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Saturday, July 21, 2018

I Wish I'd Known You


This is an update to the family mystery I wrote about a few weeks ago when I discovered my mother had gotten pregnant when she was 16 and given the baby boy up for adoption. That was a secret she kept until her death.

This weekend, that boy’s two daughters came from Mississippi to see me (along with three of their daughters) .  We looked at pictures while they exclaimed over family resemblances. It had been their father’s hope to find out who his family was but he never did so my two nieces, Kristy and Kathy, took up the search after his death. They found me through DNA.

We exchanged stories about our respective parents and discovered points of reference in common. For instance, when their father was sick, the doctor told him he needed to quit smoking but he replied that he enjoyed smoking and wasn’t about to quit.

“Yes,” I said, “that settles it. He was my brother for sure!”

We think the connection to my Mom and his adoptive family was made through the church they all attended (which Mom always said was made up of “shoutin’ Baptists”. Both my grandmother and their grandparents had a particular animus for Catholics to the point that when Mom was young, she thought she’d recognize a Catholic if she saw one (horns and a tail?) She got over that, of course, in fact, my father was Catholic. Perhaps that was a common attitude back then but the virulence expressed against Catholics seemed exceptional.

We haven’t found out too much about their father’s real father. An obituary showed that he died in 1985 in the same small town in Illinois where they all lived at one time but we haven’t discovered what kind of work he did. I’d like to know if he was a prominent person in that town and thus could get away with impregnating a young girl with no repercussions when he was 17 years older and married.

Kristy and Kathy said their adoptive grandparents  never wanted anyone to know their father was adopted and never told him anything. I wonder if that’s why Mom never shared  her story? If they didn’t want her to disrupt his life and asked her to promise not to reveal it, she would have honored that promise.

This story stunned me at first, mainly because I simply could not picture my mother in that situation but we’ve found too many facts to deny it and I wouldn’t want to deny it. Kristy and Kathy, and their daughters are sweet and beautiful. We all got along great. Now I love the idea of having nieces and grand-nieces.

I gave them the portrait of Mom that was painted when she was 34. I wondered who would want it when I died. Now, it is wonderful to think it will be in a granddaughter’s  house. I gave them family pictures. My grandfather, my Uncle John, my son and their father all had exactly the same muscular build with wide shoulders and thick, strong arms.

I gave them each one of Mom’s favorite teapots so they’d have something sentimental of their grandmother’s. It give me a warm feeling to know things she loved will still be a special part of a family history.

I believe in my heart that Mom would be thrilled to know that her daughter and her granddaughter s have come together after all this time and that I finally know about her baby son.

Here’s to you, Kristy and Kathy, love you girls!

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