In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
The Four Siblings Had Not Known Of My Existence
This starts in Spokane, Washington during a cold February 1955. A twenty-year-old woman named Barbara realized she was pregnant. She was also unmarried. This was a big problem in the middle '50's. The options that she had to her were very limited. She was raised in a staunch Catholic family, so abortion was out. Marriage to her twenty-four-year-old lover was out........he was already married; unfortunately to somebody else. So she elected Option Three: She went to St. Mary's convent for the duration of the pregnancy. Family and friends were told that she was visiting relatives on the East Coast.
Fast forward to November 14th. A good delivery. Barbara signed the relinquishment papers and returned to her family, and I went to St, Mary's Children's Home. There were two stipulations to the adoption process. I was to be placed with a Catholic family, and the prospective parents had to be from out of the area. A military couple would fit the bill nicely. So in February '56 I came home to a small house at Fairchild Air Force base. I had been adopted by a Major and his wife.
This part is really about Barbara's story. I suspect returning home was difficult. Even though the family tried hard not to judge her, the fact was that unwed mothers were often considered "damaged goods." Her prospects were not good in Spokane, so she moved to Los Angeles some time in 1956. She worked first for an airline, and then at the phone company. In 1957 she met a man named William. They dated briefly and tied the knot in Spokane on June 17th, 1957. William was a salesman whose home was in Idaho. He moved his new wife back home, and they started to build a family together.
First to arrive was Walter (Chad). He was born February 10th, 1958. He did not remain an only child for very long. His sister, Christina Marie, arrive February 25th, 1959. Not to be outdone, Michael Patrick arrived February 9th, 1960. And finally James Matthew was born on September 22nd, 1961. William supported his family as a salesman for years, and then changed careers to enter the real estate market.
Barbara stayed home until James was about ten, and then she re-entered the work force, getting a job working for the State at the local unemployment office. She was there for years, until she got her real estate license and the family opened their own business.
Unfortunately, life is not fair. Barbara was diagnosed with cancer, and after a two-year battle, she passed away January 4th, 1981. She was only 46 years old. William died in 1990, I believe.
Now comes my part of the story: the search. Back in 1982, I had contacted the Nedercutt law firm in Spokane, who had handled the adoption. I asked to be allowed to view the records. Nedercutt refused, claiming that they were sealed by the Court, and I needed to hire an attorney and petition the State Superior Court to open my files. Well, my twins had just been born, and I had more important things to spend money on! So I dropped the search, but I did register with the Internation Soundex Reunion Registry, a Nevada based organization that brings adoptees and their birth families back together.
What I didn't know was that in 1989, a law was passed in Washington. It created a mechanism allowing an appointed advocate to view the records and to contact the birth family, asking for a meeting. If the family said "yes", then information was exchanged. If not, well I guess I'd be S.O.L. But I didn't know about the law, so it really didn't matter.
Fast forward again, this time to last Christmas. I was on AOL and clicked on a video story about an adoption reunion that took place in Washington. The subject of the story referred to the advocacy program that was in place. What was this?!?! I never heard about it? So onto the Internet I went! It seemed simple enough. I filled out the paperwork and paid the fees. And I waited. Day by day, week by week, month by month. Nothing was happening.
Then I got a call from Diane Samms, my appointed advocate. She had found my birth mother, but she'd been dead for many years. And her husband had passed as well.
But they had four children. Would I like her to contact them? Oh, HELL YES.
And then I waited. Two months, three weeks, and five days. Think I was impatient? And then I got a call from Chad M. in Nampa, Idaho. And it went something like this: "This is Chad M." To which I replied "Hey, little brother." And then it was dead silence for about five seconds. And he responded that it was going to take some getting used to. He had been the oldest one for fifty-five years, and now this.
The four siblings hadn’t known of my existence, so my contact with them was completely unexpected. No one had ever ever mentioned Barbara’s first pregnancy. Her husband didn't know even know about it. Chad said that "You grow up thinking you know your Mom, and then you find out that you don't know her at all." It had to be a little rough on them, I think.
And Chad wasn't ready to embrace the idea, either. He was very respectful, but pointed out that in the '50's, identifications were not what they are today. What if my birth mom was a friend of his mom, who'd used Barbara's identity during the whole process? Who'd have known? He would like something more concrete. A signature, a witness, something. So I bought a DNA kit online, did the cheek swab, and then sent it to him for his sample. We are waiting on the results.
But something else happened that changes all the uncertainty. It seems that Barbara has an older brother named Leo, a retired attorney living in another city. James (the youngest) succeeded in reaching him and asked him about my claim. Leo confirmed that his sister had gone to a convent to give birth, and remarked that "I thought I was going to take this secret to the grave with me."
Well, that pretty much confirms everything I think I know. I'll still wait for the DNA, but I'm confident that it will back me up on this. So at this point it looks like I've got five brothers and one sister. Pretty hard to get used to, but I think it'll grow on me.
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The DNA test came back positive. There is a 91.36% chance that I am related to Chad. Can't get much better than that. And we (my wife and daughters and I) have begun a rather long discourse with my sister. Turns out she absolutely LOVES to talk. About, children, butterflies, and everything in between. She very kindly sent me some photos and other mementos from my birth mother.
I stared at a picture of Barbara, and then walked over to one of my high school annuals. Please take a look at the enclosed photo. Both Barbara and myself are approximately the same age (seniors in high school) when these photos were taken.
Think I might be related to her? You should have seen my mouth drop. Now my wife and I are making plans to travel to the Northern border. I am fifty-eight-years old, and I am going to meet my brothers and sister for the first time. There aren’t words for this feeling.
Tim was born in '55 and raised by a military family (US Air Force. Strategic Air Command). He lived in the Desert Southwest (Yuma, Arizona) since the mid '60's or so. He and his wife Lorene have three daughters and eleven grandchildren.
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