Take a step back…let me introduce my hero

IMG_3490When I started this blog about a month ago, I hinted at some things that caused me to begin my search for biological family members.  It’s a question I get often “Why did you begin your search at age 53, instead of when you were younger?”

It’s an understandable question.  So I will try to explain it from my heart…because that is where the decision came from.

You see, for a little over 50 years, I was fortunate enough to have this amazing, loving, caring Momma who I loved so much.  And more importantly, she loved me and I knew that because she always made it a point to tell me, and most of all, to show me.  At six years old, on a trip to Tampa, FL, I learned I was adopted.  My parents, and my newly adopted brother, along with my Mamaw, and my 7-year old cousin had gone to visit an older cousin on my father’s side of the family (the sister of my 7-year old cousin).   That 7-year-old cousin and I were playing on the beach a few days after we arrived in Florida.  He told me he had “a secret”.  Several times.  Finally, I begged him to tell me what it was.  And just like that, I learned that I was adopted.  Since I didn’t know this, I ran back to my parents and asked if what he said was true?  My father was angry and walked away…leaving my Momma to do the explaining and smoothing over (this was definitely a pattern over the years…Momma handled the hard stuff, the touchy stuff, and the stuff that might make someone hurt or angry…you know, the “unpleasantries”).

Momma sat me down and hugged me tight and told me this was true.   I was confused because we had just recently adopted my new baby brother and everyone seemed privy to that information and it was not a “secret”.   So I questioned why they hadn’t told me already.  She said they were just waiting for the right time…But went on to tell me that I should never feel bad about being adopted because, as she explained it, adopted kids are wanted and chosen by their families to be a part of it, so I should feel extra “special” that I was adopted.   That made sense.  And I was only six years old, so I went back to play on the beach and didn’t think much more about it at the time.  However, when we returned to Indiana…things were very different.  My father was so angry with my Aunt (his sister…the mother of my cousin who told me the secret) that he stopped speaking to her and continued to not speak to here for the next 46 years!   I never really understood exactly what happened and my father would not tell.  But I am sure it broke my sweet Mamaw’s heart…She wound up dying at only 63 years of age in 1971.   I was 9 years old.  A piece of my heart died then too.  Losing her was surreal…It took quite a while for that to soak in.  She lived next door and we spent lots of time together.  She was nothing less than a saint, I am sure of it!

Fast forward to my pre-teen years, and a day when Momma and I were looking for something in her ceder chest.   I came accross her Marriage License to my father, along with many other keepsakes.   As we got closer to the bottom of that chest, I found what appeared to be another Marriage License to my father dated earlier than the one before.  I asked her about why there were two?  And she told me that her and my father were too young when they first got married and so they had split up, but later decided to get back together.  Again, being a pre-teen and my Momma making absolutely NO big deal of it, I just kind of shrugged it off and didn’t really think much more about it.  At least not for many years.

All right, now to the winter of 2014.   By this time, my parents had aged significantly…both of them having some serious health problems, including both of them battling different kinds of cancer.  Momma also had MS and had a mini-stroke and was no longer able to drive, and my father was not feeling well and was having some concerning symptoms, but he was beyond stubborn about going to the doctor, so the symptoms went on for at least 2-4 months.   Brad and I finally talked him into going to the ER to get checked out.  My family and I had lived next door to my parents for the past 14 years, so we pretty much saw them daily.

My father wound up being admitted that day and having a surgery the next day to do some repairs almost immediately.   With his diabetes, healing was not happening nearly as quickly as he would have liked.   He was becoming restless and very adamant about being released from the hospital.  His doctor told him he would only release him to a rehabilitation facility where they could do wound care and physical therapy to help him regain strength.  He chose one a few minutes north of where he and Momma lived and he signed himself in.  The staff there were very kind and treated him very well from any interactions we saw and we saw a lot because it was close enough that visiting was really easy.  And we did so often.

However, within a few short weeks, he again grew impatient and was being very demanding and aggressive with the staff.  He wanted to go home.   This was understandable; however, he still had a large open wound and was still very weak…he could barely transfer from the bed to a bedside chair or toilet.   And since Momma weighed about a hundred pounds soaking wet and was not in great health herself, she was scared to death to bring him home and not be able to care for him properly or for him to fall and be injured further, which was certainly understandable.  While he had been hospitalized and in rehab, she had stayed with us some and then my youngest brother and his kids had stayed with her at her house part of the time.

I did understand what my father was saying about not having any idea when he would be released and feeling “stuck” there at the facility he was in.  I asked him if it would be allright to call a Case Conference and ask for a plan including some goals with completion dates, thinking that might help him feel better and keep him on track with making progress on goals to get out and be able to return home.   He agreed that this was a really good idea.     (Oh just a little detail…he had made Brad and me the first people to contact from the facility if they needed to share information, get permission, etc…so we were privy to all of his info, per his wishes).   So I contacted the Director of Nursing to set up the Conference.   In the meantime, I also talked to a colleague of mine who happens to be a licensed Social Worker and he suggested talking with a facility in Evansville (same city as previous hospital) called Health South…They are an aggressive rehabilitation facility.  Their goal is to get patients back to as much independence as possible and back to their own homes!  Long-term care is not offered there, like it was in the facility he was currently in.  So I  made a call and talked to one of their admissions people and they felt my father was a perfect candidate and felt that getting him admitted would be absolutely no problem, with his physician, Medicare and his other health insurance.  I just kept this under my hat, thinking that if the Case Conference didn’t yield some definitive answers and timelines, this might be an option to throw out.

So the day we were supposed to have the Case Conference, I got a call from the Director of Nursing where my father was, saying that he had cancelled the meeting.  I asked if she could tell me why and she said she was sorry, but she couldn’t.  I told her I didn’t understand.   She said that my father had removed me and my husband from his contact list and they couldn’t share any more information about him with us.

So later that day, I got a frantic call from my Momma.  She said that my father had called her and my younger brother on their way to pick his kids up from school and that he had told them to come and pick him up…He said he was getting of there and going home!   Momma was beside herself and said she didn’t think she could take care of him.  I told her not to worry that the facility was surely getting home health lined up to come in and help with his care.

A little later I got a call from my younger brother saying that our father was now at home with Momma and that he was very worried.  He told me that our father was irate with the facility staff and was cussing and being very aggressive.  He said he got him in the car and started home….He said he was driving and our father was in the front passenger seat.  My Momma and his elementary school aged son were in the backseat.  He said the ride home was beyond tense.   And quiet.  He said he finally said something like “Well, dad, I bet you are glad to be going home.”   At which point he said our father started trying to punch him while he was driving?!   He said Momma was crying and shaking and that his son was screaming and crying.   My younger brother said he stopped the car and told my father he could get out if he was going to be abusive.   So reportedly he stopped and they made it back to their home.   He said as soon as our father made it in the house to his recliner,  he told my brother and his son to “Get the Hell out of my house and don’t ever come back!”  So my brother and his son WALKED back to their house about a 1/2 mile away.   And he called me to give me an update.

As soon as Brad and I got home from work, we stopped by my parents to check on them.  We were especially worried about Momma because we knew she was a nervous wreck.  We were completely ignored by my father, and Momma was obviously shaken.  We had been helping her with her medications for a few months and she asked for an extra “nerve pill”…which was actually an anti-anxiety medication.  We told her to call us if she needed anything and she promised to.   The following Sunday, I called Momma to see if she wanted to come down so I could wash and style her hair and fill her weekly medicine tray (this had kind of become a habit) and she said she did.  I saw her walking across the yard and she stopped at the bottom of the steps.  I told her to come in and she said “I can’t.”  I asked her what she meant?   She said “Your father said I couldn’t come in to your house anymore.”   I asked if she was kidding and she looked away and said “No….I am sorry.”   She went on to say that he told her he would be watching out of his bedroom window to see if she came in to our house.   I told her I couldn’t believe it?!  She said she couldn’t either, but that my father said I could come up to their house and do her hair and fill up her medicine trays.   I told her okay…I could do that for her, but I would have to gather up all of my stuff.   So she walked back to her house and I gathered up what I needed and asked Brad to go with me.   We went in and Brad sat in the living room with my father.  He did actually barely speak to Brad, but put his nose up in the air to me and looked the other way.

I washed Momma’s hair at the kitchen sink.  After I dried, curled and styled it for her, and filled her medicine tray, my father said to come into the living room because he wanted to talk to me.  So I went into the living room where he was in the recliner and sat down on the sofa across the room.

He started by saying that he was very proud of how I had taken care of Momma while he was away, but the conversation quickly turned sour and he started shaking his finger at me and said that he was very disappointed that I had tried to put him away in a nursing home.   I, of course, interrupted and said that I was by no means trying to keep him in a nursing home, as a matter of fact, I understood his frustration with the lack of progress toward getting back home and had consulted with some colleagues and had done some research on a facility called Health South in Evansville and…At this point he was now shaking his fist at me and hollering “Yeah, you and your fucking research!  You were just trying to put me in a nursing home further away?”   He was so angry and so agitated….It was very scary.  I tried to explain to him that Health South was NOT a nursing home at all, that it was very short term rehab hospital and that they had an excellent reputation and patient turn-around time.   He didn’t want to hear any part of it!   He then told me “Get the Hell out of my house and out of my sight!  And DON’T ever come back!”   He told Brad that this didn’t have anything to do with him and Alex, just me, because he knew it was my doing.   At this point I was already up and headed to the door, crying in disbelief, and trying to comfort Momma who was now crying in the kitchen.  My father again told me to “Get my ass back down to my own house!”  Brad was right behind me.  He turned around and told my father “This has everything to do with me and Alex….If you are banning Sherri, then you are banning our whole family.”   Brad asked how my Momma was going to get her medications properly?   My father replied “If she gets them, she gets them.  If she doesn’t, she doesn’t!  It’s really none of your God Damn business!!”   So we went home.   I was in shock and couldn’t believe what had just happened?!

So, a little while later, Brad took all of Momma’s medicines that we were keeping at our house to their house and dropped them off.   He stressed to my father the importance of Momma getting them properly and my father told him it was no longer his concern.

The following Sunday, my Momma’s best friend called me and said she had been asked to fill Momma’s medicine tray for the week and didn’t feel comfortable doing it and wondered if I would do it if she brought everything down to my house.  I agreed.  A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.  To my surprise Momma was with her friend!!!   So they both came in and I hugged and kissed Momma and asked if she was okay?  She said she guessed so, but was sure glad to get to see me and Brad and Alex.  Her friend said I didn’t ask if she could come, I just said “come on” and we left. She said “Your father is sure in a mood.”   So we filled the medicine tray and talked for a few minutes and her friend said she had better take her back, she didn’t want to cause any problems.   She said she would try to stop in and check on Momma as often as she could.  This made me feel a little bit better, but still, at the same time, It made me sick.  Literally sick.  Momma would sneak out of the house and call me on her cell phone occasionally, so that helped a little bit.  At least I knew she was okay.

So the following Sunday, Momma’s friend called again to ask for my help with the medicine tray.  I told her I could do it.  Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang and it was Momma’s best friend, who this time, was crying.   I told her to come in and asked what was wrong?  She said she tried to bring Momma with her again, but this time my father told her “She isn’t going anywhere.  She doesn’t have any business down there!”   Momma’s friend was visibly shaken by this.  She said she didn’t know how much more my Momma could take, but she didn’t know what to do.   I told her I didn’t either because she won’t stand up for herself or tell anyone what is actually going on.  I told her that I had called Adult Protective Services and they said that unless my Momma herself reported a problem of being mistreated, there wasn’t really anything they could do.  Her friend vowed to try to keep in close contact, but she said she wouldn’t doubt it if my father didn’t ban her next…

So one more week goes by and Saturday night is my son’s first prom.   He was pretty much out all night and still sleeping by the time noon rolled around on Sunday.   I had intended to go get a pedicure on Sunday afternoon, but had started reading a book and was still in my pjs and decided I was pretty happy just hanging out on the sofa.  So by the grace of God, I did NOT leave my house….You will get the importance of this shortly.

About mid-afternoon, I heard my two dogs, Rowdy and Milo, barking up a storm out front.   I went to the door to see my Momma almost “running” down her yard into mine.  I went out on the porch and she hollered “I need help!”   I said “Okay…what is wrong?”  I honestly figured that my father had fallen and Momma was unable to get him up by herself.   However, what she said next, stopped me in my tracks!   She said “I need help.  It’s your father.   He’s tearing things up in the house and he tried to shoot me…He was trying to kill me!”   I said “What??”   She said “He had a pistol and he was trying to shoot me with it!”   I told her to come on in the house and she said “I can’t….I am not allowed in your house remember?”   I said “Well, this is different, we need to get you somewhere safe!”   She said “No I can’t come in, he will shoot me then.”   At that point, I gently took her hand and guided her up the steps of the porch and into the front door of our house and locked it behind us.   She kept saying she wasn’t supposed to come in and I told her I couldn’t leave her out there in an unsafe situation and that we were calling the police.  (Brad was at work in Louisville, KY)   I called 911 and asked them to send officers right away and briefed them on what Momma had told me.  They said they would send officers.   I got Momma into the recliner in the family room.   She was pretty hysterical and was crying and worrying that my father was going to find out she was here.

I asked her how she got away from my father.  She said that he was pointing the gun at her and holding onto his walker and that he fell.   She said when he fell, she kicked him back down as he was trying to get up, and she then ran out of the front door and down to my house.  I asked her why she didn’t call for help and she said he had ripped the phone cord out of the wall and was throwing her things all around the living room.   I tried to reassure her and tell her everything was going to be all right, but she was shook.  And to be honest…so was I!   This was pretty scary stuff!!

So…This was just the beginning of the nightmare that ensued.   I can’t really write any more about it tonight because it is emotionally draining, but I will continue the story in my next blog.   I am sorry this one is so long, but there is a lot of detail to this story that will hopefully allow you to see AND to feel the fear and other raw emotions in this situation and the magnitude of what all eventually happened….And how it all ties in to the decision I made to search for my biological family.

 

California Dreamin’

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Here I am doing my Sunday night blog at 1:58 am on Monday morning…Why you ask?  Because it is my last night in California…And they are three hours behind!  So technically it is still Sunday night here!  I head out tomorrow to go back home to Indiana.

You may be wondering what in the world I am doing in Cali?  Someone who has become very important to me lives here and invited me to come for a visit.  She actually asked me last summer, and I was still doing quite a bit of traveling meeting biological family members that I had just leaned about, so I just couldn’t fit the trip into my schedule.  But this year…This year, I decided she needed me and I just needed to make it work.  And so, here I am…close to the end of my first trip to California.

Jacqui Woods Ochoa…Is truly my “soul sister”.   We may not have the same DNA, but the similarities we share, the commonalities we continue to discover, the understanding of each others’ feelings about being Foundlings, as well as Adoptees who both pretty recently lost the only Mothers we ever knew…Has made for quite a unique bond?!    Jacqui and I connected through a Facebook Group called “Foundling Finders” that CeCe Moore suggested I become part of, as I mentioned in my previous blogs.  How was I to know or even begin to fathom that one of the best parts of my DNA testing and my journey and search for my biological family would lead me to an amazing friendship like the one we have developed?!

This lovely woman (and one of her sons) picked me up from LAX on Thursday,  welcomed me into her home, introduced me to both of her sons, showed me around Huntington Beach and Newport Beach areas.  We spent Friday at the beach…my happy place.  And hers.  On Saturday we not only went on a 2-hour cruise looking for dolphins, whales, and sea lions, we also headed out to Crystal Cove State Park to check out a different kind of beach and to see and explore the tide pools for various sea life.  Today, we headed back to downtown Huntington Beach to do a little shopping and then wound up back at the beach for the afternoon.  One of the things we discovered is that we both equally LOVE the beach!   She gets it when I am excited about finding a particular color and type of sea shell, or when the water is that perfect shade of turquoise, and when the waves are coming in perfectly to make that beautiful crashing sound.   She appreciates the heavenly rays of sun and the classic smell of Coppertone Suntan Lotion.

Jacqui and I had never actually “met” until last Thursday…But we have spent so much time on Messenger, and then texting, and talking of the phone, and occasionally doing FaceTime, that I felt like I had always known her.  There was no “awkward” silence, or feeling “uncomfortable” or “unnatural” or “forced”…There was only familiarity, and hospitality, and laughter, and a little crying, and questions, and more questions?  And answers.  And hopes.  And dreams.  We shared some deeply protected information that was held very close to our hearts.  Things you can’t share with just anyone…”Foundling stuff”, like disappointment, and rejection, and hurt, and fear, and pain, and how we coped with all of those different emotions and situations and remained somewhat sane.  And finally, the realization of how strong we really are and how we still keep the faith and the hope and have a desire to help other Foundlings and be supportive of them…Just as they were to us.

So if you are searching for your family or for answers about your past, don’t get so focused on the end result that you forget to enjoy the journey…Friendships like this don’t come along every day!   I will treasure this friendship and the memories of the first time we met forever in my heart.   And I will already be looking forward to a return trip to visit one of my Search Angels!

#kindnessreallydoesmatter

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What is a “Mother”?

 

This weekend, my older sister, Patty, and I went to see the movie “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”.   We had both wanted to see it and since she only lives a few hours away and we had Saturday free, it seemed like the perfect time!  I admit it is sort of a “chick flick”…you know, lots of singing, and dancing, and lovey dovey stuff.  However, I was not prepared for the last part of the movie, which was a scene in a beautiful country church where the daughter of the main character was getting ready to dedicate her new little one to Jesus.   You see, her mother had dedicated her in the very same church many years ago and had gone through her pregnancy, as well as childbirth alone, and had basically raised her daughter on her own to be a beautiful, smart, loving young lady.

These babies were everything to them…even the mother who did it all alone.   It was her most important role…to raise this beautiful daughter she had been given.  Even though she knew it wasn’t going to be easy, she saw it as her greatest adventure…And she had LOTS of adventures!

There weren’t too many dry eyes in the theater during this part of the movie, as it was very touching; however, for my sister and me, it probably hit closer to home than it did for most.  We were both abandoned by our birth mother when we were just tiny girls…I was only a few months old and Patty was a few years old.  Being abandoned by the one person who is supposed to love you the most, and nurture you, and take care of you, is not something you just “get over” and “forget about”.  It is always there…in the back of your mind.  Underlying.  Waiting for an opportunity to remind you that you weren’t wanted…by the one person who should want you the most.

I was too young to remember actually being left by our biological mother, but my sister says she remembers it even though she was only about 2 1/2 years old, as incredible as it seems!  She has had skeptics who say that she couldn’t possibly remember something from when she was that young.  But I definitely believe her!  I have talked to two different therapists about how far back one can have memories and they both say that it is possible to have the ability to recall memories from a very, very young age (even 2 years old), particularly if there was a traumatic experience.  My sister told me once, that for several years following her abandonment, if she was out in public with a babysitter or someone looking after her, she would panic if she lost sight of them for fear that she had been “left” once again.   She grew up without a mother in her life and while her father was good to her when he was around, he often wasn’t.   He was also estranged from his family, so they were not in the picture.  Patty had basically no extended family from her birth mother’s side either,  because no one knew exactly what happened to her …Until now.   Boy, has that made for some happy reunions??

I was blessed with being placed with my adoptive parents at 10 months of age, so I don’t really remember my life before them.  I do know one thing I have learned is that simply carrying a baby and the act of giving birth, does NOT, alone, make someone a Mother.  My adoptive Mother, MY Momma, did not give birth to me, but I don’t think she could have possibly loved me any more if she had?!

She always made me feel loved.  She hugged me.  And kissed me.  And occasionally, she scolded me, or spanked me, or put me in time out, or later grounded me, when I needed it.  She rocked me to sleep and sang me lullabies.   She read me story books.  She helped me learn to read story books.  She made me a special birthday cake every year, even though my birthday was only 2 days after Christmas.  She always made sure I got the doll I wanted for Christmas.  She made sure my dolls had clothes and blankets and a bed and a baby buggy and bottles and diapers…Everything I would need to take good care of them.  She combed and brushed, and later curled my hair on those little pink rollers (which I did hate by the way.  LOL!).  She painstakingly cut out patterns and sewed clothes for me…sometimes, she made us matching dresses!!  Later she took me shopping for clothes and shoes.  She worried over me when I was sick or didn’t feel well.  She took me to Sunday School and Church and Bible School and Youth Group.  She was a room mother at my school and all the kids loved it when she baked cookies for our parties.   She later taught me how to bake cookies and how to cook other good food.   She taught me how to wash dishes, and do laundry, and clean house.  And later she helped me learn to drive.  She loved taking care of me.  And spending time with me.  And teaching me to do things for myself.  And encouraging me to do whatever I wanted to do.  And she loved my friends and when they came over to visit.  And later on she loved my husband.  And she loved my kids.  And their kids.  And she NEVER stopped…Until she passed away 4 years ago.

So those are the things that make someone a Mother…or in my case a “Momma”.

Now, back to that DNA, I wrote about last week.  While I have found many family members through DNA, including my birth mother, there are these two ladies, Aunt Nan and Aunt Carol,  who are definitely “Mothers”, regardless of what the biological relationship is, they have both welcomed and accepted me and my sister, Patty, into their lives and into their hearts and I am pretty sure they are never letting go!   And even though they both already have kids and grandkids and great grandkids of their own, they had room for some more “kids” (big kids) who needed them in their lives!  They have done the same for our brother, Michael, who was also abandoned by our biological mother as a young boy and grew up in the foster care system.

You see, Aunt Nan and Aunt Carol didn’t HAVE to do this.   It wasn’t their responsibility, but they are MOTHERS…They know how to love unconditionally.  And how to make those of us who have been abandoned and rejected, feel accepted, and welcome, and cherished.   So to my Aunt Nan and Aunt Carol who have “adopted” Patty and me and our brother,  even though we are just a little bit old for that, THANK YOU!!   Thank you both from the bottom of my heart (and I feel pretty safe speaking for Patty and my younger brother, Michael).  All children, no matter how old we are, still like to feel a Momma’s love!

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DNA is amazing!

So, I determined I was a Foundling and I ordered an Ancestry DNA Test as suggested by CeCe Moore, Genetic Genealogist, who asked me if I would allow her to work my case?!  Would I ever??  I was so excited about her offer of help because, you see, I knew next to nothing about DNA?!  And it looked so complicated to me.   As I had been reading stories and accounts on DNA Detectives and Foundling Finders Facebook pages, there were many successes, but there were plenty of people who searched for years and never really found a close enough DNA match to truly find what they were looking for.  So while I was excited about doing the test, I was also trying not to get my hopes up.  I honestly figured I would be one of the people who did the test and only had 5th and 6th cousin matches show up?  I felt that if this was my expectation, I wouldn’t be disappointed?!

The DNA Test came the first week of January in 2017.  I read the instructions and all kinds of tips that I googled on doing the sample properly so you don’t have a test that can’t be processed.  Nothing to eat or drink or teeth-brushing AT LEAST 1/2 hour prior to giving the sample.  “Be sure you give the proper amount of saliva in the tube…Not too much and not too little.”  It sounded simple enough?!  But being one to always err on the side of caution, I decided to do mine first thing the next morning when I woke up.

So, I start doing my sample and quickly learn that one’s mouth is particularly dry first thing in the morning?!   You were supposed to complete it within a half and hour, I believe, so I was racing against the clock to conjure up enough spit to fill that little vial, which no longer looked so little?!   I finally got what I thought was enough, but then I couldn’t tell if it was all saliva up to the fill-line or if part of that was foam?   I even had my glasses on and looked at it in different lights, in different rooms of our house…Still not sure?!   So I woke up my husband, Brad, and my son, Alex, to look at my spit in this tube.  They thought I was crazy?!  But they humored me and looked at my spit anyway.   They agreed that I had saliva up to the line.  So I went with it.  I registered my kit and followed the rest of the instructions, sealed it up and drove it to the post office, took it inside, and handed it to the clerk….I wanted to make sure that sucker made it into the mail!  And just like that…It was on its way!!!

Now the waiting began.   Standard processing time said 4 to 6 weeks; however, evidently right after Christmas is a super busy time for DNA processing because people were giving and getting tests as gifts.   Anyway, I checked my email daily!!   And CeCe messaged me a couple times a week, asking if I have heard anything.  I continued to be active in the Foundling Finders group.   I also met a Foundling about my age who lived in California and we started messaging back and forth. Her name was Jacqui and we quickly became very good friends!  We were also talking to one another by phone every few days.   She was also on a search for her biological family.   She had been abandoned on the steps of a church parsonage at approximately 3 days old.  She was taken to a local hospital and a search ensued for who had left her there with no answers.  She was placed in a foster care home and the family immediately wanted to adopt her!   So they did.  And she had a good life, until the past few years as she lost both her father and then her mother to illness.  And she also felt somewhat alone in the world…Our common bond.   She really only had her two boys and was raising them on her own.  She was a school teacher.  We had so many feelings and questions in common?!  And we felt comfortable to talk about them with each other.  I don’t think anyone really understands how “abandonment” feels unless they have truly experienced it.  She was great support for me and she seemed to appreciate my support, as well.

By the time 6 weeks from the date I sent my test in rolled around, CeCe was pretty much messaging me DAILY…Sometimes, 2 or 3 times a day.   I am not sure who was more impatient??  Me or her?  She was chomping at the bit to get my DNA results!!   Another week passed.   And then another.

AND THEN IT HAPPENED!!!  I was actually having a very busy day on March 10, 2017 helping my son with his FASFA so he could take some college classes the next semester, when I saw a missed message from CeCe later in the afternoon That said “Hi Sherri, your results are in and they are VERY good!”  “You have close matches to both sides of your family!”  “I can’t wait until you see this!!!!”  “Go look^^”  “Also, log into your account and see if any of them sent you messages.”  “Nancy Kalman Bell is either your maternal half-sister or your aunt.”  “Or maybe niece, but she is older than you are so unlikely.”  So I logged into my Ancestry Account…And low and behold, she was right!!!   First match I saw was Nancy Kalman Bell and underneath it, it said “Close Family”!  CeCe had found Nancy’s Facebook page and sent me the link.  I clicked on it and I guess took a little while to answer and I got another message from CeCe asking “Are you okay?”  I told her I had been looking at the photos and that I was a little “shell-shocked” because of the resemblances I was seeing?!  I sent her some pics of a younger me and a comparison to Nancy’s daughter, Missy, who I found a photo of on her page.  CeCe said “Wow!  Well there is no doubt this is your family.” She said “I am building Nancy’s tree right now.”  She also told me her husband was searching, as were some other Search Angels, specifically Michelle and Steve Edsel!  For me?!  Such a wonderful feeling to have that kind of support!!  I could also immediately see that I favored Nancy.  Of course, there were not only pics of her Daughters, but also their kids.  And upon looking closer, I could see resemblances in her Daughter, Missy’s son and my son…uncanny resemblances?!   So by 7:01 pm that night, CeCe encouraged me to send Nancy a message through Ancestry’s messaging tool because she was, indeed, MY AUNT!!!  I was not prepared for all of that to happen so quickly, so I was a little nervous!   I said “Just like that?   Just message her out of the blue?!”  And she so calmly said “Well, I thought you wanted to find your family?”   I said “Of course I do.”  She then said “Then what are you waiting for?”   I couldn’t argue with that, so I got some advice on what to say in the message and I sent it!!  WOW!  How exciting?!  She told me “I have been especially focused on your case for some reason, so I am every more excited about your matches.”

But the waiting part…Oh so stressful.

I was checking my Ancestry at least 10 times a day for messages.   I sent a second on a few days later because I thought maybe I did something wrong.  And then I waited.   Two days later, still nothing.  So I sent a third one.  A few more days passed and no answer.  And I noticed that Nancy had logged in…which I figured meant she saw my message but didn’t choose to answer.   So I messaged CeCe, sort of in a panic, to let her know this.  She told me that didn’t mean she necessarily saw the message.  But she had a suggestion for me….”Why don’t you just send her a Facebook message…You have her Facebook page right?”  I had not thought of doing that.  I didn’t know if she would get it because I had sent a Friend Request and she had not accepted.  And she didn’t appear to be on Facebook a lot.  CeCe said “What do you have to lose?”  So, I decided to send Nancy a message that evening which was March 26th.

I checked Messenger first thing upon waking the next morning.  No reply.  I had to go to work and had a super busy day, so it was easy not to really dwell on it.  As I was finishing up my day and getting on Facebook to post a story for my work, I noticed that I had a “1” in the messenger box!!!   I thought to myself…This is the message I have been waiting for.   Somehow, I knew it was from Nancy!!  But my hands were shaking as I opened Messenger.  Sure enough…I was right.  And the message was so friendly and so kind!  She told me she had done the test a couple of years ago and had been meaning to reach out to her matches, but due to some personal loss, she had not done it.  She said that her youngest daughter, Missy, was having a medical test scare and she was heading to be with her a few hours away.  However, she said “Please feel free to email me or text me” and she gave me her email address and her phone number.  And she asked me if I was a Christian to please pray for her daughter.  And by this time, I was bawling like a baby?!

I replied and told her that I would definitely pray and also told her that my daughter, Ashleigh, had a similar scare about a year before and had a biopsy and it was negative and I hoped her daughter’s would be too.

I then received the following message from Nancy:  “Thank you for that bit of positive news…and because we are related somehow even better.”

I told her I agreed!  And asked if her daughter was close by and she said a few hours from her in another part of … FLORIDA!!!   I said “Wow!  You guys live in Florida?!  My very favorite place to spend time is the beach!!”  And she just replied “Well..now you have family here.  I so feel like your message is a GOD thing!!!”   And that was the beginning of our connection.   That messaging continued for the rest of the evening and we made plans to FaceTime the next day.   So just like that, I had this beautiful, wonderful woman in my life.  And she had been through some major loss and hurt and so had I…It was clear to me that we needed one another.   So the stars aligned and I believe God smiled down and saw both of us struggling and helped us find one another.

I messaged CeCe to tell her that I got a reply!  She said “WOOHOOOOOOO!!!! It is about time!”  I told her I was crying and had goosebumps all over.  And she said “Of course you are crying.” “You are getting close to an answer.” She then said “I am glad she asked you to pray for her.  That seems very intimate.”

So…That was March 27, 2017 and just the very beginning of what would become a journey that has been going on for a year and four months and continues today, as more and more information continues to come to light….Secrets that were well-kept are becoming known.  Puzzle pieces are starting to fit together….

And I continue to be blown away by the magnitude of how many people were impacted by the actions of a few people, many years ago.

I am a Foundling?

My name is Sherri Ann Tredway, and a year and a half ago, I thought I was a just another woman who had been abandoned by a parent or parents and then adopted around 13 months of age by the only parents I had ever known.  I had been privy to this information since I was six years old thanks to my seven-year old cousin, who couldn’t keep a secret.   Anyway, my adoptive momma confirmed that it was true, and it didn’t really seem like a big deal.  She told me that they really wanted a baby and she couldn’t have one, so they were able to choose me.  I honestly felt lucky to have a family who “chose” me to be part of theirs.  I grew up in the country, on a farm in the Midwest, with close and extended family and lots of friends from our small town and county.  We weren’t rich, but we certainly had everything we needed.  I had my own room, we had plenty of food, clothing, we went to church, had pets, and later I got a car.   I finished high school, met my husband my Junior year and we got married right after I graduated.  Typical midwestern country life.

However, the tragic loss of my adoptive momma 4 years ago brought me to my knees, and then some.  That horrible event was the catalyst for my desire to find my own biological family…although I didn’t start searching right away.

If anyone had told me back then that I would be where I am today, I would have thought they had lost their ever-loving minds?!

I did therapy, grief counseling and more therapy.   Moving on…or whatever you want to call it, has been extremely difficult for me.  I avoided.  I hid.  I traveled.  I stayed excessively and increasingly busy.  I started new projects.  And I floated along…until I didn’t.

In the fall of 2016, after the end of a legal battle I will write about another time, I decided to try to find my biological family….I was most interested in learning if I had any siblings out there.  I attempted to get my adoption records from vital statistics…That was next to impossible if your records are sealed.  And mine were.  All I could get without the involvement of attorneys and more legal fees was Non-Identifiying information which basically tells you NOTHING!

So in December of that year, around Christmas time, a digital ad for DNA Detectives caught my eye while I was looking at Facebook.  I asked to be accepted into the group and was approved.  I started reading about these people who had used DNA Tests to find their families, many with good success.  After my birthday, which was as difficult as ever, I decided to post something on their page about surviving another birthday.  How again, no one came or called to tell me they had beeen wondering about me or thinking about me or just hoping I was alright.  I mentioned something in the post about being abandoned.  I almost immediately got a private message from CeCe Moore, Genetic Genealogist, who is a pretty big deal these days, but I had no idea of this at the time.  She messaged me to tell me that I needed to request to be included in another Facebook group called “Foundling Finders”.  I didn’t want to appear unknowledgable, so I told her I would make the request.

But first things first….I needed to know exactly what a Foundling was?  The definition I googled said it was “an infant that had been abandoned by its parents and is discovered and cared for by others.  (waif, stray, orphan, outcast)”.   Wow!  I didn’t want to be one of those…that sounded dreadful, but I guess I am.  So I requested to be part of the Foundling Finders group and was almost immediately approved and welcomed in a post by CeCe Moore herself.  She encouraged me to read other foundlings’ stories and to feel free to tell my own if and when I felt comfortable.

What I couldn’t believe, was the extremely warm welcome I was getting from these other group members (there were only around 420 people in the group world-wide, so it was a pretty select group).   They seemed interested in me and were open and sharing information about themselves.  It seemed to be a very “safe” place to talk about your own abandonment story.  There were some beautiful success stories of searches that brought families together and then there were some really sad and even dark stories.   But what I noticed most was the support and kindness no matter how the story went.  The other members were there to lift one another up.  The empathy and understanding was over-the-top.

So after a few days of reading and watching the page, I shared my own story including what had happened to my adoptive momma (that’s another story for another day) that caused me to start my search!  I was literally blown away by the people who commented, gave advice, offered support, assistance, whatever I needed.  But doing a DNA test was the first step.   So I ordered an ancestry kit and the rest is history!

I hope you will return so I can tell you how much this has changed my life…and how it has changed me!!   And the many things that I have learned in the process.  It has definitely been the most adventurous journey I have been on…and it still continues today.

Sherri