Thirteen years ago tomorrow I made my first contact with my birth family. I was in my late fifties, and the reason I sought them out was to discover my health history. A few years earlier I had been diagnosed with a rare bleeding disorder, and I’d undergone many procedures to treat it. My initial hope was to find out if anyone else in the family had this disorder.
Fortunately, I found my first cousin. When he asked who I was and what I wanted, he was incredulous and said he’d get back to me. In his words, “I had a right to know.” My cousin remained true to his word, and the next day he put me in touch with my birth mother, brother, and sister. (My father, who married my birth mother when I was ten months old and she was expecting my brother, had died only thirteen months earlier. They remained married for fifty-five years.)
I had no expectations. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law welcomed me with open arms. My brother began calling daily after our initial phone call. Each time he called, my husband would say, “Your brother’s on the phone.” His words seemed strange because I’d never had a brother before.
Three weeks later I flew across the country alone to meet my family for the first time. My brother and sister-in-law gave a lovely party to welcome me back into the family. It reminded me so much of the party Antwone Fisher’s family gave when he returned to the fold https://antwonefisher.net. I met many family members and spent five days getting acquainted.
The next year my brother visited me and my family twice, once with his wife and youngest daughter. My mother and sister came to my home once and never returned.
My initial contact and first visit began a lopsided relationship that lasted more than eleven years. During that period, I made four more trips across the country to see my family, three accompanied by my husband. Some visits brought joy; others heartache. I asked myself why I kept going back.
Several family members—especially my nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sister-in-law—became delightful bonuses in my quest. Warm, kind, friendly, educated, and sincere, they differed a great deal from those who wanted little or nothing to do with me. I treasure those connections.
My brother and I remained close until he died suddenly in 2010. With him went my relationship to the family of my birth.
My connection to my sister ended when she sent an e-mail in early 2016 saying that she did not want a relationship with me. My mother’s and my affiliation terminated a few days later. I called her after she returned from the hospital, where she had undergone treatment for a serious illness. When I asked how she was, my mother began cursing at me. I was shocked and hurt.
Despite this, I sent her several get-well cards and birthday cards.
It has been nineteen months since we last spoke, and I now realize that she’ll never respond.
I’ve been working on a memoir titled “What Took You So Long?” since shortly after I found my birth family. I’d written several chapters when I recently realized the subject was too painful. Seeking and finding the family of one’s birth can be a mixed blessing. It certainly has been for me.
I am grateful for those who welcomed me warmly, consider me family, and recognize the person that I am. They will live in my heart and mind, and perhaps one day I’ll finish writing my story.
But now, I’ve decided to head in another direction.