This page is all about Chapter One of my life. For many adoptees, Chapter One can often be the chapter of most interest since it is the one chapter that is missing from the life of most adoptees. As with most other adoptees, Chapter One of my life had been hidden away, burried in fog and mystery for many years. The names of my birth parents, circumstances surrounding my birth and adoption, as well as my own original birth certificate (OBC) to this day are still sealed and locked away in government filing cabinets, hidden from view. Even I have no access to view these records under penalty of law. (This will finally change on January 1, 2008 under a new Massachusetts law giving adopted persons access to their Origianl Birth Certificates. This is a right just taken for granted by others that continues to be denied to adopted persons in most states throughout this nation.)
Through an odd series of events, I discovered pretty much all of the information contained in these birth and adoption records in August of 2003, when I was 52 years old! To my surprise and delight, I found that both of my birth parents were still alive! Also to my surprise, having grown up as an only child with my adoptive parents, I found that I probably have 29 half-siblings (the best estimate I've been able to come up with so far)!
Someday, I hope to write about the other chapters of my life. But for now, I just wanted to write Chapter One: the circumstances surrounding my birth and adoption plus the reunion after locating my birth family.
Throughout this narration I have referred to my biological half-siblings as "brother" and "sister" rather than "half-brother" and "half-sister." This should not lead to any confusion for the reader since all of my siblings are my biological half-siblings. My biological parents did not produce any other children together other than me, and I had no siblings at all growing up in my adoptive family. I will refer to my biological parents as "biological mother," "birth mother," "biological father", "birth father", or just "mother" and "father". I will use the word "adoptive" whenever I am talking about the parents that adopted me to avoid any confusion.
I have known that I was adopted since I was about 8 years old. That fact never seemed to bother me. I was born in a hospital in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1951. My birth mother took me with her when she left the hospital. Where I spent the first 8 days of my life is not exactly clear. My birth mother may have had someone else taking care of me for those first 8 days.
It wasn't until I was 52 years old that I learned some of these facts surrounding my birth and adoption. My birth mother had lived in Maine for most of her life. Actually, most of her ancestors had lived in Maine going back a couple of centuries! Looking into the genealogy of one line of my birth family, it seems that everyone was born, married and died in the little town of Jonesboro, Maine, for over 200 years!
My birth mother had four children before me from her first marriage, two boys and two girls. Some of the siblings believe that she might have had one or two other children before her first marriage, but that is not definite. Her first husband was of Portuguese descent and these first four children were from her marriage with him. I was conceived after she divorced her first husband, but before she married her second husband. It was definitely not a planned pregnancy and it is doubtful that there was a serious romance or plans for marriage between my birth mother and birth father.
My birth mother never told my birth father that she was pregnant. Shortly after leaving my birth father, she began seeing another man that she later married. Her new family's husband lived in Massachusetts, so she moved down there while she was pregnant with me and that is where I was born. The person taking care of me during my first 8 days after birth was elderly and had difficulty trying to care for a newborn.
8 days after I was born, she took me to the Massachusetts State Capitol building looking for information on how to put me up for adoption.
The agency that handles adoptions in Massachusetts was not located in the Capitol building. She asked one of the state troopers assigned to the Capitol if he knew where she would go to put a child up for adoption. The state trooper told her that the Child Services Department was located in another building. However, he also said that he knew of a very nice couple that was looking to adopt a child and asked if she would like him to arrange a meeting with that couple. That couple would become my adoptive parents. The state trooper had been the best man at my adoptive parents wedding and would later become my Godfather!
The meeting was arranged and the adoption completed with the help of an attorney. The Child Services Department in Massachusetts did not seem too happy about being bypassed, but everything was done legally.
Child Services had suggested to my birth mother that she place the child through them and that my adoptive parents apply to them for a child like any other prospective adoptive parents. But, if they had done that, it is very unlikely that I would have ended up with them and there is a good chance they would not have been able to adopt any child at all!
Child Services was first unhappy about the religion issue. According to their guidelines, they are supposed to try to place children in adoptive homes that have the same religion as the birth parents. My birth parents were a Protestant denomination and my adoptive parents were Catholic. Child Services noted that they had many prospective adoptive parents of the same religion as my birth parents. My birth mother had to sign a waiver stating that she did not mind that I was being adopted by a couple with a different religion.
Cultural heritage didn't seem to be a criteria for adoption placement by Child Services. Both of my adoptive parents were born in America, but all four of my adoptive grandparents were born in Italy, so I grew up in an Italian-American home. My birth parents were of English and maybe Scotish descent, but some or all of their ancestors had been in America since well before the revolutionary war. But, no attempt seems to be made by Child Services to keep an adopted child within the cultural heritage of their birth family.
Then there was the age issue. My adoptive mother was about 39 years old and my adoptive father was about 33 years old. Couples that old usually have a very hard time trying to get approved to adopt a newborn infant, especially if it is their first child. As an age comparison, my birth mother was only about 23 years old at that time.
So, 8 days after the day I was born, I started my new life with my adoptive parents!
After I was born, my birth mother returned to Maine. Less than a year later, my birth mother had another child. This time she had the child in Maine and it was a girl. She was also born between marriages. As of this writing, we still have not located her biological father.
Shortly thereafter, my birth mother married again. She gave birth to two more girls in that marriage. At some point, my mother and the two girls moved again to Massachusetts and lived there for many years, not far from where I was growing up.
Before I explain more about my birth father, it would make sense for me to explain how I learned the story listed above.
As mentioned before, I lived in Massachusetts until 1980 and then moved to southern California when I was 29 years old. Around 1995, my wife and I helped my adoptive parents move from Massachusetts to California. They were getting on in years and we felt we could be more help to them if they were living nearby. My adoptive father died in 1999. My adoptive mother remained relatively healthy until early 2003 when Alzheimer's disease set in rapidly. Within a few weeks, we had to move her to an Alzheimer's care facility for her own safety.
In the process of moving everything out of her apartment, we had to go through all of her records. In those records was a sealed envelope. That envelope contained my original adoptions papers, a legal change of name for me, and some records regarding the adoption from the department of Child Services in Massachusetts.
Those papers included what was supposed to be the names of my birth mother and father as well as my own full birth name. That was the first time that I had ever seen the original name that I was given at birth! The last name that I was given at birth was that of my mother's first husband and not my birth mother's maiden name nor my birth father's last name. My birth mother put down the name of her first husband as being my father on my birth certificate for fear of losing her first four children if she put down any other name.
At that time, I did not know that my birth mother was divorced and I did not know that the man listed on my birth record was not my birth father. When I first held the papers in my hands revealing the names of my birth parents (or who I thought was my biological father at that time), and my original birth name, I somehow knew it was going to have a major impact on my life. Right then, I didn't know how it would, but I just felt it would.
Having the wrong name listed as my birth father on the documents did cause some initial confusion and some delay in obtaining further information about my birth records.
An adoption search service in Massachusetts was able to locate the wife of a cousin of my birth mother. Surprising to me, even at the age of 76, my birth mother had an AOL e-mail address and the search service was able to obtain that through her cousin's wife.
I sent an e-mail to my birth mother in mid-2003. I made it clear that I did not want to interfere or disrupt her life in any way. I explained that I was just seeking information about my medical history and trying to obtain some genealogy information. I also made it very clear that she had left me with wonderful adoptive parents.
Naturally, she was shocked at having received my e-mail. But, she did acknowledge that she was my birth mother and said that all she wanted was to make sure I was placed in a home that would give me a good upbringing. As far as medical records go, she said that she came from a family that lived a very long time and had very few medical problems. However, she also said that too much time had passed and she rather I didn't know any more about her. I took this to mean that she would rather I not contact her anymore. This might have been a mistake. Maybe all she meant was that she rather I not ask her any more questions about the past. Later I will explain why I may have misinterpreted her response.
One thing she did say in her e-mail reply is that the man listed on my birth records as my father was not my biological father. In that e-mail, she did say exactly who my birth father was where she last knew he was living 50 years ago.
So started my quest to locate my birth father! Using an internet search service, I was able to locate him pretty quickly. Even though he had moved around a bit in Maine during those 50 years, by a bit of coincidence, he was now living exactly in the town my birth mother had mentioned! Other information provided by the internet search showed that he had been married for 50 years and that his wife had just died earlier that year.
I wrote a letter similar to the e-mail I had sent to my birth mother and mailed it to him. During the first week of August 2003, I got a cell phone call from a social worker at a nursing home in Maine. The conversation started: "Is this Stephen? I am a social worker at the nursing home. I have your Dad here and he would like to speak with you."
That was a bit of a shock! But, we started talking right away. He knew my mother but never knew that she had gotten pregnant by him. He told me he was not doing well medically, especially after the death of his wife earlier in the year. He said that he would very much like to see me and my family. I told him that we could fly out there. We could either come right away, or we could wait until Christmas time and come for a longer period. He said his health was failing and it would be better if we came earlier rather than later.
So, I made quick plans for my wife and I and our two daughters to fly to Maine the following weekend, Friday, August 8, through Monday, August 11, 2003. On August 4, 2003, I received a warm and welcoming e-mail from my birth father's youngest daughter.
I met my birth father for the first time on Saturday, August 9, 2003. The meeting went wonderful! The physical similarities between me and my birth father were undeniable. There is a general similar look between us. He is also my exact same height at 5'7.5"! He also has a birthmark that is in almost the same place as that on my older daughter, which is something we always wondered about.
While we were in Maine, we also met my birth father's youngest daughter, on Monday, August 11, 2003. We got along great and began to communicate regularly by e-mail. From meeting with my birth father and my younger sister, I learned a lot more of the story about my birth father's side of the family. We were only able to stay for the weekend as we had to fly back to get the kids back to school and to get ourselves back to work. So, I wasn't able to meet any more of my birth family that I was just starting to learn about. However, I was able to talk to my birth father's oldest daughter on her cell phone while I was in Maine. She was out of town that weekend and sorry she missed me, but was anxious that we be able to visit in person the next time I would be in town. I've continued to communicate with that sister by both e-mail and letters ever since that phone conversation.
My wife and children and I took my birth father out to a couple of restaurants on that visit and he had us drive to a few places that were significant in his past. He showed us the farm where he grew up in his early years with his parents. He also showed us the one room school house that he attended. My birth mother's father was the head of the school district where this one room school house was located.
On that visit, I learned that my birth father also went through two marriages. The time that I was conceived was also between those two marriages. From his first marriage, he had two boys and two girls, but the youngest boy had died at 6 weeks. From the second marriage, he had three boys and two girls. However, in addition to me, he also fathered two girls between the two marriages.
Are you keeping count? They aren't all listed above or all known, but it is believed that my birth father had 18 children and my birth mother had 13 live births. When you consider that I'm counted twice in those numbers, that means that my birth mother and birth father had 30 children between them! So, I have 29 brothers and sisters.
A few of my siblings were also given up for adoption or grew up in foster homes. Some of them we don't even know their names, when they were born, or when or why they were placed to be raised by others. But, more about that later. Most of my siblings were raised by one or the other of their birth parents.
December 2003 : Trip to Maine, Christmas Family Gathering
In September 2003, my sister (my birth father's youngest daughter) let me know in an e-mail that she was thinking of putting together a family gathering. They hadn't had one in a while and thought this might be a good opportunity for me to meet a lot of the family. One of my other sisters that were born between the two marriages of my birth father had also never gotten to meet the family. My sister thought this would be a good time for her to meet the rest of the family, also. I told her that I thought it was a wonderful idea and made plans for my wife and two daughters to fly with me again to Maine in December. We planned this event to fall between Christmas and New Years as this was the only time that my children had off from school and it seemed to be a time that everyone might be able to attend this event.
We flew from Long Beach, California, to Boston, Massachusetts, on JetBlue the day after Christmas, December 26, 2003, on the red-eye. Before the family gathering event, I met individually for the first time with my oldest sister, and my sister that was one of the other children that my father had between marriages. The family gathering was held on December 28, 2003, at a nursing home where one of my other sisters on my birth father's side of the family is employed. At that event, I met several of my birth siblings, children of my birth father, for the first time, as well as their wives, children and grandchildren. During that week, we took my birth father out to restaurants and he showed us other places in Maine that were part of his life. We also got together with some of the family for some other meals at local restaurants before we all headed home.
From time to time in 2003 and 2004, I would receive e-mails from my birth mother. These e-mails were not a personal message to me. Rather, they were inspirational messages and chain letters that she sent to lots of her friends and relatives. For some reason, she had added me to her list of people that she sends these e-mails to. Some of her e-mails, especially the chain letter types, request that everyone return a copy of the e-mail to her. Whenever she sent me one of those, I would definitely send a response back to her. I wanted to make sure that she realized that I was on her e-mail list and that she wasn't sending me the e-mails by mistake. Sure enough, she kept sending me those e-mails even after I made sure that she knew that I was on her list.
I could be wrong, but my interpretation of these e-mails is that my birth mother wanted me to remain in her life in some way, but did not want to enter into direct communication with me where she might find herself confronted with a lot of questions that she just didn't want at this time in her life. So, over the next several months, these e-mails where neither of us directly confronted each other became our method of communication, sort of.
Then, one day in the Spring of 2004, my birth mother sent me an e-mail where the e-mail address of many other friends and family members were listed in the "CC:" field. The last name that I was born with was part of the e-mail address of a number of people in the list. I knew the first letter of the first name of some of my birth siblings from my adoption documents, and some of the e-mail addresses matched the first letter and last name of these birth siblings.
I decided to try to send an e-mail to the first e-mail address that looked hopeful on the list and ask if they were related to my birth mother. Over the last several months, I had done research on the ancestry of my birth mother's family. I thought it was a bit odd that I could search back and get several centuries worth of details about my birth mother's genealogy, but I could not find any details in public records about the children that she gave birth to! In my e-mail, I mentioned that I had this genealogical information and that I would be happy to share it with them if they were related to my birth mother.
The e-mail reply that I received indicated that the person that I wrote to was a son of my birth mother and the son of the man who was listed on my birth certificate as my father (who, as mentioned above, was not my birth father). Legally, I guess this would make him my full-brother since we both have the same parents listed on our birth certificates, although biologically we are only half-brothers. He was not surprised about me, a new brother, as there had been another sibling put up for adoption that had come back to the family some time ago, and there may still be others. He told me that there were two other siblings that I should contact, but he would check with them first to make sure it was OK.
Soon, he had me in touch with two of my birth sisters. All four of my older siblings had been placed into a foster home after my birth mother divorced their birth father (not my birth father). About 18 months after I was born and put up for adoption, my birth mother had a girl that was also put up for adoption. Then, my birth mother began to retrieve her previous children from the foster home. By the time she came back to retrieve the youngest of the four children born before me, that child was already three years old. The foster parents were by then attached to that child and my birth mother allowed the foster parents to raise the youngest of my four older siblings. However, my birth mother did remain in contact with that child and she remains an integral part of my birth mother's family to this day.
That child that grew up in a foster family and my younger sister that was also adopted are the two sisters that my brother wanted to get in touch with me. It turns out that these two sisters learned of my existence and tried to locate me more than twenty years ago! But, the sealed birth and adoption records prevented them from making much progress in that effort.
I began communicating with these two birth siblings first by e-mail and then eventually spoke with each of them on the phone. We all wanted to get together as soon as possible. Thus, I made arrangements for my wife and I to fly out to Maine around the Independence Day holiday. Realizing that I would also want to spend some time with my birth father and his side of the family, we decided to spend an entire week in Maine, from Friday, July 2, 2004, through Saturday, July 10, 2004.
Again, we took the Jet Blue red-eye flight from Long Beach, California, on July 2, 2004 and arrived early in the morning into Boston on Saturday, July 3, 2004, and then drove up to Maine. On the way, we stopped at a Denny's along the route in Massachusetts where we met with my brother and his family. We made plans to stop for a cookout at his home on our way back to Boston on the following Saturday.
Later in the afternoon, we met my younger sister for the first time at her home in the Maine countryside outside of Portland. Meeting her was wonderful! But, it didn't feel like I was meeting her for the first time. It felt like I had been away on a trip and had just returned to family that I had known all my life! It was a very strange experience; one that I had never had in my life before!
Later in the day, my younger sister, her husband, my wife and I all drove to a restaurant where I met with my sister that had grown up in a foster home and one of my sisters from my birth mother's third marriage. We all got along great! Usually, when meeting new people, especially in a very trying social situation as this could be expected to be, I will be very uncomfortable and awkward. Surprisingly, I did not feel uncomfortable at all. Everyone made me feel very welcome and I really felt I was among family right away. It was not at all how I expected this first meeting would go. Instead, it went surprisingly much better than I expected. I'm not sure there is any way that this first meeting with my three new sisters could have gone any better.
Originally, I had tried to set it up so that I would meet each new sister separately. Usually, I do much better relating to people one-on-one and have a more and more uncomfortable time as the group grows larger. However, all my attempts at preparation to meet in that context were unnecessary. Even though there were seven of us at that first get together of the birth siblings on my mother's side, I was very comfortable with everyone and I think everyone was comfortable with me.
On Sunday, July 4, 2004, we celebrated Independence Day at my younger sisters home in the country in Maine. Everyone that I had met the previous day at dinner was there as well as many children and grandchildren of my siblings. We had a wonderful time at the BBQ, but I am still working at putting names to all the faces and trying to remember who goes with who.
On Monday, July 5, 2004, we took my birth father out to lunch at Julian's. I invited a few of my siblings along. Specifically, I was interested in having the four siblings there that did not grow up in their birth families. From my birth mother's side there was my younger sister who grew up in an adopted home and my older sister that grew up in a foster home. From my birth father's side was my sister that had grown up with her birth mother, but who did not know that my birth father was her birth father until recently. And there was also myself, the connecting point between these two families who also grew up in an adoptive family. Somehow, I felt we all had something in common. In any case, the lunch turned out fine and my birth father enjoyed meeting the two siblings from my mother's side as well as visiting with me and his own daughter that did not know him as her father for many years.
On Tuesday we went to my older sister's church supper, on Wednesday to a BBQ at the home of my oldest sister on my father's side, and on Thursday evening, several of the siblings and their spouses got together for dinner at the Olive Garden in Portland. We also took my birth father out on some outings and to some restaurants during the week. Overall, it was a very enjoyable time for us. I usually have a great deal of trouble at social events, but I really enjoyed the time that I got to spend with my new found birth family and I felt that we all fit in quite well with each other.
On Friday, July 9, 2004, I met my brother on my birth mother's side of the family and his wife in person for the first time. This is the brother that I first communicated with by e-mail that led me to all my other siblings on my birth mother's side of the family. This brother right away noticed that we were wearing identical black shirts, right down to the same brand and style! That seemed to be quite a coincidence for two people that had never met before as not that many people wear black shirts, and to match with the exact same brand and style made it even more unusual. We all got together for a pleasant afternoon at my younger sister's home and then explored the town in the countryside. He and his wife had driven up from New Hampshire and would be vacationing at a nearby lake for the next few days.
Before leaving Maine, a number of my birth siblings consented to providing saliva samples for DNA testing, as did my birth father. Although the similarities between myself, my birth father, and several of my siblings were too numerous to ignore, I felt DNA tests would eliminate any last slivers of doubt. DNA tests would also confirm that my birth father was the birth father of one of my siblings that was not told of this relationship for many years. The DNA tests would also help find or eliminate possible candidates as the birth father of my younger sister.
The results of the DNA testing did confirm that my birth father truly is just that, and that he is also the birth father of my sister that grew up without that knowledge. The DNA tests also confirmed my sibling relationship to some of my sisters and from them to each other. The DNA results showed that my younger sister from my mother's side who was also adopted was not my full-sister. My biological father was not her biological father. It wasn't necessary to get DNA samples from everyone. There is no doubt about some of the sibling and parentage relationships, so the verification of the rest of the sibling and parentage relationships can be implied from the DNA tests that were done.
On Saturday, July 10, 2004, after taking my birth father out to breakfast, we headed to my brother's house in Massachusetts for a BBQ with his family. This was on our way to catch our flight out of Boston later in the day. We met a number of their children, their children's spouses, and their grandchildren for the first time. It is still going to take me a while to get everyone's names associated with their faces and remember which grandchildren go with which children. This is an awful lot for me to absorb at once, especially when you consider I grew up as an only child in my adoptive family!
My older brother on my father's side also grew up in foster and adoptive homes, and he spent a few years in the same city that I grew up in Massachusetts! We knew the same hangouts in that city, went to the same church, the same move theater, the same restaurants, the same high school and belonged to some of the same organizations. However, since we were born a few years apart, he had been through all those places a few years before me. None the less, it still gave us a lot in common to talk about!
While in Maine, someone suggested that we might all meet in Florida in November 2004 for a birthday party for two of my sisters that were born in November. My birth mother and three of her children live in Florida. In addition to my birth mother's children in New England, these three children in Florida are the only other children that have remained part of my birth mother's family. Additional children are suspected, but no others are in contact with the family. So, these three children in Florida are the only other siblings in the family that I had not yet met.
If a birthday party was arranged in Florida for these two siblings, then it would be very likely that the three siblings that live in Florida as well as my birth mother would attend the party. So, plans were made to have this birthday party in Florida!
Three of my siblings that live in New England arranged to travel down to Florida with their spouses for the party. One of my siblings whose birthday is in November vacations at a timeshare exchange for a week or two in some years in Florida. So, she came down early to spend some vacation time and family visiting time in Florida. Her daughter's family also came down for this birthday party and to spend some time vacationing and visiting the Florida attractions. My wife and I made plans to fly out of California on the Jet Blue red-eye on Wednesday evening, November 10, 2004, and arrive on Thursday morning, November 11, 2004. Everyone was departing Florida on Sunday, November 14, 2004
We arrived at the resort late Thursday morning, November 11, 2004. We were impressed with the size of our room which was in the main building of the resort. However, it was a little unusual in that it was sort of very long and narrow. But, we were happy to find that it had two complete bathrooms, each with its own shower, and two queen size beds in the one very large bedroom. The kitchen area was totally separate from the bedroom and bathroom areas.
For a while, we were trying to figure out why we ended up with an accommodation that was so much larger than that of my younger sister and her spouse. Then, we realized that our older daughter originally planned to come with us on this trip and we had booked a room for the three of us. That is why we had two queen beds in our room and why we had two complete bathrooms in our suite. So, if we ever stay here again, we know the trick is to say there will be 3 in our party, or maybe 6 or a dozen to get a bigger accommodation!
Although my wife and I had slept some on the flight, we were in dire need of a little more rest. We spent a bit of the afternoon settling in and getting a little more rest. Then we did a short amount of shopping in a few of the many Gift Shops that populate every road in this part of Florida. My wife promised a few souvenirs to the people back home and figured it would be good to get that out of the way and not have to worry about it for the rest of this short vacation.
Later that evening, we met with my two sisters and their spouses and went to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant. My wife and I used to go there sometimes when we lived in Massachusetts, but hadn't been to one since we moved to California in 1980. Although Cracker Barrel has restaurants across the country, they haven't put any in California yet.
Friday morning, November 12, 2004, we spent the morning relaxing over at my sister's villa at the resort. We spent a couple of hours relaxing and chatting out back on the patio that was off the golf course. A couple of tall storks wandered by and would eat bread right out of your hand without being frightened away.
Her villa was a short walk from the main building. The birthday party would take place that evening in her villa. The kitchen, dining room, living room and doors to the patio created one visually large area that would be perfect for the number of relatives that would be at the party. Since her daughter's family was also staying with her in her villa, she had a two bedroom villa which was the largest accommodation of the three of us staying at the resort.
When we arrived at my sister's villa on Friday evening, her daughter and family were already there. Barbara and I sat down in the living room and made ourselves comfortable. My younger sister and her husband arrived shortly, followed by my brother and his wife.
Several pizzas were delivered from Pizza Hut, two of each kind (pepperoni, meat lovers, cheese, veggie lovers, and maybe others). My brother and his wife and my wife and I each brought bottles of wine. My younger sister and her husband brought a large sheet birthday cake for the two sisters with the November birthdays. We were all getting a bit hungry, so we started into one set of pizzas. The other pizzas were placed into the oven for the family members that had not arrived yet. I had a couple of glasses of red wine, which I think was very helpful in relieving some of the stress from this very unusual situation.
A bit later, two of my siblings that I had not met before arrived, along with my birth mother. My oldest sister from Florida, the one that I had not yet met, was very friendly and gave my wife and I a big welcoming hug. I think she was totally aware that I was going to be at this party. My brother from Florida, who I had also never met before, was introduced to me. We shook hands and he seemed friendly enough, but I'm not sure anyone had mentioned to him that I would be there.
My sister from Florida is into a number of spiritual, psychological and metaphysical concepts that are more practiced and accepted in our home state of California than in Florida, so we had much common ground that we were able to share at the party. It is not that these concepts are alien to other parts of the country, but just that they seem to be more in the forefront in California. When mentioning various schools of thought or describing various lines of philosophy, you are probably less likely to get a strange look in California than maybe in other parts of the country. These various schools or concepts are not followed by everyone in California, but more people in that area tend to be familiar with similar philosophies. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about and probably have a lot more that we could still relate about our philosophies in the future.
My birth mother sat down at the dining room table along with a number of the other relatives. At the party, there seemed to be three centers of activity: the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room, plus the kids and a few people trying to make a go of it out on the patio, but it was a bit dark out there. Each center of activity seemed to have a conversation going on, but people flowed from one area to another throughout the night, moving in and out of conversations with various groups of people. This was probably facilitated by all three rooms being connected in a very open manner so that everyone could have visual contact with each other no matter what room they were in.
At the appropriate time, everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to the two sisters with the November birthdays followed by the cutting and serving of the birthday cake. There were birthday cards to be opened and read and presents to be opened. All and all, I think it was an enjoyable time for everyone. It was sprinkled with emotional experiences, either expressed or suppressed, for some, including myself.
My birth mother smiled throughout the entire party but didn't say very much. She provided short answers whenever anyone asked her a question. She did continue to smile and looked like she was enjoying the party. If she felt she was in an emotionally uncomfortable situation, she didn't show it.
I did not attempt to start a conversation with my birth mother. I did not want my presence at this party to place any psychological or social pressure on her. I could not see how I could say anything to her that would not head in that direction. Maybe I could have at least said "Hello," but then someone might have felt obligated to introduce us, and who knows where that might have led.
For this event, it was enough for me to just be attending the same family event with her, to be in the same room, and to have just laid eyes on my own birth mother for the first time in more than 53 years. I know that I might never see her again. If that is the case, then I will live with the satisfaction that I did get to be at a family function with her for once in my adult life.
My wife, who does not share my emotional cobwebs regarding my birth mother, had no problems at all conversing with her. In a way, she sort of acted as my surrogate in interacting with my birth mother. Through her, I felt in a way that I was directly communicating with my birth mother. My wife thanked my mother for letting me know who my real biological father was. Without that information, my family search would have been very difficult. From my wife's conversation with my mother, she definitely knew who I was if by any chance she hadn't found it out earlier in the party.
During one of the conversations at the dining room table, my wife told about some of our trips to Maine and our visits to my birth father and his family. If I had thought of it ahead of time, I might have warned my wife to not talk about that in front of my mother. After my mother was considerate enough to volunteer the name of my father more than a year ago, I'm not sure she would have been happy with the use that I made of that information. But, in a way, I'm glad the cards are all laid out on the table. It is probably best that my mother learned about my reunion with my father and his family directly from either my wife or me rather than in a round about fashion from other family members.
There are many prominent therapists that believe the core of the personality of an adoptee is the perceived rejection of the infant by his birth mother. I say "perceived" because it is often the case that a birth mother will give up a child for adoption because that mother wants the best for their child. But the infant does not know the reason why he is being torn from everything that is familiar and only interprets what happens to him as rejection from his birth mother, or so the theory goes.
More can be learned about this theory from the book, "The Primal Wound." I can't say whether this theory holds water or not other than from anecdotal experience. After reading that book, I gained more insight about my own personality than from anything else that I have ever read. I have a lot of unusual views of the world and quirks that I thought were uniquely mine. After reading that book, it turns out my views and quirks are quite common among adoptees and the book explains the underlying reason of how these views and quirks were created from that primal separation from the birth mother.
The most important result from this family event for me is that I felt a warm welcome into the family from almost everyone, and at least a tacit acceptance from those whose emotions are not as easily expressed or as easy to read.
I felt I have found a new family and a new emotional home. And yet in some ways, this family does not feel new. It feels like a family that I have just been away from for many years and have just returned, which in a way, it really is! I hope that I am reading correctly what my birth siblings and other family members felt about me and my wife. I guess only time will tell.
In early December 2004, my wife and I again made a round-trip to Maine on the Jet Blue red-eye out of Long Beach, California. On December 4, 2004, we treated everyone from both sides of my families to a Christmas family gathering at "The Sedgley Place" in Greene, Maine. We visited my Dad during the day, but he wasn't able to come to this family gathering as he doesn't usually do well at big family functions and it was in a banquet room on the second floor without wheelchair access. It was great to be with everyone again, especially during the holiday season!
Barbara and I were invited to attend a wedding on Saturday, June 18, 2005, of my oldest brother's daughter on my mother's side. The wedding and reception were held in York Harbor, Maine. We were also invited to the wedding rehearsal dinner that was held on the evening before the wedding, Friday, June 17, 2005. At that dinner my wife and I sat with my brother whose daughter was getting married and two of my older sisters and my younger sister and their spouses. The dinner was wonderful and we all had a great time together. Coincidentally, just as my brother and I had been wearing a matching item of clothing in color, brand and style, when we first met in Maine, we ended up doing it again! My brother and I were wearing the exact same black jacket, same brand and style! My brother said that he purposely didn't dress in a black shirt to avoid us matching again. I told him I had done the same thing and avoided wearing a black shirt that evening also! Do you think preferences in clothing color and style could be genetic?
We all attended the wedding together on Saturday, the next day, and sat together at the wedding reception dinner. There was dancing, toasts, and fireworks, all in a private club overloaking the Maine Atlantic Coast in York Harbor. The next morning, Sunday, June 19, 2005, we had breakfast together for one last chance to see each other and say our goodbyes. We all decided to make plans to get together again in December 2005, so we'll have to wait to see how those plans come together. I'm looking forward to it!
On October 6, 2005, my birth Dad died. It wasn't unexpected. He had been in very ill health since before I met him in 2003. At that time, he didn't even think he would like until Christmas of 2003. My wife and I flew to Maine for the memorial service. More of my siblings came to that memorial service than to any previous family event that I have attended so far. I even met one more sibling that I hadn't met previously. Having become close to my siblings on my birth mother's side of my family, they also came to be with me at my Dad's memorial service. He is of no relation to them, but they did meet during one of my prior trips to Maine.
I feel that I am very luck that my Dad was still alive when I found out who he was and located him in 2003. He also told me many times how fortunate it was that I came into his life at such a troubling time just after his wife of 50 years had died. He said that my coming into his life brought some comfort and purpose into his life that he felt he had lost after the death of his wife.
At the memorial service, all the children of my birth-father got together and pledged to stay close to each other. Many of us grew up in separate families, foster homes and adopted families. We all agreed that events over the last few years had miraculously brought us together and we would not float apart again.
The most important aspect of finding my birth parents was that it put me in touch with my birth siblings. Finding them and staying in touch with them is actually something more important to me than having found my birth parents. Just from my own informal survey, this seems to be an aspect of adopted children that grew up without siblings. That desire that only-children have for siblings, that becomes a reality after finding their birth families, seems to be the more important part of the birth-family reunion.
As mentioned above, I'll be seeing my siblings on my birth-mother's side in December 2005 when we fly to Florida to celebrate my birth mother's 80th birthday. I'm already planing an extended visit back to Maine in April 2006 to visit my siblings. This will be the first trip specifically planned just to see my birth siblings that won't include a visit to my birth father now that he has passed away. I'm also planning a visit to Maine in October 2006 when the man that brought my birth mother from Maine to Massachusettes where I was born, and later married her, will also be coming to Maine from Texas. Indirectly, he had a great impact on where I was born, adopted and grew up. I've exchanged letters with him and would like to meet with him seeing the amount of impact he had on my life. Plus, it will be another opportunity to visit with all my birth siblings.
December 2005 came and went and a number of us did go down to Florida for our mother's birthday. My sisters Karen and Milly and my brother Carl and their spouses all flew down from New England. My wife, Barbara, and I few in from California. My sisters Marjorie and Shelli and my brother Frank already live in Florida. We all got together on Friday evening, December 2, 2005, at a restaurant to celebrate Ma's birthday. Unfortunately, Ma wasn't feeling well and didn't attend. But it did give the rest of us siblings some time to spend together and it was the first time that my sister Shelli and I met each other.
After the dinner, most of us went over to Ma's apartment and brought the celebration to her. That went quite well. It was the first time that we ever spoke and hugged each other. You could tell she was touched by having so many of her children come to celebrate her birthday as there were tears in her eyes. The following morning, a number of us got together at the IHOP for one last meal together before we all headed home. Ma showed up and had breakfast with us. Afterwards, we all had one more goodbye hug till next time.
Added Thursday, June 21, 2007:
Unfortunately, it turned out that was the only time I ever got to hug my mother. She died on May 11, 2006. All of her children, both those that she raised and those that had grown up in adoptive or foster homes (at least all those that we have located and reunited with the family so far) flew to Maine for her burial. Below on the left is a photograph of me and all my siblings on my mother's side of the family at her grave side. It is the first time that we have ALL been together at the same place at the same time. We are standing in birth order with my oldest sibling on the left side and youngest on the right side of the photograph. On the right is a photo taken at a more happy occassion of all my reunited Mom's children except one.
In October of 2006 my wife and I along with my wife's parents and my wife's best friend all flew to Maine where my wife's parents and friend met my birth family for the first time. It is also the first time that I met George Zahar in person. George Zahar was my Mom's second husband, even though they were only married for a few short months. George had a tremendous impact on the direction of my entire life, even though I was still in my Mom's womb when his life intersected with mine. From the above story you can see that almost all of my siblings were born and grew up in Maine. So how did I end up being born and growing up in Massachusetts? When George Zahar met my Mom, she was pregnant with me. George brought her down to Somerville, Massachusetts, where George's family lived (and still do to this day!). That is how I ended up being born in Somerville and being adopted and growing up in Malden, the next town over. I know that my life would have taken an entirely different direction if George Zahar had not come into the life of my Mom when he did. I would have been raised by different parents, would never have met my wife, and would not have the children that I have today. Below is a photo of George Zahar and me during that October 2006 visit to Maine.
In November of 2006 my wife and I took a trip to Florida where I met my mother's sister, Aunt Nat, for the first time. Below on the left is a photo of my youngest sister on my mother's side, Shelli, my Aunt Nat, and myself. On the right is a photo of my brother Frank, sister Shelli, Aunt Nat, me and my wife Barbara having a relaxing lunch outdoors.
Below on the left are all the children of my father, except one who is in the photo on the right. Only my siblings are in the below photos. There are no other family members in these pictures. We know there are more siblings on both sides that have yet to find their way back to us.
The story does and will continue. I have made additional trips to visit with my birth family in Maine, some have come to visit me in California, and I already have plans to visit again with family in 2009. Most of us continue to remain in frequent contact through e-mail, letters, phone calls, and visits.