“Mrs. Steury, do you have a sister?” In typical kill-some-time-in-study-hall fashion, a high school student tossed me a random question.
“No, I don’t,” came my fast reply. Breath. “Wait, wait. YES, I have a sister.”
I now had the attention of everyone, even the students intent on using study hall for studying.
“Didn’t realize that was such a hard question,” muttered the teenaged inquirer.
“I do have a sister,” I repeated. “I can’t believe I said no.”
Eager to fix the faux pas, I launched into an explanation. “For a lot of years, I just had three brothers. We were all adopted as infants. But in the last 2-3 years, I found my birthparents and now I have a sister. . . ”
Comments and questions followed along the lines of “Cool.” “Wow.” “Have you met her?”
I answered briefly, because, you know, this was study hall. Not show-and-tell. Yes, cool. And yeah, wow. We’ve met. It was awesome.
Sorry, Lorie. I’m thrilled you are my sister. And I won’t make that mistake again.
Still kicking myself over my initial answer, I considered how my bio family relationships still hover in the getting-to-know-each-other phase. Sort of like that new car smell that can linger for awhile, wafting about unexpectedly from time to time.
Sometimes I’m still thoroughly overwhelmed by the entire scenario. But then the reality of being “in reunion” for going on three years catches up with me. Lately, I find myself hovering, caught between the last remnants of that “new car smell” phase and a place of being familiar and comfortable with the new normal of having connected with my bio family.
I’ve yet to share with all of you the most recent meeting-new-family experience from our return trip to Maine in July, where my paternal family hails. I’m still working on capturing on paper just how incredible it was. But soon, I promise, I’ll fill you in on all the details and share pictures, too. Almost everything about this trip registered at the very top of the A+ vacation chart. Almost . . . stay tuned.
More “What’s next?” questions
When we departed from Maine last October, we’d already set our sights on returning for the extended family reunion this July. But this summer, we headed home with no concrete plans for a next time. No future date, place, and time agreed upon to be together again, to further the getting-to-know-each-other process, to “do family.” That made leaving difficult as questions like “When?” and “What if . . .?” and “Will we ever . . .? ” swirled relentlessly in my mind.
Do you remember the “purse analogy” that helped me put into words and attempt to grasp the differences between how my bio family and my grew-up-with family “do family”? I finally retired the second-summer-thrift-store-find handbag yesterday, for a fall/winter option. The raggedy thing had been begging to be relieved of its duties for several weeks, but with such full days, the transition to a fall/winter handbag got pushed to the bottom of my to-do list.
Rather than tossing it, I think I’ll cut off the nearly threadbare strap and repurpose the body of the purse into a stationary magazine/book tote for my office. There, it can serve as a reminder that just as “one purse wasn’t good and the other bad,” my two families being “distinctly dissimilar in rather significant ways” is also neither good nor bad. It’s simply the way it is. And it is what it is.
Maternal family update
I wish I had a maternal side update to share. Folks ask questions like, “She’s passed, right? How are things going? Anything or anyone new?” The answers are short. Yes, she’s passed. They aren’t. No and no.
Although I determined the “who” on the maternal side first, I’ve yet to meet or even speak in-person with a second maternal relative—a scenario that’s not likely to change. The once-promising relationship between me and my maternal half-brother has slipped from strained into silent non-existence. Differing perspectives and the unanswered questions surrounding what took place fifty+ years ago have driven a wedge between us that only seems to deepen with time.
While I would welcome any and all connections to her family regardless of the relationship, being the secret doorstep baby dashes most such opportunities. And the fact that her immediate family included far fewer people, all of whom have been gone for decades, also hampers the pursuit of making connections.
Recently I Facebook friended my bio mom’s first cousin, the DNA match that pointed me to her. He lives in California and seldom journeys to the Midwest, so chances of ever meeting approach the slim-to-none category. While he remembers her, they grew up in different locales, so he didn’t really know her. In the few email messages we’ve exchanged, he’s passed no judgement on me or her. I’m considering striking up a long-distance relationship with him and his wife. Just because. His genealogy passion may prove helpful in fleshing out the generations-back portion of the family tree. And we do share DNA—630 centimorgans to be exact. A very high amount for first cousins once removed, thank you very much. In case you haven’t memorized the “green DNA chart” we genetic genealogy enthusiasts swear by.
I so do not want to leave her out of this reunion/reconnection story. So, the day after Memorial Day I journeyed north, by myself this time, to visit the cemetery where my birth mother, her parents, and her brother are buried. At this point in time, my only opportunity to include her is found at her final resting place. I toted flowers to decorate the graves because that’s what we do. But the quiet moments of reflection I anticipated met a huge pile of downed tree branches. In what appeared to be extremely poor planning on the part of the caretakers, the cemetery was littered with piles of branches trimmed from the trees. I wanted to complain about what felt like a lack of respect for the deceased and their families, especially on this particular weekend, but who would I say I was to the H. family?
If I had them to share, you know you’d be inundated with detailed descriptions of maternal reunions and connections, complete with pictures, and “Meeting the Bio Family” chapters. Regardless of the circumstances of my birth and foundling status. Despite the slim possibilities, I’ll likely never stop yearning for more and deeper and on-going connections to my birth mother.
As I read back through this rather random post and pondered how to tie it up, my day, week, and the rest of my life changed in an instant. A panicked phone call sent me racing to my mom’s house to find she had died unexpectedly, slipping away in her recliner, as if napping peacefully. Less than two years after my dad also passed with little warning.
So, you’ll be waiting a bit longer for details about the July visit to Maine. Because my next post will be a tribute to my parents. Stay tuned . . .
If you’re just tuning in to this wild, adoption-reunion adventure, catch the beginning of the story here.