family


I have written about being adopted before. It’s not a secret thing. I have always known I was adopted and have always been forthcoming about it. It was neither good nor bad. It just was a fact. Like being ginger or near-sighted.

My feelings about my birth parents have waxed and waned since childhood. I was always curious, but as there was no way for me to satisfy my curiosity or find answers to my questions, I tempered my comments with some version of  “it doesn’t really matter cuz I don’t want to know them anyway”. Not strange really. When you know that rejection is a likely outcome, you are not going to set yourself up for it.

Last summer, my brother took one of those DNA tests at the insistence of his children. They were wildly curious about his birth family and wanted to know where he came from. I am not sure he did, but he can’t deny those girls anything, so he took the test and nearly instantly found a half-sister and a dad of sketchy repute.

After that my daughter, who has been curious about my background since she was quite young, thought a DNA test would be a good thing for me to look into as well. But, I didn’t do anything until the fall after my godmother died. Losing her left a hole and I guess finding my birth mother seemed like a logical way to fill it. Never-mind that this was expecting someone, who gave me away and never came looking for me in half a century, power she didn’t have and probably didn’t want. But grief isn’t very logical, and it isn’t like I haven’t looked for her before – because I have on and off for a couple of decades.

DNA tests themselves are interesting. They require a surprising amount of spit. They also don’t take as long as you would think. Less than six weeks from spitting to “here’s your ethnicity and a shit tonne of people you share DNA with!”

It upended a few things I had been told about myself. I am not, for instances, Swedish. Like at all.

I am, however, a very English though not so much Irish. More Norwegian than I would have ever expected and surprisingly, a tiny bit Icelandic, which is frankly kinda cool.

I had only 4 close matches though. No parents. No siblings.

Two of my matches were first cousins and one of them responded to my query. With her help, I found my birth mother in about two days. Well, my cousin’s help and my mom’s “help”.

I qualify the help part because I discovered in all of this searching for bio-mom thing that my parents had known her name all along. I could have found her years and years ago. They just chose not to tell me the truth when I asked them for information.

Oh, they let things slip here and there, and maybe had I been more observant and less ambivalent, I would have noticed.

The Nancy Drew stuff is a story for another day, but the short version is I found my mother, but unfortunately, she is dead. She died unexpectedly in 2014. Her husband died in 2018 though I have no idea if he ever knew about me. But I know my half-brother didn’t know about me. He told me so in an email. It was polite and basic info informative enough, but I really don’t expect to hear from him again. Disappointing, but family often is. Low expectations are best because those are the ones that will met much more often than not.

There are other relatives. A few cousins seem determined to establishing legit connections. I think that’s going well. I am – as I told my sister when we discussed it – sometimes too much myself for people. It can be off-putting. She didn’t say anything because what can one say to such self-awareness? And also, she agrees with my assessment of me. Sometimes I am a bit much.

Legit connections, however, are what I want. I am not a curiosity. As an adoptee, I have had my fill of my needs being ignored in the whole adoption thing. In my opinion, cats and dogs from rescue shelters have their feelings and well-being better looked after than human babies, who are treated as commodities in contracts between adults who are much more keen on their own issues and needs than the thoughts and opinions of a baby, who will one day be an adult with questions, needs, and opinions of their own.

The most satisfying part of the finding my mother’s family thus far is finding people I resemble. In some cases very strongly. I don’t think anyone can know what it feels like to not look like anyone you know unless you’ve been forced to exist in a community that is physically completely unlike you.

I grew up thinking everything about myself was wrong. Freakish. My hair. My height. My weight. I was made to feel, sometimes inadvertently but often purposely, that I was ugly and doing it on purpose to embarrass or annoy people.

Seeing pictures of my mother, who was beautiful, and being told I look so much like her was something I needed to hear growing up and never did. I am not sure I can forgive people for denying me the right to know I was perfectly normal. That includes all of my parents really. And everyone else who knew I was out there somewhere and never thought to come looking for me.

And that’s the “what hurts” part of this. Aside from my half-brother, almost everyone in my mother’s family knew about me. There is a younger cousin, who wanted to find me but didn’t have much to go on, but it’s a bit hard for me to be okay with having grown up and living most of my life within an hour or two of my mom’s family, and no one ever looked for me.

She didn’t look for me. She didn’t tell my brother about me. That’s nearly as big a betrayal as parents not telling me her name in the first place.

I don’t buy that they did this for my good. Because they didn’t. They did what they did for themselves. They never once considered me. How I would feel. How I did feel. How I feel still. They were selfish and short-sighted.

I’ve told people that my dad is lucky he died a decade ago because I would have ripped him a new one for burning my adoption info and lying to me all my life. But if I’d have found a live birth mom, less than an hour away from where I grew up? I don’t think I would have been too forgiving of her not seeking me out or at the very least, telling my brother about me. That she didn’t do that makes me feel dark and dirty. Maybe not her intention, but certainly something she should have thought about when she was pondering my birthday every year – as I am told she did.

So now, I have a “real” family tree now to go along with the one my dad and mom created for me via stories and pictures of their extended family. I am not finding either very satisfying right now.

Cans of worms, right? There’s a reason why Pandora was told not to open the box. I am not sorry though. I have some (not enough) medical information which has helped me enormously, so totally worth it from that standpoint. But, I have no closure. My mother is dead. Her son and brother are polite but not interested in helping me. No one seems to have clue one about my birth father (who ran away when he learned about my existence so my feelings are “fuck him” for the moment. I don’t have a use for such a coward). And that’s that.

For now.

It’s an evolutionary process. Bit by bit things are pieced together in a puzzle I never thought I’d be able to complete. That’s something anyway.


English: UBS Investment Bank's Offices at 1285...

UBS Investment Bank’s Offices at 1285 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is no reward for being responsible, spending within your means, and generally putting off self-gratification until you can afford it. Pretty much all this will gain you is never-ending expectations of “lending” money to your relations who aren’t good at any of those things.

When my late husband was ill, his employer fired him. This douchebag, through an actually illegal move, halved our income in one fell swoop. I spent the next three and a half years just barely making ends meet. If it hadn’t been for my wonderful beyond words and generous to a fault Auntie, I am fairly certain I would have lost my house at the least and maybe my job at the most. She, more than anyone else, stepped up when it mattered.

Because of Auntie’s example, I try, whenever possible, to help others in dire financial straits. Last year this time, I had poured money down the hole known as my older nephew, N1 and I was still bailing out my brother, CB, from the fallout of his well-intentioned but foolish attempt to put N1 on his adult feet.

Fast forward. CB managed to right himself with a lot of assistance from me and our mother and worked steadily and profitably through last spring, summer and into the fall. However, he is a path of least resistance guy when it comes to his ex and his oldest daughter. When he has money, they hit him up non-stop for any and everything. Consequently, he doesn’t have money left to put in savings for the winter months when – because he is a contractor – work isn’t plentiful.

At Christmas, the emails started. “Can you call me?’

This only means one thing. He needs money and Mom is not forking it over. CB has come to rely on me to talk Mom into funding him.

And it is funding him. He never pays anything back even though he always begins the request for money with “I’ll pay you back.”

But they all do that.

There is no truer adage than this “don’t lend money you unless you can afford to never see it again” because it is the rare person indeed who pays back a personal loan – family probably being the most notorious deadbeats.

I never give money to my family expecting to ever see it again. Even if you have a formal agreement, written up and signed by all parties, the first time a loan repayment conflicts with some expensive desire you will hear “I’ll pay you next month for sure, ok?”

And then maybe they do or not but the precedent is set and wants get fulfilled more than loan repayments and pretty soon, the person stops paying the money back at all.

CB has legitimate money issues. I feel for the dilemma he has with his ex and his daughter though if it were me, I would have told my nearly 17-year-old to get up off her butt and find a job before I bought her a car she couldn’t afford to keep up anyway. So I gave him the money but with the stern proviso not to hit on me again because the bank is closed.

Already, Rob and I have had to resign ourselves to not being able to buy a new house in a better locale, trade in our fast falling apart truck for a new one and give up completely on the idea of taking a holiday from this long ass winter because of financial responsibilities that we’ve taken on to help out family.

On the one hand, I accept this but on the other I am not as sanguine. And there are several reasons for this.

First, I rarely shop for myself. I see things that I actually could use or even need to replace things that are worn and I defer because I am my father’s daughter. He drove home to all of us kids, though it seems to have only stuck completely with me and maybe DNOS, that you buy things when budget permits – regardless.

Second, I look around my home. We’ve been renovating since Dee and I arrived. In fact, Rob was renovating years prior to even knowing me. Six years nearly and we don’t have steps to the back door. Took them out in the summer of 2007 and the cement blocks are still there. There is no floor in the living or dining room. Because winter came early, we didn’t get the shed built, so that lumber is stacked and taking up room in the garage, making it difficult to work on the plethora of automobiles cluttering up our landscape – some of them aren’t even ours.

The plan originally was to have had the house finished and sold by now. But life in the form of family in need has intervened and slowed progress to the point that now we are stuck. We just will have to finish up and gut it out.

“We could end up having to retire here, you know,” I told Rob.

“I refuse to think about that,” he replied.

But it could easily be our fate. Dreams of an acreage somewhere or even a house in town, which would be a million times more convenient, could easily elude us because of the stops and starts that eat up time and cash flow.

Third, one of the vehicles has developed what is probably a major issue. It’s the one we wanted to trade in and can’t because we’ve taken on Edie’s car payments now that she is back in school. We did this willingly, mind you, because we are parents and we know that she needs training in a profession if she is to go anywhere career-wise in life. But it’s a major imposition now that the truck is fubar.

I shouldn’t whine or be resentful. Life is what it is and my life is hardly the stuff of tragedy.

But I am annoyed about this.

When I was 18, I went off to college, which I put myself through and then with very little monetary assistance from my parents, made my way in the world. My mother poured more than twice as much money into N1  just last year than she has ever “lent” me as an adult. Sometimes, I question whether I should have learned my father’s lessons as well as I have. There is certainly nothing to be gained – other than the right to stand on the soapbox – from having denied one’s self and been responsible.

I will be fine without a new truck or moving. We have a beater in the back that Rob can easily get running again if worse comes to worst, and the house will be finished … someday … and maybe even emptied of all the crap that makes if seem tinier than it is. Life is not unbearable by any means.

But the bank is closed. So don’t ask. Unless you really want to hear what I might have to say.


Scientology Stress Test with E-meter

Scientology Stress Test E-meter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s heading toward three years since Rob’s “heart event”. At three years past with no further incidences, one is considered “good to go”. Even insurance companies think you are just an average risk for your age again.

A final step before the “all clear” is a stress test. He’s had one every year since the heart attack and treatment.

I can’t say that I don’t worry about these things. Rob’s sister, LW, watched her husband drop dead in the middle of his stress test. Granted, he was a  high-strung type and heavy smoker that had been experiencing problems. A stress test was just asking the universe to do something. But, I worry just the same.

And it’s January. I had a husband die on me in January before. Some months are decidedly better than others to schedule things.

However, he went. He jogged furiously. His heart kept up. He’s once again rewarded for his indifferent regard for cardiovascular exercise and watching his weight.

Instead of sitting anxiously about the house, I went to town to walk at the fitness centre and run a couple of errands. By the time I also squeezed in side trip to Dee’s school to chat with her teacher about a ski trip form I’d apparently filled out incorrectly and arrived home, time enough had passed that if something amiss had occurred during Rob’s stress test – someone would have contacted me already. No reason, therefore, to worry further.

He wasn’t even out of breath when he called to let me know he was already on his way home.

“I’m cleared,” he said. “No reason to make any more follow-up appointments unless there is a problem.”

A relief. I prefer everyone in my life to be healthy.

My own health issues were given the “you’re just old” stamp last week after all the cancer checks came back cancer-less.

The Doctor, who is seriously chagrined that I not only am well-versed in my own anatomy but that I can and actually do read the lab requisitions he gives out, had to do a bit of explaining as to why he ordered blood work to check for ovarian cancer along with assessing my hormone levels.

I had already googled and knew why, but I loathe being treated like just one of the sheeples and now he knows better than to poke and pry without giving me a heads up.

So, we are both good. Old. And not in a fine wine so of way. But okay.

Hopefully, we can put all the worries about health to rest now and concentrate on getting the present uncluttered and start planning the future. Other fish need to be cleaned and prepared because this being old business just keeps getting older by the day. I don’t want us to waste too much of it stressing.