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But Wait, There's More

Lame.  Try starting your blog without the phrase, "many years ago..."  It's not getting any easier, but here I rise to the challenge.

Several years ago, I embarked on a journey most people start in elementary school.  "Okay kids, today we are going to create your family tree!"  Cool.  Ever since that day in 4th grade, and every time thereafter when I filled out a form asking me for my family medical history, I got to take the easy way out.  Draw a line through the question.  Cross out the section.  Create an answer called "I don't know."

It used to bother me, but I soon realized I could finish that test quicker than most.  And, since finishing tests was important to me for some mysterious, unknown reason which I never understood, I was happy to slash through that section and turn in the clipboard to the dental assistant or nurse or whoever thought they needed that information--in record time.  Nobody fills these things out faster than this guy.  And with that, it didn't bother me anymore.

Then you have kids.  And they bear your resemblance, something you'd never in your life actually experienced until they started actually growing.  I used to laugh when people, usually women, would say, "Oh, he has your eyes" or "Oh, she has your nose!"  How cute.  Babies are all pretty much the same.  You can sometimes tell the race and gender, but that's pretty much it until they can talk.  Just my opinion.

But when they talk, when grow into their earlobes and foreheads; that's when it starts to hit again.  Even more when they start acting like you.  It feels...good.  It feels different than anything else.  And, if I can be honest with myself, it reminds me that I don't otherwise know that feeling.  I don't claim my dad's earlobes.  I can't claim my mom's eyes, or her nose, or her awkward twitch, or dad's weird affinity to jazz, or my uncle's hairline.  The man who adopted me at birth would sometimes tell his friends, "Oh, those grades? Yeah, he takes after me."  Then he'd look at me and wink with that twinkle in his eye, acknowledging our mutual fondness in spite of the missing bloodline.

Having adopted parents who cared for me was the greatest gift my birthparents ever gave me besides my very life itself.  Both of them declared they were not fit to be parents.  It turns out they were both right.  It also turns out that parents who adopt are prone to go through the same crap every other type of adult faces, and to similar results.  My adopted parents divorced when I was 3 years old.  That boy-child they desperately wanted for years had finally arrived, only to find himself torn between a stubborn Scottish woman who liked men too much and an angry Englishman who liked to fish too much.  I often felt cheated growing up, but when I realized that being cheated meant you still got to live, my feelings shifted from resentfulness to gratitude and acceptance.  Only then did I begin to understand how much I was loved, how far several people went to ensure my life was actually lived.

Finding out about my birthparents gained project-status when I was in my late 20's.  My adopted parents never disguised my origin and told me plainly about Children's Home Society of Seattle, the agency they employed to help them adopt a child.  CHS was happy to provide me with "non-identifying information" about my birth family when I asked.  The information was vague and not helpful in a search, but it was affirming that actual humans were in my background.  They were of French-Danish-Norwegian-German-English decent.  Which narrowed it down quite a bit fortunately, as I stopped searching Canada and Australia for my ancestors.  My birth mother was 17 at the time of my birth and had previously relinquished a girl for adoption about a year prior with the same agency.

This last fact was probably the most important one.  It was clear from the other paperwork that my birth parent's interest in motorcycle riding, parades, and photography meant they were either in the porn industry or had left it for other more exciting things like joining a biker gang.  Okay maybe not, but I set the bar pretty low probably to protect myself a bit.  But a half-sister...that's someone who may come with the hope of innocence.  You can't pick your genes, but you can alter them...just like you can do something about your own life if you were plucked out of a family doomed for damage.  I believed my half-sister would likely not even know I existed.  If she grew up in circumstances like mine, she would likely have some want to know it was possible to have that feeling of resemblance beyond her own children.  And maybe her kids would have earlobes like mine.

Sadly, all my postings on everything from ancestry.com to craigslist to every version of reunion registry I could find yielded no positive results for any member of my birth family.  I did meet a woman from the Olympic Penninsula who had given birth to a boy a year earlier than me...she was searching for him and I was able to actually find him and help the two of them connect.  He told me he never understood why growing up in New York City he would always want to go to the forested parts of Central Park and run around barefoot in skimpy clothing at night, cutting things with a knife and being generally sneaky.  Turns out his birth mother had hooked up with a Cherokee Indian for a bit.  "I never felt like I fit in," he told me, "until I realized my father was a Cherokee.  Now it all makes sense."

My adopted parents wisely warned me that finding members of my birth family could be hazardous.  "They might be freaks.  They might have never told anyone they had a kid, and you showing up could cost them their new marriage."  I took this seriously and used a lot of caution when doing my searching and posting letters.  All I really wanted to do was tell my birth parents they had done a truly beautiful thing and made an outstandingly good decision to put me up for adoption.  Their act gave me a fighting chance to have a decent life.

In 2013, the Washington legislature decided it was time adoptees could get a copy of their original birth certificate.  The one I had listed my adopted parents on it, but with the actual doctor, hospital, and witnesses.  I pre-ordered the original certificate and received it within days of the new law taking effect in July 2014.  I now knew my birth parents true names.

Finding my birthmother, Katherine, proved difficult; it seems she likely changed her name after having two pregnancies in her high school years in the late 60's.  It didn't take long to find Lynn, my birthfather; he had passed away in Hilo, Hawaii in 2006.  What surprised me was the two children who survived him: Russell and Melissa.  Through the magic of Facebook, I was able to locate these two fairly quickly.  Melissa was a year older than me and lived in Lynnwood, Washington.  That's where I live.  She owned a business with her husband in Edmonds, Washington.  That's where I work.  Russell lived in Port Townsend.

It took me nearly a year to finally send the letter to Melissa explaining that I was neither a creep nor a mooch, but that I shared a common relative with her and wanted to explore the possible connection.  Melissa later told me she immediately called her brother Russell and told him about my letter.  "Russ, I just got the weirdest text I've ever received in my life."  Russell and Melissa Googled the shit out of me for the next 20 minutes, verifying what little factual information I had provided them.  Then Russell sent me a note:  "Hi this is Russell.  Sis just called me in shock...we had no clue but we're willing.  Tag, you're it."

What followed was the most refreshingly entertaining and fulfilling conversation I've ever had.  Lynn left the family when Russell was about 4 years old after Lynn had an affair with a woman.  Russell asked me, "Okay, who was your birth mother?"  I told him, to which Russell and his wife laughed hysterically for a few minutes.  Russell explained Katherine was the woman his dad had an affair with.  Nobody ever knew a child had come from this affair, or that Lynn had actually married Katherine at one point.

"So I'm the love child, eh?"

I called Melissa later that night and enjoyed a fast paced, enlightening, educated and honest conversation.  We all agreed to follow this new found reality wherever it takes us, with no expectation or demand on each other and the ability to pull back at any time without consequence.  But it's pretty clear everyone wants to dive in and learn more.

Melissa put it bluntly.  "It's not like you're some long lost cousin or 3rd uncle.  You're a sibling.  You're my brother.  I have a brother!"

I guess I'm the brother...from another mother.  Or something like that.


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