I haven’t really talked much about my reunion story here, because I have been caught up with telling my life story in chronological order. But where I left off, while I was still in my early twenties, in law school and just had broken up with my white fiancé, I was no where near my reunion story. This wouldn’t occur until I was almost 40 years old. The 24 year old me was not really interested in my biological family at all. Some, I will pick up where I left off, but for now, this is the story that affects my actions more than anything.
As a matter of fact, at that time in my life, I had made up a completely fabricated story about my birth family. Well, I thought it was fabricated at the time, because I had been sold a fantasy about a sainted, loving birth mother and a love story of two college students who planned to marry later, but were just not married now. This was all a lie. The truth was much closer to the lie that I was telling people when was 24 than it was to the lie I had been told me entire life. And it was soul crushing.
I remember this day like it was yesterday. It was the day that I found out that my biological mother was dead. That I would never ever be able to meet her and that she had never wanted to meet me. It was not the fairy tale that I had been sold. It was not the scene of a mother and daughter reunited and hugging and crying over lost time. That was never my reunion.
It was right before Christmas 2009. And I got a phone call from my parents. Which I found as odd because I had just talked to them at the family Christmas party about a week ago. At this point in time, I only saw or talked to my adoptive family about once a month. so it was strange for them to call me again so soon. I remember thinking “I did my family obligation of the month” when they asked if it was ok to come over the next day to see me.
“Sure,” I said, thinking “something is up.” And boy was I right. Something big was up.
When they came over that day, they asked me if they could talk to me private. Big alarms are going off inside my mind now. What could this be?
I took them downstairs to the “sick room.” We had been dealing with the flu in our family and the people who were sick were quarantined in the “sick room” downstairs until they got better. So, it was a private room.
It was there that they told me that they had been contacted by my biological uncle – my mother’s brother, Richard. They told me that my mother’s name was Margaret and that she was dead. They told me that I had a father, his name was Larry and that I also had a brother, Jesse.
My mind raced and I cried. I cried because up until that point, I had felt that my parents had kept my biological family’s identity a secret from me. That wasn’t true. So I cried from relief that I had not been lied to my entire life. I don’t think I have ever cried over the fact that my biological mother is dead. It is now 7 years later, and I still haven’t cried over the death of a stranger. Not that stranger.
My parents informed me that they had set up a meeting between myself and my uncle for the Sunday following Christmas. I wasn’t really thrilled about this all going through my parents, like I was some sort of child, but it was the only way that I could get answers and so I went along with it.
The day came for me to meet my uncle. I guess for some reason they felt that this was some sort of wonderful Christmas present for me. My uncle is adopted too, so I don’t really understand why he didn’t go about all of this differently, but he is a also an adoptive parent of two transracially adopted children, so in my mind, he relates better to my adoptive parents than he does to me. Plus he’s white, so there’s that.
Anyway, he came to my parents house, with his wife. And both my adoptive parents were there, with my husband and my children.
He showed me pictures of my birth mother, Margaret. I found out that her middle name was Elizabeth, just like my birth middle name. My parents changed my name from Sarah Elizabeth to Sara Jane when I was adopted at age 2 1/2. I found out that she was an art professor. And that my uncle’s wife thought that she lived a life beyond her means because she was a docent at the Albright Knox Art Gallery.
I have looked at pictures of my mother and I never saw any resemblance between the two of us – until I just put this picture on this post.
I got to see their “family tree”- both biological and adoptive. I never really paid any attention to the family tree of their adoptive family because they were the reason I was given away for adoption and that is not my family. I cannot learn anything about myself through learning about these people.
I found out that my uncle, Richard; his and Margaret’s adoptive mother, Faye; Richard’s children AND Margaret all got a letter that I had written eight years prior looking for my birth family. And they all chose to ignore it. They all chose to ignore my request for any information about my birth family. For eight years, they all knew I was looking and they all sat there – literally living blocks away from me at times, and ignored me. Until Margaret and Faye were both dead. Then suddenly six weeks after Margaret’s death, Richard decides to find me.
I also found out that Margaret never wanted to parent me. That I was given away because of my race. I found out that their adoptive family were also foster parents at the time of my birth. In other words, they could care for other people’s children, as long as they were white. But they couldn’t take care of their adoptive daughter’s child because I was black.
Reunion has a way of ripping open wounds that you don’t even know you have. But I guess instinctively I knew, because my race was the reason I gave for my adoption way back when I was in my twenties and telling what I thought was a lie. I also found out that they had told my biological about me. That Larry know that they had found me and he said he was not ready to meet me.
I also found out that my birth father fought in the Vietnam War (another ‘lie’ I had told that ended up being true) I also found out that my birth mother had been sending him pictures of me as if she still had me with her. It wasn’t until he came home that he found out that she had given me away. I don’t know where she got these pictures. I don’t know why she did this because she never had any intention on keeping me, I was taken into foster care immediately at birth.
The final piece of information my uncle brought to me that day was that I had a full blood brother who was seven years younger than I was and that my mother had kept him. I also found out that he was in full kidney failure and needed a transplant.
So, all in one meeting, my fantasy of a loving birth mother pining away for me was crushed. She was dead she never pined for me. She kept me a deep dark shameful secret that she refused to talk about. And the people who knew her expected me to be sad that she was dead. They were all mourning her death. I got to see her obituary which talked about how she was a “devoted” mother of Jesse. Everyone told me what a wonderful person she was. I felt worse than numb. I felt rage at them laying all this on my lap. I hated this woman whom they were all mourning. I hated her weakness and her sheltered life. I hated her family and I hated her.
Then it got worse. You’d never think it could get worse than finding out that everything you thought was true was a lie. But it can and it does.
The first thing that hurt was trying to talk to my adoptive mother about it all. I should know by now that trying to talk to her about anything adoption related is going to be depressing. She simply doesn’t understand where I am coming from. She expects gratitude. She doesn’t understand that it goes much deeper than that. Because of her strained relationship with her own mother, she has complex feelings about biological family. And she has most definitely drunk the adoption industry kool aid. She’s one of those people who think that Annie was a fantasy story that everyone wants to live.
I tried to talk to her about how hurt I was that my biological adoptive mother’s family cared for foster children. When I said, “why didn’t they just care for me until my parents got married?” Her response “Because she didn’t want you!” This was the first time in 40 years that she had ever said that. She said it like she had known it all along. But prior to that, she had always told me the opposite. That my mother wanted me, but wasn’t married and wanted me to be adopted by a married family. Never once a word about not being wanted. Now it suddenly all came out.
Then next came meeting some of my biological mother’s family and friends. My uncle had posted on Facebook that he had found me and there was a lot of “interest” in who I was. Like a zoo animal. And I was desperate for any information, so I fell prey.
One of their “cousins” who claimed to have been close to my biological mother and claimed to be one of the only people who actually knew about my existence, reached out to me and wanted to meet me. I wish I had never taken that meeting. This “cousin,” I can’t even remember her name, was a stone cold bitch. She talked smack about Margaret and told me how she was a “fatty.” It was surreal. And after the meeting, she wrote some crazy email to my uncle about how no one would be interested in my story except Jerry Springer watchers. I am sure that she is still a bitch. And she teaches at the Buffalo City Schools, so she terrorizes small children for a living.
After meeting her, I never wanted to meet another family member. I unfriend a of them on Facebook and hid myself away in a basement painting and processing. Trying to make sense of all this madness that had become my life.
THEN, Larry calls and says that he is ready to meet. What do you do as an adopted child when your biological father says that he wants to meet? I should have stayed away. I should have taken a clue when he drug his feet that it wouldn’t be right. But like a fool, I went. And it was good, for about a month. But he lived almost two hours away. He had no vehicle. If I needed to see him, I had to make all the effort. He even once me that because Dave Thomas was adopted and he turned out ok, that meant that all adopted people should be happy to be adopted. I also think that he’s one of those Black people who think that Black kids are fortunate to be raised by white people. That it’s somehow the “golden ticket” that he wishes he had gotten.
I should have stayed away. Because in the end, all he did was break my daughter’s heart when he didn’t buy her a birthday present like the other kids and I had to cut him off. He said that he was damaged from the war, and that is his hell that he has to live with. But I should have stayed away mainly because HE IS NOT MY BIOLOGICAL FATHER.
My children and I went through the torture of this reunion for no good reason. Because of someone else’s lies.
Margaret lied. And I suspect that she lied to herself too. Because her actions were nothing short of bizarre, sending pictures of me to a man who wasn’t even my father while he was fighting in Vietnam. Torturing him with thoughts of a baby that wasn’t even there when he returned. Ruining his relationship with his mother, who never forgave him for not going to get me when he returned. He had been told that they had shipped me off to Mexico. Apparently that is what he was told that Catholic Charities did to little mixed babies back them. I don’t know if it’s true, but he believed it. All this mental torture for a man who wasn’t even my biological father. Real life is stranger than fiction.
But DNA doesn’t lie. One of the benefits of having my biological family’s biological tree was that I could have my “real” family tree. And I had a membership to Ancestry. From there, I found that I was a third generation adoptee. That both my mother and my grand mother had been abandoned by their mothers. My grandmother, May, was adopted by her grandparents, (my great great grandparents) and at first it was hard to figure who her mother was. But ship’s manifests helped in this.
I found my great grand mother, Gladys. I was able to find out more about her than her own family, because she left my grandmother May and returned to England where she was never heard from again. Except she got married and her husband had a great nephew, Chris, who lives in Australia. I am still in close contact with my cousin, Chris. He sent me all kinds of vital information about Gladys – her birth certificate, her death certificate and her marriage certificate, as well as a couple pictures. She was a 16 and pregnant in 1920. I don’t blame her for wanting to run away from that life. She never had any more children. I don’t know why she never stayed in contact with her family, but apparently they never heard from her again.
Next, I found who my uncle said was his and Margaret’s biological father. The reason why he and Margaret were given up for adoption (to strangers) was because my grandmother, May, was deaf. The story went that her husband, Dann, would come and go out of her life. And being deaf, she had difficulty caring for Margaret because she couldn’t hear her. So when Dann left, she put Margaret up for adoption at age two. Then according to the story, he came back and got her pregnant with Richard and left again. And Richard was placed in foster care, where he stayed until he was about ten years old, when happenstance had him at a doctor’s appointment with Margaret’s adoptive mother and she recognized his name. She then went on a campaign to rip him away from the only family he had known to adopt him. His foster family couldn’t afford to adopt him, so Faye won him too.
So, I found Dann. Whom at the time, I believed was my biological grand father. However, I felt that Richard had the right to contact him over me. Richard’s letter to this man was met with a card that simply said “I was married to your mother, but I do not think that I am your or Margaret’s father.” which is probably true, because according to my DNA, my grandfather (Margaret’s father) is 100% Italian. Dann was Scandinavian. Denial about paternal lines seems to be something that ran in the family. I think it was deep denial.
May didn’t know who her biological father was. I can find no trace of who this man was. I have been told by my Italian cousin that in those days, it was taboo for immigrant families to “mix” – and with my grandmother being English and her boyfriend being Italian, she thinks the families interfered and separate them and married May off to a “suitable” blond haired, blue eyed man. And my father, who was the son of Caterina Bochicchio, was probably married off to an Italian woman whom the family knew. We don’t know for sure, but it seems plausible.
In the middle of all this, I also met my brother, Jesse. Who was mourning the loss of his mother at the time. And going through full kidney failure. Which the evil cousin suggested that I give him my kidney. And I considered it, but decided against it because I had 6 small children at the time and could not afford to be in recovery for an extended period of time. But it was weird and ghoulish and it made me feel like it was the only reason they even tried to find me to begin with. I have no relationship with Jesse. We have only seen each other twice and each time was very uncomfortable for either of us. He’s my biological mother’s son, but he’s not my brother. In my mind, I have no siblings.
Eventually even Richard drifted away. He stopped sending birthday cards to my children and I told him to just leave us alone. We never needed people to jump in and out of our lives to begin with. It was not that they examined us like zoo animals and then cast us away. My primary job in life is to protect my children and the flippant nature of these people made me have to cut ties with all of them. My children did not deserve the roller coaster of reunion.
In the end, even with its soul crushing nature, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am now free from the ties that held me and kept me longing for a life that never was, never would have been and never will be. I could finally let go of my fantasy. I could live my life without the thought of “what if my mother had kept me?” It was never in the stars for me. I am an unwanted child. That is my reality and I have had to learn to deal with it.
I have had to deal with the fact that racism was the reason why I was put up for adoption. That even though my mother would have sex with at least two Black men, she couldn’t face the reality of having a Black child. At least not then. Later she got stronger and I guess that is good, for Jesse. But it didn’t do anything for me. Instead I got the privilege of being the only Black kid in a little farming community in the Southern Tier of New York. Lucky me.
But truth is better than a lie and knowledge is better than never knowing. I will say that I am a very different person than who I was before reunion. I am a colder and harder person. The trust that I might have had for people has slowly died. I cut people out of my life without any thought or care. Reunion has literally been that hard on my heart.
I wish I could end this with a “but life is getting better’ or “my feeling have lightened up” or some other positive me-worthy quote. but it’s not true. Reunion ripped my heart out of my chest and I know I will never be the same. I still haven’t cried over the death of my birth mother. I still haven’t cried over the loss of all these biological ties that came and went from my life. I have walled most of that off and really only refer to my reunion as necessary torture. I honestly don’t know if those feelings will ever change. If anyone has ever had a story like this before and can give me guidance, it’d be great. But I don’t know many people who have a life like mine. So I muddle through it, the best way I can. On my own.
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