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Monday, September 30, 2013

Serendipity -- An Unexpected Reconnection with my Sisters

This past Saturday I met my two sisters Janet* and Eileen* for the first time.  What an afternoon it was: sharing heartfelt hugs, shedding a few tears, enjoying many laughs, telling family stories, and combing through boxes and boxes of photos.  To know just how this unlikely reunion came about, you will have to read my previous post.  Many seeming coincidences had to come together, and my daughter Jenn was the grand connector.  For me, this unfolding of events is a type of grace that cannot be explained, just accepted and treasured.

                                My oldest granddaughter Grace looks just like my sister Janet

In these posts, I am giving my sisters pseudonyms, because my original mother is 90 years old and in fragile emotional health.   We would not want to expose that emotional fragility, or hurt her in any way.  Like many human beings, she has her limitations, and she does the best that she can.  Although she was able to say to me "I love you in my heart" ten years ago, she did not want to meet, and like any reasonable adult, I have honored her request.

My sisters and I can go right ahead deepening and developing our relationship -- something that all three of us very much want to do -- without hurting our original mother.  We are 68, 63 and 58 years old, surely old enough to decide who we do and do not wish to associate with.  Once again, why does any state entity or adoption facilitator feel that it is his or her right to attempt to micromanage adult relationships simply because adoption is involved?

The long-time practice of sealing the original birth certificates of adopted people is outdated, discriminatory, ineffective and immoral.  Every adult should have access to her own legal documents and be trusted to behave in an appropriate manner.  It is a well-established fact that original mothers were never promised lifetime legal anonymity, and most original mothers, actually, do want to know what has happened to their surrendered offspring.  Furthermore, adopted people are not stalkers intent on upending the lives of their original families.  In most cases, they are just looking for the beginning of their own stories, medical information, peace and closure.

By some type of grace, I have received all of these things in spite of the efforts of the state of New Jersey to keep my original birth certificate sealed.  I now know that malignant melanoma, a disease I am currently battling, runs in my family line.  I know that I have inherited my skeletal structure and my blond hair from my original mother, who is Danish.  I know that Janet as a young girl bears an amazing resemblance to my oldest granddaughter Grace.  Janet loves working in her garden, just as I love working in mine.  Eileen's favorite place on earth is the beach -- so is mine.  Eileen loves nature and flowers -- so do I.  The fact is that the three of us feel a profound connection to one another.  There is truly a bond here that transcends space and time.

And in another moment of grace, this amazing reconnection has made me appreciate my adoptive family, whom I have always loved, even more.  My mother and father have long been deceased, but how they loved each other, and how they loved my brother and me!  They provided a happy, stable home for us, and my a-brother continues to be a loving and loyal friend to both me and my husband.  There was always lots of love and laughter in my home when we were growing up.

Today, as an older adopted adult, I believe I have a wiser perspective about the institution of adoption that I ever had before.  It is not the people touched by adoption who are flawed -- it is the adoption system itself.  Until adopted adults are treated equally by law and with the respect they deserve, adoption will remain a terribly tainted system.  No matter where in the world of adoption you might fit, I would hope you would come to understand my perspective, which has been gained from years of experience living as an adopted person.  Please believe me when I say that there is plenty of love to go around, and that all of our connections -- to both original and adoptive family -- can indeed be sacred.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of my original mother, who is emotionally fragile.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Life Comes Full Circle -- I Believe in Miracles!

                                 One of my sisters loves outdoor activity, just like me!

Friends, I've always had a scientific brain and have been skeptical about the veracity of reported miracles.  But after the week I have experienced, I have to report that unexplainable miracles do indeed happen!

As many of you know,  I have been diagnosed with advanced malignant melanoma, and I am participating in a promising clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.  The side effects are rather miserable, and it is difficult at times for me to keep my spirits up.

Some of you may remember that I contacted my original (o) mother over 10 years ago.  She shared a little information, but did not want to have ongoing contact, and asked that I please not write her again.  She also asked me to "please not make trouble" by contacting her other daughter, who she said did not know about me.

My long-range plan was to look for my half-sister after my original mother passed away.  Two years ago, when I was surveying public records to see if my (o) mother had died, I by chance discovered the identity of my half-sister -- her husband had just passed away, and both she and my (o) mother were mentioned in the obituary.

I wrote my sister Janet* a letter at that time, but couldn't quite get myself to send it. (fear of more rejection?)  Shortly after my diagnosis, my daughter Jenn said to me, "Well, I didn't make any promises to anyone, and I have a gut feeling that I should write your sister, if you will give me your blessing."

I told Jenn to go ahead, but if the reaction were negative, to not share it with me, as I just don't have the energy right now to deal with it.  Jenn did send the letter earlier this week, and she called me several days ago, weeping, to relay the following story:

Janet had just moments before called Jenn, very emotional and just ecstatic to have been found!  She and her sister Eileen*, a sister I didn't even know I had, had found my original birth certificate just three weeks before in their mother's apartment.  (At 90, she is still living, but not very stable.)

My sisters had no idea how to find me, although they had been looking on the internet, reaching dead ends at every turn.  As Eileen has relayed to me, "I couldn't sleep at night, wondering where you were and if you had had a happy life."

What joy for me to discover that my sisters were not only happy to be found, but that they had been actively looking for me!  Since Monday, I have been showered with love and total acceptance for all of who I really am.  This Saturday, if my health allows, they are both coming to my home to see me.

I have learned so much about my personal history so far.  According to Janet, my (o) mother is an emotionally closed, unstable and unpredictable person who "should have been on medication her whole life."  Sadly, says Janet, she doesn't believe our mother has experienced a happy day in her whole life, and "she has always looked for love in all the wrong places."  She summed up by explaining, "My mother has never been able to freely accept or give love."  She told me all of this with honest compassion.

How I would have benefited from knowing all of this when I was 18 years old!  My (o) mother's rejection had nothing whatsoever to do with me -- she had limitations which prevented her from being the mother she should have been even to the children she kept.   Both of my sisters had pledged to themselves that they would not be our mother in their adulthoods, that they would love their own children with all their hearts and souls.

I have also learned some vital medical facts, the most important one being that malignant melanoma is present in our family line, as my o-mother's brother had experienced a bout with it.  Knowing this, would doctors have been more attentive to the lesion on my toe 16 years ago, when I had my first experience with melanoma?  We'll never know, but how insane that I had no access to this information.

But what has moved me the most of all these past few days is the fact that both of my sisters are such sweet, loving souls, who had leaned on each other for support all the while they were growing up.  They are both grounded, respectful, resilient and open.  We have exchanged family pictures and loving notes, and I can say already without reservation that I love them both, and that they love me.

Some remarkable circumstances had to come together for this reconnection to occur.  I marvel at --

... the fact that two years ago, I felt a pull to the computer, urging me to see if my (o) mother had passed away.  It was during that episode that I accidentally discovered Janet's identity through her husband's obituary.

... the fact that Jenn felt an irresistible urge to reach out to Janet earlier this week.

...the fact that just three weeks ago,  Janet and Eileen accidentally discovered my original birth certificate in their mother's apartment.  They started to look for me immediately.

So readers, what do you think?  Do you think that this primal reconnection at this most trying time in my life is a coincidence, grace, or a miracle?  You know what?  I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it.  Right now, I'm just soaking in a profound love that I did not know existed, and that I never could have or would have expected.

As Eileen wrote, "I have always believed that there is a bond between mothers, children and siblings that cannot be broken by separation or time."

Amen, Eileen.  I now believe in miracles, and my heart is full.

*Names have been changed to protect the fragile health of my original mother.