Meeting the Bio Family: Chapter 5 – Making up for lost time

If you happen to know me at all, you’re already aware that I’m a planner who prefers to have a plan in place all the time. I’m generally not a fan of “play it by ear” anything. Especially not something as important and special and as once-in-a-lifetime as the much-anticipated family reunion with my biological father, his wife, my sister, and her husband in sunny, beautiful Hawaii.

But I vowed I would take this incredible opportunity day by day, hour by hour, if necessary. Enjoy every minute and try to stress about nothing. Just live in the moment and absorb it all. But my calculating brain couldn’t help but wonder, would these new relatives want to hang out with us or would “meeting us” be enough for them? Prior to arriving, I’d extended a no obligation invitation to join us in seeing the sights that, of course, weren’t new to them. If they wanted to tag along, you know, for fun, we would welcome that. Key words being “if they wanted to.”

We knew we’d have no trouble filling the days and nights with adventure—it was HAWAII after all. But the fact that a set of unusual circumstances had separated us for fifty plus years created a heightened urgency to make every second of these next ten days count.

20170921_165550

Read the rest of the story on my new website, under the “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers” tab. Follow me on the new site for updates on the family reunion and news on all my other writing endeavors. 

I’m hoping all you loyal Scriblerian followers will PLEASE follow my new site!  (click the 3 little lines in the upper left corner for options)

Advertisements

The family reunion continues

Another chapter in the re-ordered story about meeting my biological family. 

On a Tuesday about three weeks before the big trip to Hawaii to meet my birthfather, his wife, and my sister and her husband, a half-bro from that side of the family, from the opposite side of the country asked, “Is your schedule full up this Thurs – Sat?” Our schedule was far from empty that week, but there was no way I was going to say no. He was willing to use the last few days of his vacation time to travel from Maine, over a thousand miles, to meet us. So, I answered with an excited, “We’ll make it work.”

After months of long, late-night Facebook chats, we had yet to talk on the phone, but we’d covered a lot of ground and were well on our way to getting to know each other. And now he would be the first paternal family member I’d meet in person.

I guess it’s fitting that brothers were the first birth family members I met on each side since brothers are the family relationship I have the most experience with. The first was one of three older brothers. Now I was about to meet one of two younger ones, a brother born fifteen months after me.

I was surprised and I guess a little humbled that Alan would go to the trouble of booking a cumbersome itinerary to our out-of-the-way location, make a hotel reservation for two nights, and rent a car to visit the half-sister who’d blipped onto the family radar just six months ago. Would he like us? Or be disappointed he’d wasted time, money, and vacation days on a trip to the state he’d visited once and hated because it was so “so flat, no hills, no scenery . . .” We have other relatives who feel the same way. And they were born here.

Read the rest of the story on my new website, under the “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers” tab. Follow me on the new site for updates on the family reunion and news on all my other writing endeavors. 

A Family Reunion (Before Hawaii) — Chapter 3

Here’s a look back over a year ago, to when I met my first biological family member . . . 

I know brothers. Some of my first memories include my oldest brother. I remember the two of us sitting on the floor, and I’m “reading” him the book “The Chosen Baby.” I’m something like three-and-a-half, he’s about two, and we’re basically the same size. He’s a chunker and I’m petite. I have vague memories that coincide with my mom’s reports that I came home each day from Kindergarten and taught him what I’d Iearned that morning. I do recall him pleading to have his turn at going to school and feeling a bit guilty that I got to go every day while he had to stay home.

We were real siblings, my three brothers and I. It didn’t matter that we did not share DNA, nor that our parental connection was court mandated rather than biological. Didn’t matter at all. Yet these strong ties that did not diminish the longing to connect with biological siblings.

While I have no experience with older brother relationships, I’m pretty sure I would have liked having older male siblings. Close family friends who lived just down the road, (yes, road—we grew up in the country!) had two boys older than me, and one of them became like a surrogate older brother. And I liked that. I would have been the youngest if my birthmother had kept me, a middle child if I’d stayed with my birthfather, yet I was the oldest in my adoptive family. A mixed-up birth order scenario for sure.

 

  **  the post continues on my new website . . .  where it’s now titled “Meeting the Family: Chapter 1 — Big Brother” 

 

My adoption search/reunion story is moving to my personal website where it’s now titled “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers”. There you’ll also find my “Waiting Matters . . . Because YOU Matter” blog series, some “Slices of Real Life” posts and announcements about two book series I’ll release soon.

I’m hoping all you loyal Scriblerian followers will PLEASE follow my new site!  (click the 3 little lines in the uppper left corner for options)

copy-of-_choices-matter_-ya-fiction-series-coming-soon

A Family Reunion in Hawaii — Chapter 2

A sister obsession

I knew from the moment I spotted them that they were sisters. Something about the way they interacted as they meandered around the old-fashioned country store. My “sister-radar” triggered into overdrive. I studied the combination of features and the expressions that accompanied the varying shades of short to medium length blonde hair. There was a definite resemblance between the four. I guessed their ages spanned ten years or less. I had the feeling they hung out together often.

I could try to blame my past job responsibilities, that required I chat with strangers, for what happened next. But in all honesty, it would have taken a Herculean effort to not fire up a conversation when I found myself behind two of the women in the check-out line. They confirmed their sister status in a warm, friendly conversation. And I shared that in a week I would be meeting my sister who I’d just discovered. They expressed genuine excitement for me and my newly-discovered family. “Good luck,” they said, then we went our separate ways.

7d031bd99060e487ee3c0485cee6f51c

I used to bore my friends by dragging out the piles of tiny, frilly baby clothes put aside for the baby sister I would be getting soon. No actual “due date”, of course, because this baby sister we were “getting” would join our family via adoption. My poor, uninterested friends nodded politely then insisted we move along to something more exciting or at least less boring.

But the baby sister never came. Instead brother #3 joined the family when I was 7. And mom and dad said four kids were enough, so that was that. No sister. And the baby clothes found a new home.

I always wondered if a biological sister might be out there somewhere. A full sibling? A half-sibling? Older, younger? Could she live close by? Within driving distance? I assumed those questions would remain unanswered forever. Even if by chance I DID have a sister, what was the chance we’d find each other? Honestly, it was never more than a wispy, “what if” kind of dream I didn’t allow to linger. Because other than occasionally glancing through a random adoption registry and one brief call about non-identifying information that produced zero info, I had no strategy in place to search for my biological family.

But all of that changed with the disclosure of a doorstep which led to analyzed saliva that resulted in DNA matches followed by a crash course in genealogy genetics. And all of the sudden I have a sister.

Back to the reunion in Hawaii . . .

If you missed chapter one, here it is. 

20170919_121853

Bio dad leaves us at the hotel with the reminder, “Your sister will be here any minute.”

The wispy dream is about to become a flesh and blood reality.

With my mind and emotions still trying to grasp and process meeting my birthfather, I busy myself with a mundane task: retrieving our wrinkled clothes from the suitcases they’ve been packed in for 30+ hours. After all, we are on the vacation of a lifetime, meeting just discovered close family while celebrating our 35th anniversary. The last thing we need/want is closet full of clothes that look like we slept in them. I have six or eight pieces hung up when a knock followed by aggressive pounding announces my sister’s arrival. I forget the wrinkled clothes and head for the door.

Again, the first in-person words we exchange aren’t earth-shattering. I’m pretty sure we both say, “Hi.” Lorie is quiet and soft-spoken. We’re exactly the same height. Our hair is as close to the same shade of dark brown as possible. The resemblance our mutual father exclaimed over when comparing our pictures is undeniable. Although she’s my big sis, older by eleven months, she looks younger than me.

We invite her and husband Jim in and exchange hugs all around. Jim is anything but shy and quiet. The knock was hers, the pounding his. His good-humored antics make everyone laugh while my husband captures on video our first minutes together. I again shake my head but appreciate that he gets how important this is.

I’m very excited though a bit cautious, the odd numbness still hovering over me, and fatigue is really settling in. Not the best combination of emotions to surround such a life-altering event. But I think I’m with it enough to gauge that they seem every bit as excited about connecting as we are. And I’m so happy about that.

I had hoped she’d want to meet, to get to know each other. And I was giddy with excitement when she readily agreed. We exchanged a number of long emails and spent ninety some minutes chatting on the phone one evening. Although we’d dealt with the “elephant in the room” early on, still I was a little concerned. Because again, there’s no playbook for this kind of thing. Meeting the sister you never knew existed despite the fact you were both born in the same city, less than a year apart, but departed that city within weeks of each other—me to my adoptive parents, she with her bio parents—and grew up in different parts of the country, a thousand miles apart.

The conversation is fun, friendly, informal. Jim remarks on our similarities after only a few minutes of being together. And I love that. I don’t think this whole looking like someone, having stuff in common, being in the same room with blood relatives thing will ever get old. I have a sister.

We make tentative plans for tomorrow and share hugs all around again. They instruct us to get some rest, and we say good-bye for now.

We’ve fifty some years to catch up on. And we’re off to a great start.

received_10208071182535980

Other sibling connections and more of our adventure coming soon.

If you’re just tuning into my adoption search/reunion story, catch the beginning of the story here.

Beth-106

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life. Check out her “Waiting Matters  . . . Because YOU Matter” blog series that promotes saving sex for marriage. Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, AuthorShe’d love to hear from you!

 

A Family Reunion in Hawaii – Chapter 1

20170925_070054In less than thirty minutes, our plane will touch down in Hawaii. Not only have we never experienced the vacation-paradise-beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, we’ve also never met the man who’s picking us up at the airport.

“Are you nervous?” inquires my husband.

I shrug. “A little.” I am but I’m not. I’m kind of numb. Kind of going through the motions in a fog.

When he asks again five minutes later, I frown. “Would you stop? Are YOU nervous?”

“Yeah, a little,” he admits.

Last night was short, and today has been long. I think fatigue is contributing to my lack of emotion. And I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

There’s no playbook for this kind of thing. Meeting the man who both of you discovered just seven months ago is your biological father.

20170919_180756

I walk off the plane into semi-darkness on shaky legs. Just because I’ve been sitting for so long, right? It’s warm and breezy and humid. My hair that already looks bad blows in my face. I glance back at my husband to find him juggling his carry-on bag while recording my descent from the plane with his phone. Are you kidding me??

He shakes his head at my obvious disapproval and motions for me to get/keep going.

The airport resembles the open-air, outdoorsy setting you’d expect to find on the beach. People mill about in a much less frenzied manner than at any of the other airports we’d traveled through today. Fewer signs to direct unfamiliar, numb-minded passengers where to go. But I locate a bathroom and spend two minutes in front of a mirror trying to repair the damage of being up for twenty hours and on a plane for twelve plus hours.

And while my husband visits the facilities, I trade my socks and good-for-walking-long-distances tennis shoes that look dreadful with my outfit for a pair of comfy-but-less-supportive sandals that “go with” my now wrinkled attire. Because first impressions matter, right? Not that I have reason to believe this kind of thing is important to my newly-discovered family, but it makes me feel better.

I draw in several deep breaths, and we resume our search for baggage claim and our driver. My birthfather.

We spot each other from a distance. He smiles and points my direction. He’s tall and looks younger than his 75 years. The moment I’ve envisioned for months is just seconds away. It seemed the long-awaited reunion would never get here, but now I’m grateful for the months spent getting to know each other via dozens of email messages. A wise move as now we’re not complete strangers.

Those first moments are warm and fun, full of smiles, happy greetings, and a big hug. The very first words we exchange are not overwhelmingly memorable, but his expression and the sincerity of the welcome are undeniable. It’s comfortable, not awkward. And no tears. I didn’t think I’d cry. But who knew? There’s no playbook, remember? And no prior experiences to draw from for either of us.

We move on to the business at hand—retrieving the luggage that thankfully did not get lost despite the last-minute rerouting of our trip due to mechanical issues. We hustle it to the car, and soon we’re cruising down the highway in the deep darkness typical of Big Island nights. My numbed emotions have recovered a little, I guess, but surreal doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of sitting next to this man I should have known all my life.

I glance toward him as we exchange small talk. The resemblance I’d noticed in pictures is a bit stronger in person. Not as striking as the resemblance with my bio mom but still noticeable. My entire life, I never looked like anyone, and now I look like both sides of my biological family. And that’s awesome.

Hawaii

My half-sister and her husband who also live in Hawaii will meet us at the hotel in a half-hour or so. I’m less nervous about this meeting but very excited to connect with her, the sister I never knew I had. Neither of us had a sister growing up. Three brothers for each of us but no sister. Until now.

Our dual-purpose vacation is off to a promising start. Oh, did I forget to mention? In addition to the family reunion, we’re also celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary with ten days in beautiful, sunny Hawaii, 4363 miles from home.

Stay tuned for more about this incredible adventure as well as another sibling connection that came about in the days leading up to Hawaii.

If you’re just tuning into my adoption search/reunion story, catch the beginning of the story here.

Beth-106

 

 

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life. Check out her “Waiting Matters  . . . Because YOU Matter” blog series where she promotes the choice of saving sex for marriage. Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, AuthorShe’d love to hear from you! 

 

The first year of the rest of my life

I don’t believe in coincidences. Well, not unless we’re talking two cooks who bring the exact same strawberry chocolate trifle to the potluck dinner. Or best friends buying the same shirt on separate shopping excursions. Those type of events are simply by-chance occurrences, possibly influenced by a to-die-for recipe or the similarity of fashion sense shared by BFFs.

But when it comes to the life-will-never-be-the-same again sort of events that may seem like they “just  happened” without any purpose or meaning, nope. Not a believer.

Things like my mom mentioning to my daughter in a casual conversation the 53-year secret that I was found on a doorstep. Not a fluke. Not happenstance. Not a “twist of fate.” Not planned by her, but orchestrated nonetheless.

The one-year anniversary of the “slip” was on Friday. The one-year annivdoorstep-announcement-angolaersary of my husband handing me the copied newspaper clipping my mom had stopped by to give me, but then left with him because I wasn’t home, occurred on Sunday.

In some ways, it seems but a few months since I learned this detail of my beginnings. Yet when I recall the long days of waiting for DNA test results and the painstaking plotting of the family lines of distant cousins, it feels like the past twelve months’ journey has spanned five years.

Three-hundred-sixty-five days filled with many memory-making moments, almost all of them “ups”. The in-person reunion with a half-brother. Many let’s-get-to-know-each-other email conversations. An undisclosed amount of time spent Facebook picture-stalking. Several lengthy telephone discussions. Many giddy hours consumed by an obsession to confirm family resemblances. Multiple late-night Facebook chats. A solo excursion of private moments to my “hometown”. An official tour of said town. Untold hours trying to absorb it all.

The year included only a few “downs.” Learning that my birthmother’s death in 1990 would prevent me from meeting her and assuring her I’d had a good life. And the unintended, yet not completely unforeseen, tsunami-type storm the unveiling of the secret produced for some of my birth family.

Sometimes-the-things-we-cant-change-end-up-changing-us_

Compared to many similar journeys, mine was but a short jaunt. Just five months and eleven days to uncover the identity of both my birthparents, from the day my Ancestry.com DNA results came back. Further proof to me of the orchestrated timing.

I have to wonder what this past year would have looked like minus the unfolding of this incredible journey . . .

For one, I’d have gotten soooooo much more sleep. But I’d have missed out on meeting the incredible people who assisted in the search.

I might, probably would have, written more on other topics and furthered my writing career path. But several birthmothers and adoptees reunited throughout the midst of my search, would still be looking.

My house would have been cleaner and more organized for sure. But my mother-in-law’s “mystery brother” case would have remained a mystery, most likely forever.

And I’d still be gazing into the faces of strangers, wondering if we were related. Pondering whether the similar eyes or nose or the-something-I-can’t-quite-name-familiarity about the person could mean we shared DNA.

One of the most incredible aspects of all of this is discovering resemblances between me and my birth relatives, on both sides of the family. Hearing that I have the same mannerisms as my birthmother is so intriguing. All my life, I didn’t look like anyone, and now I look like lots of people!

1-year-12-months2

What’s in store for the next 360+ days? I’m excited about more face-to-face encounters and the discovery of more in-common-ness at the paternal family reunions planned for September and November. A third reunion is possibly shaping up as well. I’m beyond thrilled to meet these close relatives I didn’t know existed until five short months ago.

On the sleuthing front, we’re working on three new adoptee/birthparent mysteries. Talk about stimulating exercise for the brain. I’m continually amazed at how many people have the same name—a frustrating conundrum when piecing together genealogical puzzles. And my daughter and I hope to travel in October to connect with one of the birthmother/adoptee cases we helped to solve. Makes us wonder what’s in store for the month of December. And January. February and March and so on.

All because of a casual conversation in my parent’s upstairs “junk room” where the secret slipped out. Was it mere coincidence that this particular conversation happened on that day? I don’t believe so.

As I continue to ponder the “why now?” question, it dawns on me that maybe I was/am at the best place in my life, right now, to hear the doorstep details. To launch the search, to find my birth families, to meet my relatives. To lend a hand to others searching as well. To have a ring-side seat to so many wonderful reunions.

Only a GOD orchestrated event could have triggered this domino effect whereby dozens of lives have been impacted.

Reunion reports to follow soon! Next week the countdown begins.     Stay tuned . . .

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

 

An Adoption Story: Absorbing it All . . .

The sun peeks through the trees as I glance about the quiet, old neighborhood in the town where I was born. From across the street, I snap pictures of the house where my mother lived when she gave birth to me. Most likely in that very house or maybe in the small block building in the backyard.

I lower my camera as a car drives by then cross the street for a closer look. I’m drawn to the left of the house where, from the sidewalk, I peer across the yard through trees, bushes, plants, and other greenery to the property behind. The rear of two light blue buildings—a garage on the right, the house on the left—are visible through the foliage. But from this spot, I can’t quite make out the back door where I was found on November 17, 1963.

20170602_135344

from the sidewalk in front of my birthmother’s house looking through the yard to the house where she placed me on the doorstep 

The lump that swelled in my throat when I first turned onto Superior street has melted. I drove by the house without realizing it which kind of ruined the moment. When I circled back around, the dissolved lump did not reform. I’m not sure what I feel.

As the sun warms my back through the thin jacket I needed earlier but could easily shed now, I try to imagine that day long ago. I look around, wondering how much of this vegetation existed back then. Of course, in November, the leaf-less trees would have offered a much clearer view of the neighboring property. Yet it would have been dark and cold at just after 5 a.m. A shiver ripples through me, and I pull the jacket closer.

A couple cars pass. I snap a few more pics, deciding I’ve seen all there is to see. Anyway, I don’t want to rouse the suspicion of the current residents who might question my fascination with the quiet neighborhood in general, their property in particular.

The “official tour” of my hometown, guided by my maternal half-brother, will take place next Saturday. But since a writing related event found me here now, a week early, I welcome the opportunity for a few private moments to absorb it all. To wrap my head around such a complicated series of events. If only that were possible.

Some seven months after the fairly conclusive evidence that she was indeed my mother and four months after the solved father mystery sealed the deal, I’ve yet to grasp it all. Maybe any of it.

While my half-brother has filled in many details about the family, about her as a woman and mother and her life experiences, there are a frustrating number of unanswered questions for both of us. Things we’ll never know. Details that can never be filled in. Questions that will forever remain unanswered.

nov 63

The official tour

As we make our way through the now less-unfamiliar neighborhood, I drink in the details of my mother and half-brother’s life through the tidbits he shares. He parks across the street from “the” house, then green shingled, now boasting tan siding with brown trim. “That was my room.” He points to the upstairs window facing the street. He remarks on the block building (mentioned above) that he “helped” construct at the tender age of six.

Just one house stands between this one and that of her then best friend—the one person we can imagine having shared the doorstep baby secret. If only we’d started looking before this woman died in 2015.

We meander past Grandpa and Grandma’s house, just a couple blocks away, around the corner. A home well-loved and remembered by my brother yet foreign to me.

When my mother remarried in 1969 to a widower with five children, they lived a couple blocks up the same street in a spacious house on the corner. I would have had two step-brothers and three step-sisters.

A brief stop in front of the home where I was found leaves us all at a momentary loss for words.

Then it’s on to the local cemetery, to a picturesque setting under a large tree. The family of four—my grandparents, my mother and her brother—rest on either side of one headstone, with flat place markers noting the placement of each body.

altered gravestone

With the warm breeze whisking around us, we stroll about. My brother reliving the past that now includes a huge secret. Me trying to grasp every detail of the journey that brought me to this place. More stories flow from his memory, unleashed by the nearness of his closest relatives, no doubt. We snap pictures, capturing the moment.

A bit more circling about town brings the tour to an end with lunch at a long-time establishment. As we part, half-bro comments, “I guess we could’ve walked from one backyard to the next but . . . ” His tone clearly says, “Maybe not.”

I shake my head. Maybe not indeed. Not only would we have garnered far more attention than we wanted, just no. I made it through the day without crying, but that would have pushed me over the edge. Not tears for myself but for her, the mother leaving her baby.

I cling to the thought that maybe, just maybe something like this happened.

Birthmother to someone associated with the police, welfare department, or court system: “I wonder whatever happened to that baby, you know, the one the newspaper said was left on the doorstep.”

Someone in the know: “Oh, the baby was healthy. She stayed in the hospital a couple weeks then a nice couple adopted her.”

A measure of closure. A bit of peace to ease her mind.

We go back to our regular, normal lives, each left to ponder the reality of her secret. The very certain fact she never dreamed her son would years later receive a letter from the baby she placed on the doorstep.

The “who” answers have left weighty “how” and “why” questions in their wake. What was once a mystery to be solved has morphed into a reality rife with raw emotions and impossible to grasp realizations. Like how without her, I would not be here, yet I’ll never know her or the impact of my existence on her life.

I always understood how this was not the kind of story to be told to a young child. But now, that truth is magnified a thousand times as so many complexities have come to light.

In the last couple weeks, the reminder has pressed closer that this story is not mine alone. I’ve even questioned whether the secret she took to her grave should have remained undisclosed. But the prompting that One far wiser than me has guided this journey, soothes away most of those misgivings.

In the meantime, I’m connecting with my birthfather and his family—my birth stepmother, my aunt, two half-brothers, one half-sister, two adopted sisters, and two first cousins as well as various nieces and nephews. His family happens to number considerably more than that of my birthmother’s–her only sibling neither married nor had children. Of course there’s the reality that on his side, it’s an entirely different scenario. “Hey, look, a child I never knew about,” doesn’t even compare to her secret baby situation.

Even though I can’t yet answer the “Why now?” for the revelations falling into place at such a time as this, I still believe there is meaning and purpose to the timing. So, I’ll be ever vigilant to GOD’s continued intervention and direction. And strive to be content with the answers I do have rather than fret over those I don’t.

Adoption records open!

Next July in my state, adoptee birth records will be unsealed. Although this action would not have helped me, thousands of “traditionally” adopted persons will finally have access to information about their birthparents. My advice to one and all?

Toss out all expectations and preconceived ideas about the “who, what, when, where, how and why” and prepare yourself to discover truths stranger than any fiction author could conjure up.

And please oh please, realize you did not and cannot now walk in the shoes of those who made those long ago decisions. So, try very hard not to judge.

Remind yourself that your story impacts more than just you and that others will have different perspectives.  Tread lightly. Be kind and compassionate. 

 Stay tuned. I’ve a feeling this journey is not yet over. cropped-head-shot-2

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.