Despite the title and how much I love my wife, this is not a blog post about her.
I’ve been having dreams lately. Or maybe, they’re memories. Of things that never happened. Neither good nor bad. They just fill my nights.
If you’ve read this blog or my novels, you probably know that I’m adopted. My parents adopted three of us before my mom got pregnant, which wasn’t supposed to be able to happen. My youngest sister was born on my seventh birthday, and that connection has always made us close.
My childhood was fantastic—kind of a typical 60s middle-class upbringing. My mom stayed home with us. We lived in nice neighborhoods, the kind where we kids could safely run around all day, and every mom had her own bell or whistle. The kids all knew the sound of their mother’s signal to run home for dinner. I’m sure it wasn’t as magical as I remember it, but my memories are pretty great.
We always knew we were adopted from the time we were little. Mom and Dad made us feel special, that they chose us specially, something I teased my baby sister about—”They picked us, but they had to take you!”
I never felt any driving need to know who my biological mother was. I was told she was in her early twenties, and after I was born, changed her mind about giving me up for adoption. She kept me for six weeks, I’m sure trying to figure out the best thing to do, before finally making the hard decision to give me up. I’ve always felt incredibly grateful to her for everything—for having me, for loving me enough to hold onto me for those six weeks, and for finally having the courage to let me go.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I was researching adoption records searches for one of my novels that I realized New York state had recently passed a law allowing adoptees to request their pre-adoption birth certificate. I mailed my application in the spring of 2020. Of course, covid disrupted staffing in just about every government office, so I didn’t receive mine until that September.
I remember how my heart pounded as I held that envelope, kind of afraid to open it. This was a “no going back” moment. My hands shook as I unfolded those documents and saw, for the first time, the name of the woman who had given birth to me. I think I sat there for the longest time, just staring at her name, the name of the hospital where I was born, my birth weight. All the normal stuff most people know about their beginnings, but I never had.
A cousin who has done a lot of work on our family’s genealogy was able to look up a good bit of information on her. To my profound disappointment, we found that she passed away in 1996. She’d married four years after I was born, and she and her husband had four children—three boys and a girl. My cousin was looking at the girl’s name, and he said, “I think I know her.” He did a little more digging and confirmed it. San Diego, late 90s. He and my biological sister had been in Customs and Border Patrol training together. And then we found that the man my biological mother married had been a state trooper with my uncle. Talk about few degrees of separation!
But even with everything we learned, I wasn’t ready to make contact. I found my siblings on Facebook, but what if they hated knowing about me? What if they destroyed every fantasy I’d had about my biological mother? So many reasons NOT to reach out. So I didn’t. I sat on the information I had for a year. Not until the next September did I reach out to my biological sister and a brother.
It took a little while for them to realize I’d sent messages, and when at last, my sister contacted me, my hands shook again as I typed a long email explaining our connection. And then I waited. It turns out she’d been told about the baby girl given up for adoption, so my version of events rang true for her, but it was more of a shock for her brothers. My brothers. See how weird this is?
Turns out my new-found sister lives only an hour from me, and only about ten minutes from my same-birthday sister! (Without using names, this is likely to get confusing.) We’ve met up a few times, and she’s absolutely wonderful! It’s been such a joy getting to know her, hearing stories about our mother, what she was like. It makes me even sadder I’ll never know her, but I’m so happy to have even this much.
I’ve spoken on the phone with one brother, and also with an aunt and a cousin. It really touched me to hear my cousin say, “We’ve been waiting for you to find us.”
Between them, I’ve been sent photos. For the first time in my life, I see people I look like!
Which brings me back to those dreams. My nights are filled with conversations and images of people who now make up a side of me I’ve never known—a side that’s always been there, just hidden in my genes, maybe in my genetic memory.
I count myself blessed that they seem to be truly good people. I can’t wait to meet the rest of them in person, perhaps this spring. In the meantime, I’ll let myself absorb these newfound connections. Who knows? This may all end up in a future novel! 🙂