The Call

My (now) 16 year old adopted daughter was 4 years old when her loving mother died.  "The cancer monster ate her."  My daughter vaguely remembers placing a white rose in the casket next to her mom at her memorial service.

The following 22 months was a living nightmare.  She was placed in the custody of her estranged mentally ill father who physically and sexually abused her.  She was locked in closets while her father binged, sometimes for as much as a day or two.  With no permanent address, they moved every 3-4 weeks.  Approx 10 months after her mother died, her father literally abandoned her on the steps of the county courthouse when the death benefit funds dried up.

Another 12 months in foster care and one disrupted adoptive placement later, we met our daughter for the first time on August 6, 1998.

Fast forward 10+ years.  In the next 2-4 weeks, my daughter and I will be traveling 750 miles (1200 km) to visit her mother's grave for the first time.  It's what she wants and needs. There are few known living relatives, one uncle that we know of who still lives in the Illinois town where her mother grew up and is buried.

In the next day or two, I will make a phone call in hopes that he will be open to meeting with us while we are there.  She wants to know more about her mother, what she was like, where she grew up, etc.  I am hoping he will be receptive to my call and will be willing to spend some time with his niece.  With any luck, we'll come back with some answers and (hopefully) some pictures and other family momentos for her to keep and cherish.

Wish me luck - this is uncharted waters for me as I try to set this up.  My daughter does not know that I'm planning to call ahead.  I want to protect her in the event her uncle does not wish to meet her.

For those who have been there, done that, any words of advice would be very welcome.  Thanks!   Smiley

Dad

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having a link

First of all I want to wish you luck with your plans and hope the uncle you'll be contacting will respond in a positive way. Given the circumstances you wrote about I guess it's very likely he will.

As long as you are comfortable with the trip, I believe it will all work out fine. Having answers is important, but having access to a possible answer is even more important. I know from personal experience that having the ability to ask questions is sometimes enough. Simply the knowledge you can call someone or write a letter or an email to ask is sometimes more important than actually getting the answer. So I really hope for your daughter she will meet her uncle, that way she has an open line to a piece of her past.

We have a LINK

I made the call yesterday.     clap

Her biological aunt and uncle were thrilled to hear from me.  They had no idea where their niece was, how she was doing, etc.  They want to spend some time with us and want to take us to where my daughter's biological mother is buried.

Turns out there are precious few family members left - and her uncle is no spring chicken at 65.  They're going to look for family pictures, momentos, etc over the next week to send home with their niece.  We're planning to arrive in Decatur on Tuesday June 23rd.

Thanks for all the well wishes and suggestions.  I'm almost as excited as my daughter.    Smiley   If I get some time on the trip, I'll keep everyone posted on this thread.

Dad

wow

That IS really neat!  Does your daughter know about this contact you made?

She does now.

She does now.

I didn't tell her until after I made the call.  I'm still her dad after all.  I promised to send a letter to her aunt and uncle in advance and I offered her the chance to do the same.  My letter includes pictures of my daughter at different ages and a very brief history since she became part of our family in August 1998.

It took her less than an hour to write a very nice letter to send with mine.  We'll overnight it tomorrow - they should get it a week in advance of our arrival.

Dad

Some ups, some downs...

Tuesday was a bittersweet day.  Some ups, some downs...   and one very big surprise.   wonky

Leaving Illinois later this afternoon - we'll try to make Columbus OH by nightfall.  No time for details now, maybe tonight.  Gotta run. 

Dad

 

 

 

 

A moment of silence

In the next 2-4 weeks, my daughter and I will be traveling 750 miles (1200 km) to visit her mother's grave for the first time.  It's what she wants and needs. There are few known living relatives, one uncle that we know of who still lives in the Illinois town where her mother grew up and is buried.

In the next day or two, I will make a phone call in hopes that he will be open to meeting with us while we are there.  She wants to know more about her mother, what she was like, where she grew up, etc.  I am hoping he will be receptive to my call and will be willing to spend some time with his niece.  With any luck, we'll come back with some answers and (hopefully) some pictures and other family momentos for her to keep and cherish

I can't count the number of times I asked my Adad if I could have my original papers so I could learn about my first-mother.  [I had to ask him because asking my Amother was "too upsetting".]  His response to me was always, "What the hell do you need that for... you have us... we're your family... we're all you need."

How does a daddy's-little-girl say, "No Daddy, I need more -- won't you please help me find the rest of me?...Mommy won't let me. "

If my dad took me to Newfoundland and let me see where they got me... let me see where my mother once walked, let me see where it was I could have lived... I could have had the closure I needed.  I could have felt like my needs were respected and I could have given myself permission to let-go of a past that was nothing more than speculation and fantasy.  It's like knowing a significant person from history died, and for some strange reason, you need to see where they stood.  What did they see?  How was the air?  What were the sounds that filled their ears?  What was life like through the eyes I will never know?  A million questions could have been answered, had only he allowed me one moment of silence to see the ghosts and grieve.

To be honest, if it were me, meeting a living uncle would not be all that necessary.  It would be nice, maybe a bit awkward, maybe a bit neat seeing if anyone looked like me... but for me, that would not make or break the trip.  [Reunions are not my thing, and I'm terrible with follow-up contact.]  But.... being taken to a marked place that says:  This was made for your mother.  WOW.  Having my Adad standing with me, telling me it was OK to cry.... DOUBLE WOW.

I imagine this will be an experience neither one of you will ever forget.

I wish you safe travel and many laughs between the tears.

back to Korea...

When my first son was almost five years old we had a chance to go back to Korea with CHEAP airfare.  We were gone 7 days.  We walked the streets of Seoul South Korea; we visited the Korean Folk Village near where my son was born;  I got him a Korean haircut;  I took his picture outside the door of the room we stayed in when we went to get him.  We met his foster mother and he lay in the bed he slept in with her when he was a very sick baby.  No, we didn't meet biological family, but we did make some great memories and some BIG WOWs!  We went to church with the missionaries from our home church and my son fell in love with them.... they have been in the kids prayers ever since.

Fast forward another year and the missionaries are home on furlough; they stay with us for a few days.  And when they left, my son wept in sorrow for their leaving.  I think, for him, they were tears he never got to shed for his biological family.  So, Kerry, I understand what you mean when you say, " being taken to a marked place" and allowed to experience the needed emotions of acceptance...  at least that's what I think you mean.  Thanks for sharing.

And dad:  You are doing the right thing.  I think for each adopted child it is a different experience we can offer them on their journey of growing up.  Each child may not have an uncle or a chance to take a trip to their birth country and see where they were nurtured and loved.  What you offer your daughter will make a difference.  I do hope the uncle will add to this experience in a positive way.  We just never know.  All we can do is try.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

The Re-Birth Experience

Kerry, I understand what you mean when you say, " being taken to a marked place" and allowed to experience the needed emotions of acceptance...  at least that's what I think you mean. 

<smile>... I like how you can read between my words and meanings because I do see "Search and Reunion" as being more than something (a process and an event) that takes place between two or more estranged people.  I see this journey-back-in-time as being a great learning experience... one that provides spiritual and geographical understanding of certain people and places... and in some cases, practices, too.  Therefore,  The "Marked Place", in my mind, is like a marked-territory... one that needs to be re-visited somehow, and explained so maybe some human history does NOT have to be repeated.   For instance, I learned much later in life, both by bio-parents lived in Alberta, not Newfoundland.  My first-mother moved to Newfoundland while she was pregnant; she lived and worked there, then soon after delivery, she moved away and resumed her life.  Had I know that when I was much younger, (and of course, had my parents understood my need to "return"), they would have realized I didn't want to meet "Family" as much as I wanted and needed to see the place where I was left, and where everything in my life began.  Psychologically, I needed to see it all, myself.  [Just like some family members need to see the body of a deceased loved-one before the burial, I too needed to see with my own eyes if what they told me was was all true.]  Psychologically, that could have been very healing.

Now I have to admit, earlier in my life, (starting since I can remember), learning about my birth PLACE, and those people living there was very important to me.  However, later-on, (in my early 20's), I began to see just how much I needed information only the birth-PERSON could give me.  ["Dad"... I hope you can read the following and understand why I said meeting the uncle would be unnecessary for me....but having a link to a family-member can indeed become a great gift, later-on.]

As a female adoptee who has experienced pregnancy (many times), I tend to think fertility is a weird issue for us adult adoptees, especially as we get older and start thinking about having families of our own.  I wasn't thinking about pregnancy and gynecological health when I was 16, or 18, or even at 23.  But when I became pregnant at the age of 24....and when I discovered that lump in my breast when I was 31...  and when my third pregnancy resulted in twins....BAM!  That adoption-card came back like a blazing boomerang and hit me in the face -- HARD!  Suddenly I really wanted to know how "her" pregnancy and future health went.... I wanted so much to hear those little details than only a pregnant, lactating mother can remember.  I really needed to know - in general - how pregnancy, child birth and gynecological health issues went in my biologic family.  This was information only the women from my mother's side could tell me.  [Hell, it would have been nice to know that twins ran in my family --  you know what I mean?!?]

...

Things like that matter, really.  You see, when I got married and became pregnant, I was scared because my Amother was infertile after she had her son.  [She had complications and required a hysterectomy, immediately after birth]  I kept thinking, "Is that going to happen to me?!?".  All during my first pregnancy she tried to tell me stories about her pregnancy (with her son), but  truthfully, I found her story-telling more insulting than comforting.  The sad thing is, I knew she meant well.... she just didn't understand how much it hurt not knowing what it was like being pregnant with ME.  She just didn't understand how much I wanted a mom who remembered me, from the very beginning. 

It's very true, much of this information may not be available... and it's true "living without" is a fact many of us face.  The point is, IF you can find missing links and tiny threads.... by all means, gather them for your adopted child, and make them readily available.  The collection of material/information may not be much, but in the end, it's the effort and interest an AP makes... that's the stuff that definitely gets noticed.

Honesty, no matter how

Honesty, no matter how uncomfortable the questions. Nuthing is out of bounds. I would not let her know your calling ahead. Then if he is not open to it.. nuthing lost no damage done.
If she asks that's another story.

In those moments you have to step back and be a friend, not a father. I know it sounds strange but... I speak from experience. As cold as the truth is maybe or as warm as it is, a friend will help more then a father. I know when I visited my dads grave I needed a friend not a parent as mine was in the ground infront of me. As much as I might have cared for that family... it twisted me inside for them to act like it at that moment. I know we don't like each other much... but an action such as that deserves respect. And I would be a jerk not to share from personal experience. Good luck, and I hope it goes as well as such a situation like that could.

And no matter what, no blame games.

Just read the whole post

Just read the whole post string... I guess i am to late ...lol...

anyways.

close and personal

I know when I visited my dads grave I needed a friend not a parent as mine was in the ground infront of me. As much as I might have cared for that family... it twisted me inside for them to act like it at that moment. I know we don't like each other much... but an action such as that deserves respect.

That's an excellent point, especially if "the child" is in-fact, an adult .  A few years ago, I wanted to go to Newfoundland, just to see what it was like (not to meet anyone, because there was no family to meet).  I didn't want to go alone, and I didn't want to go with my family (hub-man and kids).  In my heart and mind such a trip would have been far too personal, far too difficult, to share with people who just want to see me happy.  I never went, but I did get the chance to fly over it the few times I traveled to Europe.  That was a bit wierd and oddly overwhelming, so I'm glad I was alone because I really didn't want to speak.  

I don't know if many can truly appreciate the sort of grief that goes behind the loss of a phantom first-parent.  For instance, Hub-man lost his father when we first got married.  I remember watching the whole family grieve.  Each had their own memories - both good and bad - and I remember the one sentiment that made most of them very sad:  "He was a good man, a good providor; he just was not a great dad.  He was never 'there' for us".  I understood they were grieving the loss of all possibility and finding a way to accept all that could never be... but I honestly don't think that grief is the same as knowing the loss of a parent was made possible because of an agency and other people.

My Aparents are both living and well. I don't know if my first parents are dead or alive.  I do know the sense of anger, sadness, grief and loss I feel related to all four is very very different for each.  [Truth be told, I'm not all that sure there is anyone in my family all that capable of sharing something very emotional, especially if that "something" has nothing to do with them.  In fact, there is much I don't tell them because I'm told not to talk too much about the past.]

Bizzi, thanks for reminding me the importance and value of one truly great friend.  I can only hope (when the time comes), I do have a very good close and personal friend by my side, helping me, that day I bring myself to stand before a parent's grave and say my final goodbye.  [I'd hate to have to walk away, all alone.]

 

Thank you Bizzi

Bizzi wrote:
And I would be a jerk not to share from personal experience. Good luck, and I hope it goes as well as such a situation like that could.

And no matter what, no blame games.

Thank you, Bizzi.  You're not so scarey, after all.

In a private message a few days ago, I informed Kerry I wouldn't be sharing anything further on PPL.  This didn't seem like the right place, but you have changed my mind.  I've written a lengthy journal over the past week and posted it on another forum complete with pictures.

We had a good trip and I'm very glad we went.  I'll spare you the full story - it's 12 pages long and still not complete.  But I'd like to share the events of last Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning 6/23

Called "Uncle Ken" the night before and agreed to meet at the Cracker Barrel (where else?) for supper at 4:30pm outside our hotel in Decatur.  He couldn't get off work until 3:30pm.  They were supposed to accompany us to my daughter's natural mother's gravesite Tuesday morning.  Now our day was free - bummer.

Sooo, let's take off and search for her grave ourselves.  I thought this might even be better.  Nothing like a crowd to share what should be a private moment.  Let's go.

Shortly after we adopted our daughter in 1998, I wrote to the cemetery office and asked for burial location and map to the cemetery.  I kinda knew we could be making this trip some day.  One very kind lady wrote back with a map and even sent pictures, so we were confident we could find her gravesite without Uncle Ken's help.

Memorial Cemetery is maybe 50-75 acres.  Thousands are buried there.  Unlike cemeteries in PA, there are no grave stones, just level to the ground grave markers.  We picked up a dozen roses for my daughter to place on her mother's grave.  We found the cemetery thanks to my GPS, parked in the section where her mother was buried, and started searching.  Even with the cemetery plot map, it took us more than 15 minutes to find her mother's gravesite.

An Unmarked Grave    embarassed

My daughter's mom is buried in an unmarked grave.  Her mom's sister is laid to rest in a family plot and has a grave marker.  Their parents are both buried nearby.  My daughter's maternal grandfather died in 1996 two months before my daughter's mother did.  Perhaps the family was overwhelmed and just never recovered from two family members dying within 10 weeks.  We don't know.   Just the same, the fact that her mother now lies in an unmarked grave was very disappointing to my daughter.  She placed the 12 roses (one for each year since her mother died) on the patch of dirt where her mother now lies.   We made a plan to return at least one more time before we left for home.

On our way out we stopped at the cemetery office to thank the lady who sent us the cemetery pictures and map almost 10 years ago.  She wasn’t there, but the lady behind the desk told us she would thank her for us.  Then we inquired about a gravesite marker and got some brochures and prices, with a promise to discuss this further when we got back home.

We knew the street name where her mother grew up.  No house number, just the street name.  We did a GPS search and discovered that her mother grew up less than two miles from where she now rests.

“So, do you wanna check out the street where your momma grew up?  It’s not like we’ll be in the neighborhood again anytime soon.  Let’s go take a look around “

So we’re driving down the street where her mother once lived.  It’s about 3 blocks long and has about 50-60 houses.  Very quiet, very rural.  There was nobody around, except for one lady who was outside working in her yard.

“Excuse me, ma’am.  We’re from out-of-town and we’re looking for the M family home.  Grandma M lived on this street from 1964 through 1998.  Do you know where we could find it?”

"Well, this is the place.  I bought this house from Grandma M ten years ago before she moved into the retirement home."  

"Did you know the family?  Did you know their daughter Marcia who died almost 13 years ago?"

 "Oh yeah.  I grew up across the street.  My mom and dad still live in the house across the street they bought 45 years ago.  Marcia used to babysit me. And who might you be?"

"Well, this is Marcia's daughter." 

"Andrea?   This is Andrea?!?   Andrea!!!!   Oh...  My...  Gawd!!!   Let me have a good look at you, honey.  We haven't seen you since your fourth birthday!  OMG - I have to run over and get my mom and dad.  Stay right here - don't go anywhere."

"Umm, we have nothing scheduled until tonight.  Do you mind if we stop and talk with you a while?"

"Please, please, please stay for a while.  By the way, when Grandma M sold the house she left behind a big box of family pictures.  I called your Uncle Ken several times many years ago to come pick them up.  He told us to throw them out or burn them, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw them out with the trash.  I've been storing them for ten years.  There's all kinds of pictures of your mom in there.

Do you want them?  They're all yours if you want them."

 wonky    thud

The Box

Imagine if you would a midwestern grandmother, deeply religious and very family oriented, who was the keeper of the family history.  A grandmother who took lots of pictures, wrote the names and dates on the back, and scrapbooked many of them.  Wedding invitations, graduation announcements, birth announcements, funeral cards, and pics pics pics.  Little black and whites from the 50s and 60s, color shots from the 70s, 8x10 glossy graduation pics from the 70s and 80s, and...   pictures of Andrea with her mother in the 90s.

Now imagine 40+ years of family history stuffed to the brim in a microwave size cardboard box.  There must be close to 1000 pictures - no exaggeration.  We've found at least 100 pictures of Andrea and/or her mother starting when Andrea was born in 1992 until her mother's death four years later.  Then the pictures stopped.

Grandma M lost both her husband and her beloved daughter Marcia in the summer of 1996.  She stayed on in the family home until 1998 when she moved to a nursing home.  When they sold the family home in 1999 the property was in distress and the new owner bought the home "as is". Translation: the home was left abandoned and the new owner (Sue the neighbor) removed most of the contents, except for The Box.

Until this trip, we had approx 4 pictures of Andrea before her mother died.  We had another 2 pictures of her mother as a 35 year old adult in the last few months of her life.  Now we have more baby pics of Andrea than we know what to do with.  Just as important, we have pictures of her mother in almost every stage of her life.

Andrea's favorite is a picture taken of Marcia (1974) at approx 14 years old.  She's holding one of their cats up to her face, rubbing noses.  Three weeks ago, we took the same picture of Andrea with our cat.  Both cats are Tabbies, and Andrea looks exactly like her mother.

Sue (the neighbor who stored The Box for 10 years) told us she offered The Box to Uncle Ken who declined it twice, then told her to throw it away.  Just the same, she suggested we not tell Uncle Ken about The Box should he change his mind.  Sue wanted our daughter Andrea to have them.

Grandma M passed away three months ago in late April.  She suffered from Alzheimers and in the last few months she barely recognized her own son.  The fresh dirt on Marcia's grave is rainwash from Grandma M's recent burial.  Grandma M's grave is also unmarked.

God bless you, Grandma M.  I hope you know somehow that your grand daughter visited you this week.  I hope you also know that your precious Family Box is now where it belongs, with someone who will treasure it for a few more generations.  What a priceless gift you left for your grand daughter Andrea.   She will never ever forget you.

Thank you, oh thank you neighbor Sue who took care of Grandma M's precious Family Box for almost ten years before we showed up to claim it one summer day.

I'm not a particularly religious man, but we stumbled blindly into a diamond among a billion grains of sand.  After the disappointment of the unmarked grave earlier that day, somebody sent us a rainbow.

 color   color   color

Next Update:  Supper with Uncle Ken and Aunt Beth

Pound Pup Legacy