldn’t exactly call it kidnapping.   I asked her what she would call it?  She said that he just got mad and took you and your brother and told me I couldn’t do anything about it!!   I said “So, what DID you do?”   No answer.   I asked “Did you call the police?”   She said “no”.   I asked if she went to look for us…And she said “no”.   I asked if she did anything?    And she said “No!  I told you he said there was nothing I could do!”   I’m thinking…Did I just hear all of that right?   Didn’t she say our father was a mean abusive bastard?   But yet she just let him leave with her toddler son and infant daughter and did “nothing”?   That just doesn’t make sense to me…

I asked where I was born and she told me Evansville.  I asked which hospital and she said she didn’t remember.  I named the hospitals that were there.  She still didn’t remember.  I asked if she had my or Tommy’s birth certificates and she said “Well, no, I had to move out of that house and I couldn’t bring all of that junk with me.”  I asked if she had any pictures of us when we were little?  Same answer.   I asked her if there were any other siblings besides Tommy, Sissy and Michael.  She told me about Patty.  I asked what happened to her and she said she chose to live with her dad.   And I asked why she hadn’t kept Michael…Guess what?  His dad was mean and abusive too; however, she was married to him.  And Michael reportedly “chose” to stay in foster care even though he had an opportunity to come and live with her again, so that was also “not her fault.”

She then asked me if I had heard about her other “daughter”?   I told her I had heard that she was actually her granddaughter and that she had reportedly raised her.  She went on to tell me how spectacular this granddaughter was and how she home-schooled her many children and about the job she had previously and just how she was wonderful in general and had really “made something” of herself.  She then said and I quote “Well, she’s just the best ‘daughter’ I could have ever asked for!” I said “Well, what about Sissy?   She seems to have done well…She has a good long-term job.  And a family.”   She said “yes, she’s done all right for herself.”  I told her that I had been at my job 22 years and the kind of work I did, and that I was married for 36 years, and that I had a son and daughter and 3 grandchildren and had been lucky to have a wonderful adoptive Momma and great grandparents and some wonderful extended family too.   She said that she needed to get off the phone as she had somewhere to be soon.   She did tell me that I could come and visit her at her grand-daughters if it was alright with her.   And that if I needed anything else to let her know.

I got off the phone and thought…what did I learn from all of that?   My head was still spinning.  I learned that nothing seemed to be her fault and she took no responsibility for what happened with these babies and children she had given up.  It also appeared that she had no sentimental feelings about me or Tommy, since she referred to our birth certificates and pictures as “junk”.  I learned that she apparently did not really miss me, or care that I had a good life, or that I was even alive for that matter, as she said nothing about being relieved to hear that.  Or glad that I had found her.  Or that she ever gave me a single afterthought.   And obviously she didn’t really even consider me as a “daughter”.   She was definitely “detached”, to put it as kindly as I can.   However, always being the optimist…I did learn what my name had reportedly been before I was adopted.  I learned that I supposedly had a full sibling and his name…And that was exciting!   And I learned the name of the man my bio mother claimed to be my father.   And she confirmed that there was, indeed, an older sister named Patty.   So, I thought at the time, that it wasn’t a total loss.

A good friend of mine who does some local genealogy work, agreed to help me try to locate my original birth certificate or some records regarding my birth now that I had a name and that we could possibly search for my brother, Tommy’s, too.  We tried but came up empty handed.   So I called my friend at Vital Records again to see if the new Indiana law had gone into effect allowing adoptees to obtain their own birth records.   The law had passed, but it would not go into effect until the first of the new year.  I told her I had been in contact with my bio mother and had found her through DNA.  She told me I could ask her to give permission for them to open my adoption file….She would just have to complete some forms.   So I called her back and asked her if she would and she agreed.  I had the packet sent to her.  This went on and on and the papers were finally completed correctly after Christmas.   They were received at Vital Records after the first of the year and the turnaround time was at least 8 weeks.  UGH!  More waiting.

So now, we are in January of 2018…Sissy and a good friend of hers who does traditional genealogy helped her locate Patty with the help of the birth certificate Sissy was able to obtain and then by finding Patty’s marriage license.  Within a day, Patty had been contacted and on the third day, I was in my car driving down into Kentucky to meet my other sister!!   It was amazing.  And so was her story.   She was left at 2 1/2 years old.  And she said she truly remembers it, even thought she was so young.   I believed her….It would have definitely been traumatic.   She said her father was often away for business or whatever and she was raised mostly by babysitters.   She said she “panicked” if she was in public with a caregiver and she lost sight of them.   She said that her abandonment issues have always plagued her, but she is very, very strong.   She has probably been the most excited about all of the new family she has gotten to meet because she really had NONE throughout her life.  She was not only disconnected from our bio mother’s family, but her father was evidently estranged from his family so she didn’t know them either.   She only had her OWN family that she had made, including her husband, kids and grandchildren.  She also had the family of her husband, including Barbara, who I mentioned meeting in the beginning of the story.  I would have given anything if Patty could have been adopted with me…And we could have grown up together!  I wished all of my siblings could have been kept together and adopted by my family!!

In late March I learned that I was NOT who my bio mother had told me I was, when I finally got my original certificate of birth, my record of adoption, and the death certificate of the man listed as my father on my birth certificate.  My name was not Karen Elaine, but Sherri Ann, the same and only name I had ever known!  Sissy got her genealogist friend involved again and with the death certificate of the man listed as my father on my certificate of birth, she located some of the family members who were still living.  She was able to get me on the phone with one of the cousins who actually remembered me as a little baby.  And she also remembered Karen Elaine…evidently she was my sister!  And she said she doesn’t remember seeing Tommy, but remembers the family talking about him.  According to her, we were all left with her Uncle, the man listed as my father on my birth certificate.  She did tell me that Social Services somehow got involved and one of the aunts and uncles wanted to adopt all three of us, but it wasn’t approved, so we were all split up and adopted by different families.  I asked one of the younger cousins if she would do a DNA test just to make sure that I was in the right family.  She agreed to do one and it was sent to her.

In the meantime, I was able to get the remainder of my sealed adoption record in the county I was born.  Brad and I drove to Evansville to pick it up.  And I was in for yet another big surprise!   According to the court documents and case worker notes, my mother had “abandoned or deserted me for six months or more”.   And that wasn’t all….No where in any of that document was the man listed on my birth certificate nor that last name listed.  I was referred to as Sherri Ann Kalman (which was my biological mother’s last name.).  It was also noted that “Paternity was not established or determined.”  Boy, oh boy…Why?   Why all of the false information?

I learned through further study of my DNA results (after contacting CeCe Moore once again and sharing this latest set of facts) that the man on my birth certificate was NOT my father!   I belonged to a completely different family!!!   I was actually a Whitfield!!!  I am still trying to figure which one of three potential brothers I belong to.  They have all passed away.  And two of them have no documented biological children, so there is no one to test.  My bio mother will not tell me which brother it was, even though I have asked the direct question.   She “doesn’t want to talk about it anymore”  and “it is none of my business.”

Patty and I tried to pay our biological mother a visit a few months back, but none of the dates we could get off work to travel there worked for her.   We just wanted some answers as to “Whys?”  Why did she not want us?  Why didn’t she ever look for us?   Why did she only keep one of her babies to raise?  Why doesn’t she consider us her daughters?   What did she do with all of the other babies that were born?  What were their names?   Where were they born?   What happened to those that reportedly died?   Where are they buried?   Who were their fathers?  And on and on and on.   So many unanswered “why’s?”  Our only hope is that some other family members out there will DNA Test and we will get some new matches leading us to our other siblings who are hopefully still out there too!!

I have made contact with some of the Whitfield family and a few of the second cousins live fairly closeby.  I have met them.  Kathy and Joyce have been very nice and have provided me with some pictures of the brothers and my grandmother.   I definitely look like her and I even favor these two second cousins!   The two first cousins, who were actually the DNA matches that led CeCe to the three brothers, one of which is my father, are from Chicago and California.  I have not had the pleasure of meeting either of them yet, but hope to one day soon!  Some of the members of this family feel pretty certain of which brother I belonged to and they also feel certain that he didn’t know about me or he would have wanted to take care of me because he was a really sweet man.   And that made my heart happy…Maybe I got some of my kindness from him.   But I have to wonder, again, why?  Why was I kept from him?   Why didn’t he get an opportunity to know about me?

 

For now, we just keep plugging away…trying to find out the answers to at least some of the “why’s” we have…One thing I believe for sure and that is “why” certain people have come into my life.   I believe that God knew I needed them.  And maybe some of them needed me too.   I believe everything happens for a reason…Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out what the reason is.   But I am thankful for the new family members who have embraced me.   And I am thankful that some of them live close enough to visit pretty regularly.  And I am thankful for social media and texting and FaceTime, so I can stay in closed contact with those who live farther away.   I have gotten to meet most of the relatives on the maternal side now and we have made some awesome memories.  So even though we were “robbed” of our earlier days together, I feel we are destined to enjoy each other now and to make the most of our time together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do We All Fit In?

IMG_3594

So, I skipped a week of blogging because there were so many things going on last week, I honestly couldn’t decide what to write about!  But I now have some clarity and actually have a few things I want to write about; however, I picked the happiest one and will try to stay on topic!   Having A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder), believe me when I say, the struggle is real?!

Last weekend, my husband and I traveled from Southern Indiana to north of Indianapolis.  We drove up Friday night to celebrate Bradley’s birthday a few days early!  PF Changs made dinner and we stayed at the Sheraton!   The next day, we drove a little further north to Anderson for the second wedding I would get to attend for another Kalman girl!   This time, it was David’s daughter, Kaitlyn…And oh what a beautiful bride she was?   So I attended a wedding…what’s the big deal you wonder?

It was exactly a year ago this very weekend, that I first met this part of the Kalman family…MY family.   Last year, my Cousin, Susan, and I had been chatting on Facebook Messenger.  She lives in California and she was telling me about her niece’s wedding that she would be attending in Indiana…My second cousin’s wedding.  She asked me if I would like to be her “Plus One” for the wedding and reception?  Would I??  It took me like one second to say “Absolutely!  Yes!”  And so…we made a date.   She told me she would be flying in the Friday before that wedding and asked me if I wanted to come up that night and go to dinner with she and some other family members!   Of course, I did!   So I met up with Susan and her sisters, Sheryl and Teresa, and their daughters, and her brother, David and his wife, Tina, and their youngest daughter, for some local Mexican food.  Was I nervous?  Yes.  Was it scary walking in there by myself?  Yes.  Was I glad I went?  YES!!  They were all so nice to me!

The next day we attended the wedding of our niece, Megan, in the same Anderson location of the wedding a week ago.  Megan’s father was my cousin, Glenn, and he passed away unexpectedly a few years prior, so Megan and her family made sure his memory was not forgotten on this special day.  I wish I could have met this him too….He sounded really sweet.  I had a chance to talk to my cousins and what I learned was that they were also abandoned….Not by one, but by both of their parents; however, they were fortunate to have been able to be raised by their biological mother’s parents…Their grandparents.   Together…They got to grow up together, as siblings.   And to me, that made them very lucky and I was truly happy for them!   And there was an undeniable love between them that was just heart-warming.  Being abandoned is very isolating…so to have others in your life who shared knowing how that feels, must have been a true blessing to them.

So fast forward to last weekend, as David and Tina’s oldest daughter, Kaitlyn married her sweetheart, Brandon!  This wedding was different.  I wasn’t nervous, or scared, but I was once again, so glad I got to attend and that Brad got to meet all of these lovely family members this time!  My cousins, Susan, Sheryl, Teresa, Tuli, and Megan made us feel welcome, by making an extra place at their table for us, so that we could all sit together.   “So what?”  You say.   And I will tell you why…To come in as an outsider after 50+ years and be treated like you “belong” and are “wanted” and “loved” is particularly special when you have not only been abandoned, but continue to be rejected by other members of the family you belong to.

Spending time and visiting with these cousins on this special evening was so much fun and being made to feel a part of it all, like we had always been there, brought me to tears a couple of different times.   We were even included in the bride’s family photos…Kaitlyn, Brandon, David, Tina and Kristina, welcomed Brad and I into those photos with the rest of the family!   That may not mean a lot to everyone, but to me, it has significant meaning.  It means they “accept” me.   And I am not going to lie…That always feels good.  So we talked and laughed and ate and drank and danced and took photos!  It was a wonderful evening…mostly because I was with more family who loved me!

As all of this happiness was occuring last week, some other family members, were once again making it known that they might not all be so happy that DNA had made it possible to learn about ALL of the family members that were, indeed, a part of this family, but were unknown to most everyone.  It seemed that a few people in the family might have been happier, if we had just remained the “secrets” we had been for many, many years.

There was no doubt, we were causing some questions to be asked by other family members, and maybe we were causing a few family members to no longer be the center of attention…A position they evidently liked being in.   And word was out that there were several of us, who have been fortunate enough to happily connect or re-connect with family that we never really knew or that knew about us or they only knew about us for a short time, because we were there…And then…we weren’t.  What’s more, there are at least 3 and maybe 4 or more other siblings who have also been abandoned  and who are still out there somewhere…Waiting to be found.  That is, if they are still living?

So my search through DNA, and any other methods or techniques I can find, continues to try to find the other missing peices of the puzzle.   I believe there is room for all of us to “fit in” and there is always enough love in my heart to welcome some more new family members in…

IMG_3595

 

Love and Acceptance

IMG_3575If you have ever been abandoned, especially as a child, then you know how easy it is to feel “unloveable” and to feel like you are not “enough”.   EVER.

But today, once again, I had an amazing experience that made those two feelings just disappear.   And my sister, Patty, agreed that she felt the same way.   We went on another adventure together and even though it was a long day and involved a lot of driving, we are so glad we did!!   The rewards were so worth the effort!

Earlier this year, my Aunt Nan, gave me the phone number of one of her cousins named “Stevie”…Stevie being short for Stephanie.  So we connected by phone and I immediately felt a connection with her and even though she is really a cousin, her being fairly close in age to my Aunt Nan, she let me call her “Aunt Stevie”.   She and her husband run a veterinary hospital in Texas and even though she works 5-6 days a week, she still made time to phone me at least 3-4 times (some times more) per week, just to check in and make sure I was doing all right.  She immediately let me know that she was glad I had found their family and that she loved me and wanted me to be part of her life.   She also called me “Angel” from the first phone call…even though I felt like SHE was the Angel for reaching out to me the way she did and caring about me enough to call and check on me in the way she did.  It reminded me of my sweet Momma, who often called, just because she hadn’t heard from me that day or just wanted to make sure I was doing all right.  And while Aunt Stevie lives in Texas, she seemed much closer, and she, indeed, had relatives in Indiana, including two daughters.  She told me they have a family reunion every year and she wanted to make sure I would come this year!  And she told me to invite any of the other family members I had met, as well, which I did.  So today was the much anticipated reunion day!

The only other family that was able to make it to this reunion was my sister, Patty.  So she got up at 430 am on Sunday so she could drive 2 1/2 hours to my house, hop in the car with me, and then we drove another 3 hours to get to the reunion north of Indianapolis.  Having never met anyone else who would be at the reunion, we were both a little nervous and apprehensive, but hopeful that it would be a good experience.  But what we hoped for was nothing compared to what we were to experience?!

We were welcomed and greeted at the door by one of Stevie’s daughters and whisked inside like we were ceblebrities or something?!   We were taken directly to Aunt Stevie, who could hardly hug us and kiss us enough!   She seemed so genuinely excited that we had come.   She immediately started taking us around and introducing us to everybody and their brother….And then some!!   She went out of her way to make us feel like we truly were part of this family!  And it was incredible.  We must have told and retold our stories 20 times and everyone was just so kind, and so happy that we had found them, and they made us feel so genuinely welcome!

After a great lunch, we were invited to be part of the family pictures that are taken every year at this reunion….And after the photos were taken, Aunt Stevie got everyone’s attention and she was looking at Patty and me and started saying “Today, we have two new….”And her voice trailed off and she just started to cry.  She asked her daughter, who was standing beside her, to finish the story and she tried, but she too teared up.   So of course, Patty and I are both crying by this time, because we are just so touched by the sweetness of it all.  Anyway, long story short…They somehow managed to introduce us.  And anyone we hadn’t yet met, also introduced themselves to us and talked to us and welcomed us to the family.   It was almost surreal.

We also met and got to talk with another family member who is very into genealogy and has worked extensively on their family tree!  She spent some time with Patty and me taking notes about our families and the information we knew so that she could include us in the family tree and such.  We told her about the DNA testing we had done and I shared with her my original certificate of birth.  We also told her about the other siblings that we know are out there somewhere, and she said she would do what she could to help us with that search.  We are, of course, very excited about that!!

As the day wrapped up, I think Patty and I both agreed that we weren’t really ready for it to end…It had been such a positive experience.  And we knew it was one of those days that would not soon be forgotten!

We pretty much talked non-stop on our long drive home about how glad we were that we decided to make the trip and how wonderful everyone treated us!  We both feel that we have really “lucked out” in the biological family search department, because we have felt welcomed and accepted by most everyone we have found, with the exception of a few.   And we do realize that this is NOT always the case for people connecting with their biological families, especially when the family members are adults and not children. I mean, here we are, definitely well into adulthood, and we just kind of “show up” after 55 or so years…and we are just welcomed in, without question and without hesitation!  Just. Like. That.

It is an incredible feeling!!  So I dedicate this blog tonight, to our Aunt Stevie.  Thank you for everything you have done to bring us into your part of this awesome family!

So Many Emotions

I have lost loved ones before, but this, this was so very different.   It was not natural.  It was “contrived” and “forced”.   I was sure I was in some sort of shock, because I just still could not wrap my head around what had happened over the past week and the past three months.  But one thing I knew was that my Momma was gone and I missed her more than I could have ever imagined possible.

The evening after her funeral, with several people including some close relatives who I love dearly at my house, I told Bradley that I needed to get out of there…I am not sure if I was just anxious or if I was having a full-on panic attack, but I did know for sure that I needed to get away!!   So Brad politely excused us and told everyone we would be back soon.   We hopped in the jeep, without the top on it, and took off to ANYWHERE but where we were.   Having to drive by and look out our windows and see the house where my Momma once lived, that was now occupied by my father and various relatives of his, depending upon the day, was going to be harder to take that I had envisioned.

It is was close to nightfall and we were just driving around in the country, feeling the wind in my hair, and looking at the scenery from the country that I grew up in.   We stopped the jeep in a spot that was overlooking some of the land owned by my father and talked.   Brad asked if we needed to just put our house on the market and move elsewhere?  And while it sounded tempting, me, being the stubborn person I am, said “No way!  I am not going to be bullied out of our home that we love by my father!”  I reminded him how we had just remodeled it the fall before, adding our big family room, with a wood-burning stone fireplace, a big new deck connecting the house to the pool and plenty of space for our kids, grandkids, neices, nephews, and other family and friends we wanted to have around, and our bulldog and boxer crew!  He said “Okay, but if you change your mind, I am ready to go…It’s just a house.  We can make a home anywhere.”

The sun was setting, so we decided we had better go.  As we were headed back to our house, we came around a corner and there, in a small tree with limbs overhanging the road, was a big, beautiful owl!   Definitely NOT something you would typically see, especially considering it wasn’t even really dark yet?!   I knew right then it was a sign from Momma…I felt sure of it, but I wasn’t sure what the message was supposed to be??  In case you missed this detail in one of my earlier blogs, my Momma LOVED owls and had for many years.   She had some pictures and figurines when I was a kid, but my father had since made her take them down and told her they looked stupid in their house.   After she moved in with our family, she had picked out some owls as decorations for her “new” room and was thrilled to have them!  I just couldn’t feel seeing this owl tonight was a coincidence.

We returned home and went to bed, but I couldn’t get the image of that owl or Momma off my mind.  Brad asked what I needed to make me feel better and I told him “the beach”.  You see, we had a trip planned a few weeks earlier in one of our timeshare resorts, but had cancelled it due Momma’s illness.  He said that we should just go…I told him, I didn’t think it would be possible because we had cancelled at the last minute.  And I reminded him that it was summer vacation season, so everything was likely booked.   He encouraged me to try calling our timeshare company the next morning anyway to see if there was anything available…even if  it was only for 3 or 4 nights.   I dreamt of my Momma that night….which really made me determined to try to find us a place.

I called our timeshare company early the next morning to see if they had anything available on a beach…any beach??  And as I figured, they did not.  But I couldn’t give up…I thought of our other favorite beach, which wasn’t a part of our timeshare company.   We love the beaches in Alabama, so I called our favorite resort, Sea Chase, in Orange Beach (which is not part of our timeshare company).  And, to my dismay, but as expected, they were also booked solid and didn’t have anything available.  I was getting ready to hang up when the customer service rep asked if I would like for her to check their Sister Resort, St. Martinique in Fort Morgan, which was about 20 minutes from Orange Beach?!   Sister Resort??   I didn’t even know there was one, but yes, please!  She took my number and told me she would call me back.  I was sure they were probably sold out too…It was mid-July.   My phone rang a few minutes later and it was the customer service rep.   She said “Well, you are not going to believe this, but it just so happens that they have one four-bedroom house available starting tomorrow (Thursday) and checking out Monday morning.   Do you want it?  Did I??   “Yes!!  Absolutely, I definitely want it!”  And so, it was booked!   I called Brad and Alex who were catching up on their mowing.  They said they would be home later to pack and we would leave around midnight!   I called my daughter and invited her and her family.  And my niece, Gracie.  And Alex invited his friend, Sam….Afterall, we had plenty of room!

I had already made a decision that one of the things I wanted to do when we were at the beach was for Bradley and me to renew our wedding vows.   After getting through the past three months together and the love and protection Brad had shown my Momma and my younger brother and his family, I felt a renewed closeness.   So I called our good friend, Troy, who lives in Orange Beach and asked if he knew anyone who could do our vow renewal there.   And, of course, he did!   And he would contact them and try to set something up.   And he and his family would be there to be part of our celebration.   Perfect.

I let my family who was staying with us know that we were just going to get away for a few days, but that they were welcome to stay at the house with my brother and his kids, who were also staying there.  They were, of course, beyond understanding.   So I packed some bags in record time (This was a big deal…for anyone who knows me).  And I told Brad when he got home that I still wanted to renew our vows and had made arrangements through our friend.  So we left earlier than planned that evening so we could shop for a new, special ring on our way out of state.  This wasn’t necessary, of course, but he insisted.

We drove all night and arrived at Fort Morgan mid-morning on Thursday.   We were able to check in early.  The house was fantastic!  And huge?!  It was in a resort neighborhood very close to the ocean.  We had a golf cart to drive to seaside..It was perfect!   The people I loved most were there with me.  And our friend, Troy, came to visit us…And to tell us he had set up our vow renewal for Saturday.  We spent the rest of that day and the next at the beach.  It was the perfect place to relax and unwind and just “be”.   It has always been the place where I feel “at peace”, which I never really understood, but it now makes sense (which I will blog about later when I get back to the DNA tests and such).

And while I was still overwhelmed by sadness, it was peaceful.  The beautiful sight of the endless ocean, the sound of the waves rolling in, the warm sun on my skin, the sand between my toes, the smell and feel of the salty air, and helping my grandsons build a sandcastle…All of it.  It helped me get some perspective and regain my composure.

So, as you would imagine, I wrote my own vows and mostly thanked Brad for not only taking care of me and Alex, but also my brother and his kids, and mostly for loving and being so very protective of Momma.  The love and support he had shown reminded me of how much he loved me and how very much I loved him.   I had two of the most handsome escorts ever…my two older grandsons.  And an adorable ring bearer, the smallest grandson.  And two beautiful bridesmaids, my daughter and my neice, Gracie, and two great groomsmen, my son Alex and my son-in-law.  And a very familiar groom.  And our friends, Troy, Natalie, and Johnathon, were there to witness and share the moment with us.   And Alex’s friend, Sam, acted as photographer.   It was small and intimate and beautiful.   We were so afraid it was going to be a washout because it rained a lot that day up until about 20 minutes before we  were scheduled to start.  And then the rain stopped.  And it was gorgeous.  And emotional, but so heartfelt.

IMG_3569

IMG_3570

IMG_3571

We had another day to play and enjoy the sun and the ocean.  And go to dinner with our friends.  And I got to be with the people that I loved the most.   We made new memories and shared old memories, especially those involving Momma.  And we smiled, and laughed, and cried, and cursed, and there were lots of hugs and a fair amount of kisses.  It was just what we all needed.

IMG_3572

And it was…definitely the beginning of grieving and trying to start healing and get on with the life we had been given.  There was no doubt whatsoever this would be what Momma would want…She always wanted everyone else to be happy.   THAT was what brought her the most joy.   And at that time, that was a way to to pay tribute to her and her life.   But I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same….However, I had absolutely no idea of the twists and turns it would take.

 

 

 

Saying Good-Bye Too Soon

IMG_3538

Upon arrival at the funeral home in the town where we always lived, as soon as they opened on Friday morning, we were greeted by staff who were not only professional and caring, but also friends who knew we needed a little extra empathy.   And they were determined to help us plan some special arrangements and a celebration of life for my sweet Momma.  And I am still so thankful for that because to be completely honest, it felt like I was a robot just going through the motions after everything that had just happened in the previous week.

Of course, Brad was with me and he was the strong one…always holding me up and keeping me going.   I had fallen apart so many times during the week already…I’m not sure how he kept at it and stayed so tough.   I knew he was hurting too.  And tired…We were both so tired…from lack of sleep and the overwhelming worry and helplessness that we had endured all week.   And I knew he loved my Momma as much as I did.

Anyway, we spent a couple of hours planning out a visitation for the following Monday (to give Momma’s out-of-town family time to travel to Indiana) and a beautiful funeral service for the following Tuesday.  We tried to pick things we knew my Momma would have loved, but, of course, would have never indulged in for herself, because she wouldn’t have felt entitled to it, but we knew she was so entitled to it and then some.  To us, it didn’t feel like nearly enough…But we did the best we could.  We were determined to try to abide by her wishes she had made known to us about her end of life.

We then went next door where another very good friend of mine worked at the flower shop.   I knew that my Momma LOVED flowers of all shapes, types and colors, so we just went with a large variety and focused on colorful and cheerful and beautiful.   I trusted this friend and the staff there to do a phenomenal job and they did not disappoint!

I remember driving back home with Brad and just feeling so drained and exhausted, but there was still so much to be done.  And I wanted to do the very best I could at this one very last act of love and kindness for my Momma.   So, I willed myself to just “snap out of it”…And I went into full-on action mode.   We continued to still be very much on pins and needles because after getting a call-back from Momma’s attorney this morning, we learned that even through the hospital legal department agreed that the emergency guardianship gave us the ability to make Momma’s arrangements after it was questioned by my father, the attorney told us that it was not out of the realm of possibility that my father might try to file an injunction to block these arrangements.   We asked what we would need to do if this were to happen and he explained that we could fight it, so we instructed him to draw up whatever documents we would need to do so and to have it ready, just in case that happened.   So while we were completing these tasks toward the final arrangements, we were not sure how this would turn out.  And it all still seemed surreal…I was still waiting to wake up from the nightmare.

Next stop was the salon where Momma had enjoyed visited each week since she moved in with us to ask if her stylist would do Momma’s hair.  She was a little hesitant, as she had never know this before, but she had grown to love my Momma and agreed and said she would be honored to do it for her and she hoped she would be able to get through it.

We went home and Brad and Alex had mowing to do, so I asked my younger brother if he would like to go with me to look at monuments for Momma and he said he could.   So we went back to the place where my friend, Kena, had taken me a few days earlier and I showed him the stone that I thought Momma would love and he agreed that it was perfect.  So we talked to the business owner and told him we wanted it and decided upon what would be engraved on it…including “Our Sweetest Angel”, as well as her favorite saying “Oh fiddlesticks”.   And we checked one more item off the list of our things to do.

We had already contacted all of Momma’s family and several of her friends to let them know that Momma had passed and now contacted them to let them know when and where the arrangements were planned.   I also called the cemetary and confirmed everything with them, as well.  I had never planned a service and funeral so this was all new to me, but it was actually a blessing to have something to keep my mind busy and occupied.

I also made contact with a good friend of mine who is a lovely singer and asked her if she would like to sing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral service and she graciously agreed to do so.   We also picked out one of Momma’s all-time favorites sung by Vince Gill “Go Rest High On That Mountain”.  And I picked out a song that just seemed so fitting by Tim McGraw…”Please Remember Me” because I did not want anyone to ever forget my sweet Momma.   That was another item to check off the list of things to do.

Family would be coming in starting this evening.  As I had mentioned earlier, some of my nieces (Momma’s grandchildren) had been wonderful about being at the hospital throughout the week, which was quite impressive given that they were just teenagers.   But they loved their MeMe.    I wanted to make them a part of this and hopefully do something to help them get through this difficult time.  So I messaged and/or called them, and my daughter, to see if they would be interested in going with me this evening to pick out a new outfit for Momma/MeMe to be laid to rest in and they did.   So we planned a family dinner with them and my youngest brother, and my niece, Gracie’s Momma, and my daughter and her family and Brad and Alex at one of our favorite restaurants in Evansville for later in the evening.  And then the girls and I would go shopping after dinner.

Late in the afternoon, I got a call from Momma’s attorney’s office and when I saw the number pop up on my phone, I am pretty sure my heart stopped for a minute…I, was, of course, thinking my greatest fear was coming true and my father had filed an  injunction, as our attorney feared.  But I answered it to find that it was his assistant and she wanted me to know that Momma’s attorney had drawn up the papers necessary to address an injunction, if it were to be filed and she wanted to know if I could meet her at the local courthouse to sign it, in case if was needed.   She asked me to meet her at 330 pm, as the courthouse closed at 4 pm, so I did.    We met in the parking lot and sat in the car.  I signed the documents and we waited.   Momma’s attorney called at 345 pm and he said he had just checked and thus far, nothing had been filed.  He said he would check again in 10 minutes and call back.   He said that if nothing got filed, he did not feel we should file our paperwork because it might just cause a fight.   So he called back at 3:55 and nothing had still be filed.   So we did NOT file our documents either.   The court house was closed Saturday and Sunday, of course, and so he could’t file anything then, so Momma’s attorney felt we were good since everything was already scheduled and the visitation was set for Monday.   This was such a huge relief…I finally felt like I could actually breathe for the first time since early this morning.

After dinner, my daughter, my two nieces, Gracie and Skylar, and I went on a little shopping excursion at the mall.  We found Momma a beautiful, but comfortable outfit that we felt she would have loved and, of course, we found her some beautiful shoes.  And I know some of you might be wondering why in the world we would be worried about shoes, but if you knew Momma, she was very self-conscious about her feet from a surgery she had and she rarely went out without her feet being covered.  We also could not resist getting her some accessories including some jewelry that we felt she would have really loved, and, of course, we had to send her off with a purse!   She ALWAYS carried a purse and her granddaughters all agreed that they had better put some Mentos candy and some Kleenex in it or she would never forgive us.  She rarely ate a Mentos, but she made sure she had them in her purse for the grandkids.   She was very thoughtful like that.  The evening turned into so much more though, as we spent time telling stories and sharing memories about our favorite times spent with my Momma and their MeMe or the things about her we all loved the most about her.  It was a happy evening to be able to remember her like that and to be able to be activitely doing something for her one last time.   And we could not end the evening without stopping for coffee?!   Momma and I had coffee most every night after dinner while she lived with our family and she looked forward to it.  So we made a toast to her in Heaven that night.

IMG_3537

The next morning I took the items we purchased for Momma to the funeral home and our friends there were delighted with what we had done to honor Momma and remember her in such a fond and loving way.   They promised to include all of the items in a way that would hopefully carry on her sweet memory.

The rest of that day, we had friends and neighbors stopping by, kindly bringing food, drinks, paper supplies, and gifts.   But what meant the most were their kind words and heartfelt sympathies and offers to help out if there was anything they could do.   It was a flurry of activity, but I was really thankful for it because it kept my mind occupied and helped me not dwell on what had happened.

On Sunday, we spent the day with family again and asked my kids and the other grandkids to help in creating some nice picture boards to be on display at the funeral home.  We wanted to share our precious memories of Momma and MeMe with others.   There were not as many photos of her as we would have liked to have had, but there were several and we put together what we had into some nice collages.   I also had pictures of all of Momma’s grandchildren and great grand-children printed and framed for display because they truly were her pride and joy.  She loved each and every one of them like there was no tomorrow…And now there wasn’t.  At least not here on earth, for her.   And she was going to be so missed by them.  And by me.

My son-in-law approached me and Brad and said he would like to deliver the eulogy.   We already had the minister from a church she had attended in the past, with one of her best friends, to participate in the service.  However, since we truly wanted to make this as positive as possible about our memories of Momma and the new life she had been making for herself, we decided it would be a good idea.  We definitely did not want to dwell on the awful circumstances surrounding her death, so my son-in-law and I worked together to write a eulogy that was as uplifting as possible and that would give others some insight about all the things she had been able to do in the last 3 months of her life.   Hopefully, knowing she had some happiness and independence in those few months would help to ease the pain of losing her…If only just a little bit.

Sunday night, was a fitful night of sleep, if there actually was any sleep at all.  I was so worried that there would be a big scene made at the funeral home or that something was still going to go wrong before the visitation even started.   But somehow, with lots of prayers and by the Grace of God, we made it to the visitation.  And while it was completely uncomfortable because my father had gotten another exception from the protective order to be allowed at the visitation and the funeral, I knew I needed to be strong for Momma and make this about HER and the celebration of HER life, so I did my best.   The showing of sympathy and support from Momma’s friends and her side of the family, Brad’s family, and Brad’s and my friends was nothing less than amazing…We got so many hugs and so many kind words that it was hard to imagine.

I was doing pretty well handling it all, even with being completely ignored by relatives from my father’s side of the family (who I had considered as “MY” family my whole life), including the nieces who had supposedly helped fataher acquire and present the copy of the “Living Will” to the hospital that changed everything.   But then, a friend of my father’s came in and got him from his chair, in the front row (which I felt was pushing it for him to even be seated there),  and proceeded to move him onto a stool she placed right at the head of my Momma’s casket…you know, like the place typically reserved for a loving, caring spouse?!   I actually thought I was going to be physically ill and I had to excuse myself and go out of the building for a few minutes to get some air and regain my composure.   Why was I even at all surprised by this??  Here was my father, playing the “victim” once again…even after everything that had happened and the circumstances surrounding my Momma’s death…Many people still had no idea what had really gone on.   They had only heard one side of this story…His.  Most of them didn’t know what actually happened, so, of course, he would play on their sympathies!  It was beyond sickening.

However, this made me all the more determined to make this about Momma, so I marched back in there and got back in place with Brad and my younger brother at the foot of Momma’s casket to talk to people as they came through the line.  There were so many people who came to pay their respects….It was wonderful to know how many lives Momma had truly touched.  And I thank God that Brad, and Alex, my daughter and her family, and several of Momma’s side of the family and her very good friends, members of Brad’s family, as well as friends of mine and my family were there to help support us through that very, very long and difficult evening.   Honestly, I don’t even remember a lot of the details…I think I was still in a state of shock, at that point.   After the visitation was over for the evening, I just remember being so very drained.   I hoped I could muster the strength and the energy to make it to the funeral the following morning.   I prayed that there would be no more problems at the funeral home and that Momma’s service could be completed with the utmost dignity and respect, as she deserved nothing less.  After spending a little time visiting with some family that had just gotten in today…That night, I did sleep with the help of a sleeping aid.

There was a brief hour of visitation prior to Momma’s Funeral the next morning, but I told Brad and my family that I really just wanted to get there a few minutes before the service started, so that is what we did.   Just as the service was getting ready to begin, my friend who was singing “Amazing Grace” in another room out of sight, asked me to deliver a message to the Funeral Home Director about her music, which I did.   As I was walking back from their office into the main room, I noticed that one of my cousins who had apparently helped my father with the “Living Will” was at the Guest Register Stand.   She picked up the register book, tucked it under her arm, and walked out of the funeral home door with it!!!!   I went back into the Funeral Director’s Office to tell them what I had just witnessed and they said they would go out and retrieve the book.   They said they had never had anyone do that before?!

I went back in and took my seat and my friend sang a beautiful version of “Amazing Grace”, and the Minister shared some really comforting thoughts, and my son-in-law delivered the eulogy, which left very few dry eyes in the place, but I also noticed that it made me and others smile, at least a time or two, for the love and happiness Momma had been able to experience, if even for a very short time.   The other two songs were played and I cried so much I wasn’t sure I could actually muster any more tears.   I just couldn’t believe that my Momma was really gone and we were nearing our last good-bye?

After everyone who attended the funeral had their opportunity to offer their final condolences and say good-bye to Momma, we did the same, and were the last ones out of the room.   The guest register stand had been moved to the back of the hallway, where anyone who hadn’t signed their name already could do so on their way out.   When I walked out into the hallway, I see this same cousin of mine who had taken the book earlier, in a heated argument with one of the funeral home staff about taking the registration book for my father because he “deserved” to have it.  I thought to myself, “Really?   You are going to make a scene in the funeral home?!”   The funeral home staff looked at me to get my reaction.   I quietly asked the funeral home staff if they could make a copy of all of the pages in the book?    She said that they could.   I told her if they could do that, I didn’t really care about the book.  I just needed the names and addresses to send out Thank You cards.  She asked if I was sure and I said “Yes, it’s just a book..It certainly isn’t worth fighting over.”   So they made me a copy…And my niece took the book to supposedly give to my father.

The ride to the cemetary seemed like such a long one that day.  Following that big black hearse felt so…Final.   I cried silently most of the way there and we arrived at the gravesite for the short service there.   Since it was out of town, there was not a large crowd…it was very immediate family and a couple of my Momma’s very good friends.  And I was glad for that.  I insisted to Brad that we stay until my father and my older brother had left the cemetary, which we did.  I am not sure what I thought might happen, but I was still fearful that somehow her making it to this resting place was going to be interrupted.  Seeing her casket, there, in that cemetary, was certainly something to be thankful for, as we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to accomplish that for her.   But it looked like we had.   At least for the time being….

.

 

 

 

 

 

So much to be thankful for….

IMG_3524So, I am back home in Indiana and am still reeling from the past week that I thoroughly enjoyed!  Was that for real???  It was such a special and fun vacation on the beaches of Alabama!   And while that is my happy place and I always love going there…It was the people surrounding me that made this one like none other!

I just wanted to share a few more thoughts that might encourage another foundling or adoptee, who is thinking about searching for their biological family, to just go for it!!   I have said this before and I truly mean it…If I had only found my original closest DNA match from my initial Ancestry test, which was my Aunt Nan, I would have been happy with the results!   She and I immediately bonded and she became one of my favorite people very quickly.   She accepted me and welcomed me and made me feel loved by the second time we talked!   She, alone, would have been worth doing the test.   But all of the other family members that I have had the opportunity to connect with from meeting her, as well as others I met from these test results, and a subsequent 23 & Me Test, is truly nothing less than a MIRACLE to me!!  I know it sounds dramatic, but it really did change my life!

Has the whole journey been perfect?  No!  Has the journey been an easy one?  No!   Have there been frustrations along the way?  Most definitely!   Has everyone been welcoming and accepting?   Hell no!!   Has there been hurt and rejection along the way?  Absolutely.  But, do I have any regrets about searching for my biological family?  None.  Zero.  Nada.  The good has so far outweighed the bad!!

If you are thinking about searching for your biological family, I would just caution you to be realistic in your expectations.   Everyone may not be thrilled that you found them or made contact.   Does that hurt?   Or sting?  Of course it does!  And the closer family they are to you, the more it stings and hurts.   In my case, when I tried to contact my biological mother initially, the reaction I got was complete and total denial.   And she was angry that I had made the contact.   How did that feel?   It felt awful…It hurt bad.  Not at all the way I had dreamt about an initial conversation with my birth mother if I ever found her…There was no warm and fuzzy.   She tried to convince me that I belonged to her older brother?!   Who lived several states away.  In a nursing home.  And who had dementia.  I remember feeling very discouraged because it didn’t sound like he would have a plethora of information to share?

But, did I let it stop me?  Or destroy me?  NO!   I reminded myself that I was raised by a wonderful Momma who always made me feel loved and wanted.  I wasn’t searching for a “mother”, because I already had the best one I could imagine and even though she was gone, she could never, ever be replaced!!  I reminded myself that I began this search with the goal of finding out if I had any siblings out there!  And guess what?   I did!   I am not sure how many or where they all are or who they are now, but I definitely had siblings!   I also reminded myself of my own immediate family and some special extended family members and how blessed I was to be loved and supported by them on this journey!

Thus far, I have been able to connect with and meet three of them.  I met my youngest sister, Sissy, first when she flew to Florida in May 2017 on my first visit to Aunt Nan’s.  Sissy was the only child kept by our biological mother.   I also got to meet my cousin, Carla, on this visit!  Sissy and a friend of hers were instrumental in finding our oldest sister, Patty, this past January!   And I met Patty two days later because it just so happened that we only lived about 2 1/2 hours apart?!   Since then, my two sisters and I have spent time all together on a couple of mini-vacations…one including all of our husbands this past spring.   My son, Alex, and I flew to meet my brother, Michael, and his son who lived in Boston last summer.  On second trip to Florida with my husband, Brad, we were surprised by Aunt Nan’s sister, Aunt Carol and her husband, Uncle Vernon who came down from Georgia!  We also got to meet Aunt Nan’s daughter, Missy, and her kids by swinging by her home for her daughter’s graduation party, on our drive back to Indiana!   Last summer, I also connected to some other cousins who belong to Aunt Nan’s older brother that I mentioned earlier, via Facebook.  Last fall, I got to meet several of these cousins and second cousins, when I got invited, as a plus one, to a wedding!   In addition to those who live in Indiana, I got to meet cousins and second cousins from California!!

Last Thanksgiving, Aunt Nan came to Indiana!   My first holiday with newly found biological family….It was amazing!!   And at Christmas, she came back to Indiana and stayed for a week!!  And my brother Michael flew back to Indiana and actually met Aunt Nan for the very first time…this was a great Christmas surprise!!   Then Sissy flew in after Christmas to be there for my birthday.   They got to meet my kids and my grandsons, and my husband.  We met up with some of the Indiana cousins and my brother got to meet them for the first time.  And Aunt Nan and Sissy enjoyed seeing them again.  After meeting Patty in January, she and I flew to Aunt Nan’s to for a surprise visit…She hadn’t seen Patty since she was a baby?!   It was amazing!  During that trip, Patty and I also got to meet another Uncle named Greg who lives in Florida too…And he also remembered Patty as a baby.

This spring, after finally getting my original birth certificate and then my adoption papers, I learned that there were definitely 2 more siblings out there that we continue to search for!  I also got to meet a cousin who actually remembers me as a baby!!!  She also remembered my sister…And the two of us together!!   She didn’t actually remember the brother that I also reportedly had, but remembers hearing about him.  She and other cousins from this part of the family that I got a chance to meet said that the three of us were left with their Uncle and all got adopted out to different families.  They didn’t know where we all ended up or who we became, as obviously our names changed.  But I did learn that MY first and middle name were never changed, as I had been told by my biological mother.  I also learned that my actual biological father was not who I was originally told it was by my biological mother.

CeCe Moore dug into my DNA results again and narrowed my father down to one of three brothers!   The sad thing is that they have all passed away, making it nearly impossible to know which one I belonged to, unless my biological mother were to tell me.   Thus far, she has been unwilling to do so and actually said she “didn’t want to talk about it anymore”…And that “It was none of my business!”   I have connected with some cousins from this family and actually met two of my second cousins who live about an hour away.    They are soooooooo nice!!!   I hope to meet some more of this family in the near future and they are trying to help me unravel the mystery.   They have provided me with some pictures of two of these brothers.   I truly appreciate them trying to help me too.   I won’t give up…I will continue to work at finding the answer to this mystery.  And I will continue to search for the other siblings that are out there.    But if I don’t ever figure out the definitive answer about my biological father or find these other siblings, I will still be overjoyed with the wonderful family members that I have found and connected with, who want to be connected to me!   I am truly thankful that my family has grown by leaps and bounds this past year!!

So if you are on the fence, do a DNA test and move forward with your search!!!   And focus on and embrace the positive parts of your journey!   And if you find negative pieces of the puzzle, it can go a long way as part of just “knowing” and of “closure”.   Just be prepared for that part of it….Like most things that happen in our lives, there is good and bad.   At least in my own personal situation, the good has been so good, that I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone through with it!!!