Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Story is Mine to Tell

I waited...out of respect.

Respect will still compel me to withhold names, but I have come to the realization that my story is exactly that. Mine. I do not need to cower under fear or shame, and no matter what the circumstances were surrounding my conception and birth, it is no fault of my own. I celebrate my life, and the obstacles I have overcome, believing that through it all God has given me strength, and ultimately has a purpose for me.

I mentioned the silence of cousins in a previous post. This past February, I had planned a weekend trip to Jacksonville with a friend. My birthmother's first cousin is a cardiologist there, and he is the uncle of the "silent ones". Sometime last year, I had sent an envelope with documents and photos after speaking with him briefly on the phone. I contacted him once again, hoping to be able to take he and his wife to dinner.  After several messages, he returned my call and said that he did not want to accept my invitation, and that he just was not interested in genealogy.
"So does this mean that you would prefer not to hear from me at all?"
"Yes, that is what that means"
 "I am incredibly sad for this, but I will honor your wish...goodbye"
 "Goodbye".
And that was that. Everything in me still wanted to go by his office to meet him face to face.  I wanted to send a plant with a note: It wasn't about genealogy, it was about family. But I refrained. Rejection is never easy, but even more so when you make it all about you. I had to step back and realize that there are many factors that get thrown into the mix. Older generations don't always process information the same as younger ones.  Maybe there exists a level of suspicion...who is this person? and what do they really want? Maybe family dynamics became strained over time. How many times on this journey have people said to me that they barely even know their first cousins, much less seconds or any of the removeds. I processed through, and although sadness lingers I wish the best for that branch of my tree.

Now for the news that so many of you have been waiting for. What about my visit with the DNA detective and news of the paternal nature?

I did contact her, and shared with her my information as well as my tree on Ancestry.com. She pored over my DNA matches, starred about a dozen that were most certainly on my father's side, and focused on the closest relationship which was a second cousin. A second cousin means that you share a great grandparent. I won't be able to explain much about the process, but the detective traced it back to that common ancestor (my great grandmother Minnie Schrock, my Amish connection!) and then traced my lineage forward. Based on shared matches and centimorgans she was able to determine that I was the daughter of one of three brothers. The only way to narrow it down further to determine WHICH brother would involve a second DNA test submitted by one of them or one of their children. At this point I do not have much hope of that submission taking place. The two oldest brothers are deceased and neither had children that I am aware of. The youngest resides in Florida and has at least three children.

With this new information, I continued on in my Sherlock role, and found yearbook photos of the brothers. I know who I think I look like:


I uncovered useful tidbits through newspapers.com and various resources. The brothers grew up in Kokomo IN. The oldest was handicapped and passed away in 2014. The research results on the middle brother gave me the impression that he was an angry individual. Articles revealed that he was always in trouble, and at one point when he was older, barricaded himself outside of a soda factory and was throwing bottles at police. He ended up being hit by a car in NY, and was buried in Kokomo in 1974, the same year that my mother took her life.
The youngest brother was married several times and has two sons and a daughter. I found out his contact information and called him on the phone one evening. I explained what I had learned about the DNA match, and asked him what he thought. His comment during the first phone call was that due to the youngest one's handicap, most likely it was not him. Beyond that he wasn't sure. He did not affirm whether or not he knew my mother, but he did not deny anything. He said that he would have to think about it, and we hung up after a brief conversation.

I continued learning what I could, and decided to reach out to his oldest daughter, who is two years behind me. We also look a good bit alike, but I will not post her photo here. At one point, her married name was very unique, and easy to find. I called a number who shared the name and asked if they knew her, and they did. I gave a brief explanation and asked if they would mind having her call me so I could talk with her.  They took down my number.  After a little while, the phone rang but it was not who I was expecting...it was her father. He simply called to say that he wanted me to stop harassing his children. I assured him that I was not harassing anyone. I learned that the person that I had been in touch with was actually an ex step daughter of hers. I am sure this was not a positive connection, and she may have resented that point of contact.
He went on to say that his children were not going to have any answers because "that" was before their time. I asked him point blank if HE had any answers, and he fumbled his words a bit before he managed to say "it's sketchy". As I have done so many times on this journey, I found myself asking "what does that even mean?"
My point in reaching out to his daughter was not to press her for information, but simply to say hey! we're related! Even if she turned out to be a first cousin, that is the closest living connection I have made to date, beyond Judy's brother.
I resolved after that phone call to give him space. I waited several months and then decided to write a letter. I sent it certified mail. His wife signed to receive it, and I have no way of knowing whether she gave it to him, read it herself or just threw it away. Below is a respectfully modified version:

Dear        ,

I have already introduced myself to you, but for the sake of formality, I shall start from scratch.

My given name is Brenda Martin. I was adopted in Columbus Ohio in April 1966. Paperwork was finalized in 1968. Calculating backwards, birth would put conception at early July 1965.

My birthmother was Judy Moffit, who attended college in Decatur IL, but worked in a lab in Cincinnati during and/or leading up to my birth.

I have been researching for over two years now, and have discovered many details. I was able to meet Judy’s brother, but he passed away this past January. He gave me many pictures and was able to tell me some stories about her, but unfortunately did not know anything about me until I contacted him.  I was thankful for that time we had to connect, but it was way too short!

I feel like I need to let you know that I would LOVE to be able to communicate with you.

I am not after anything, I don’t NEED anything, I have nothing to prove… I am not looking to insert myself into your life…I harbor no judgment or bitterness, no resentment or anger. I am only hoping to learn more about my story...and more about YOURS!  Nothing would surprise me, and quite honestly, when you don’t have facts, the imagination can paint a far crazier picture than the truth could ever be.

 I try to be sensitive to that “surprise!” element from the perspective of the people I have reached out to along this journey, and I respect the wishes of every single one. Some have closed the door, and some have welcomed me with open arms.

I explained on the phone that a DNA match through Ancestry.com is what brought me to you.  I know that we are blood relatives, and more specifically that either you or one of your brothers was my biological father.(which still blows my mind and is a bit overwhelming to have some answers after all these years!) There is really no way to fine tune exactly HOW we are related without another DNA test. I will never push or force that issue, but if there were a willingness, then I am perfectly willing to pay to have it done.  It only involves having a kit mailed, some spit in a cup and a trip to the Post Office.

I also want you to know that this letter will be my final attempt to connect with you. As I said, I would love to be able to communicate, but the ball is now in your court. I won’t keep bothering you, but I hope you will consider a “yes” answer…

I really think you’d like me…I’m pretty awesome          
As a statement of character, I have worked at the same company for 10 years and I can get you 100 references attesting to my sound mind and level headedness.

You now have my address, my cell is              , and email: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



I also included my best photo.

That was over three months ago, and I have had no response. Again, I am trying to be sensitive to what the circumstances may have been, and give him (them) freedom to make their choices without it negatively impacting my heart. But the hope lives on that someday the phone will ring, and the unknown will become known.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not even sure what to say. What a story. I hope those family members do come around, you deserve that. Thank you for sharing!

Terri said...

This journey has been so interesting to follow. You amaze me with your detective skills. Love you so much!

Karen Albertson said...

You are an amazing woman. So glad you are in my tribe.

Karen

Maria Zamora said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are a talented writer and story teller. Your family is missing out on knowing such a great person.

Susan Durand said...

DearHeart, as we have seen many times in the life, some people can't handle the truth and they don't understand the Truth on which you base your love on. But I believe, in the end, you will be blessed by trying to extend our Father's love to those family members and they will realize, then, how they missed out! Love you!

S Stephanie Toombs said...

Bernie,
I pray blessings on your efforts to know the unknown. It may not be for a while, but I hope and pray conviction so that all may have peace. This opened door of opportunity allows truth to come through. May it be a blessing to all.
Love, Voula

Jenny said...

Bern,

Your story is incredible and your determination is inspiring. Praying for your biological relatives to open up but also for protection for you as you continue to navigate your story. Love you and proud of you!

Dawn said...

It is his loss 💔 I hate that he seems totally closed off but then again you don't know? He obviously has reasons and I can only guess he didn't own up to her as her child being his also. (It's not mine! ??) Not taking responsibility! And now all these years later to say its sketchy 😠 Sorry! I truly am! I hope he changes his mind! Hugs to you 💖