A 48 year old secret that I want to tell you…

As this Sunday dawns. I stand at the threshold of my 48th year….and it’s time that I revealed the secret burden that I’ve been hiding from you the last few months.

This may divert from my usual “gee, this past year kinda sucked but was kinda OK” birthday post.

Because this last year was freaking AMAZING.

The kind of year of my life that I had always dreamed and hoped for.

It wasn’t perfect.  But it was jaw-dropping at times…in all the best ways.

And a 47 year old mystery dissolved in a matter of minutes and a lifelong burden lifted.

Some of you may know that I was adopted when I was six weeks old.  For some adoptees, myself included, this comes with a wagonload of questions, issues, etc.

Speaking for myself, I spent most of my life feeling unwanted and out of place, even with my own family and those closest to me.   At home, at work, it didn’t matter.  Apparently it’s quite common among adoptees, and I empathize with those among us who fought that battle in their life.

I always knew that I was adopted.  It was never a secret, my parents told me from the moment that I was able to comprehend the concept.

And as kids are wont to do, I used that in shitty ways.  I remember my mom being mad at me for something and my reply was “Well I’m gonna go find my REAL parents” (Sorry Mom) or words to that effect.

Of course I never did.

Until this past March.

The law preventing adoptees from accessing their original birth certificate was quietly changed in Missouri a couple of years ago and as of January 1, 2018 adoptees can now request their original birth records…so I did.

Unless you have no idea what your biological roots are, you may not have any idea how powerful the concept of not knowing who you are or where you came from can be.  Now I did a DNA study a couple of years ago, which answered a few questions and you can find a post about it on this blog.

After sending in my requests, the months of agonizing wait ensued until a chilly Friday in March, when a nondescript envelope was waiting for me when I got home from work.

I’m pretty sure that I was weeping before the envelope was fully opened.  Nope.  I’m positive that I was.  In fact, I pretty well cried that whole weekend and freaked the shite out of my kids who I kept trying to reassure between bouts of tears that I really was okay.

I called my sister before I even left the mailbox.  She’s also adopted (from a different family) and would understand better than anyone what I was going through.  We cried together on the phone and I promised to keep her informed as to anything I found out.

Here’s what I found out:

My birth name was Robert John.

This surprised me because I had fully expected to see “Baby Boy Jones” or something along those lines.

And it also listed my birth mother’s name but no father’s name.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, in literally 5 minutes, I located a likely individual matching the name, approximate age and profession (my parents had always told me that my birth mother was a nurse.)

I studied her Facebook profile, poring over her photos and wondered…could this be she?

Then I pondered what to do for several days.  I realized that I was opening a 47 year old can of worms and possibly disrupting a peaceful life for her which was nothing that I took lightly.  I did not want this to be a negative experience for anyone.  I’m not that selfish.

The following Wednesday, I wrote a carefully worded letter and mailed it to the address that I had found with no expectations.  In the letter, I expressed my thought that she could POSSIBLY be my birth mother and if she she was indeed my birth mother, I would understand if she could not respond to this letter, for whatever reason.

A few days later, I was elbow deep in replacing the rear brakes on my girlfriend’s car when my cell phone rang.  I saw the area code and knew instantly who it was.  I grabbed my phone and hustled to my car to have some privacy for this moment.

For the first time ever in my 47 years, I heard my birth mother’s voice.

Her voice was soft and kind as she confirmed that she was indeed my birth mother.  She told me my birth father’s name and gave me a bit of the history of what happened.

I tried to keep it together and keep the conversation from getting too emotional.  We ended the conversation after about 20 minutes agreeing to keep the line of communication open.

The feelings that followed are hard to put into words.

All I can say is I have a sense of peace about who I am and where I came from.

And a tremendous sense of relief.  I had a host of fears about this contact.  None of them came true.

I have creeped on my biological father’s Facebook page.  My birth mother told me that he looks like Mark Twain.  She’s not very far off.  But I’ve taken no steps to communicate with him.  I just have this gut feeling that it won’t go well.  Knowing who he is is enough for me now.

And for the first time in my life, I am celebrating my birthday knowing exactly what had escaped me for all my years prior.

Join me as I raise my glass to 48, Daniel Gerard/Robert John.  Thanks to all of your for being a part of the journey.  If 48 is anything like 47, I’m in for a hell of good year!

 

 

 

 

 

My DNA – Blame the 0.5%

My DNA is unique.  As is yours.  I am a 100% authentic individual.  I, and I alone, am me.

This goes beyond my lifelong non-conformity.

I believe its roots can be traced right back to the Stone-Age.

I promised a couple of months ago to give you words.  (Note:  I never claimed good words, just words.  Even Shakespeare wrote some crap.)

Today’s words are strictly about me.  Feel free to click off and move along to more interesting daily activities.  Here goes:

I have never met my mother.  Or my father.  My biologicals (as I call them) were not married, and apparently during the pregnancy it was decided to put baby me up for adoption.

I harbor no ill will towards them.  Let me make that clear.  I was adopted into a family that tried their best, despite their own struggles.

Periodically in life, my mind wanders back to those biologicals.  Where are they now?  Are they alive?  Is their life happy?  Do they wonder about me?  Ever?

All my life, I have felt alone.  The degrees of aloneness (if that’s a word) depends on what’s happening in my life right at that moment.

But alone.

I was a shy, nerdy awkward kid, and I have bloomed into a shy, nerdy, awkward adult. But alone.  Even marriage and fatherhood has not fended off the feeling.

When I turned forty, I was in the midst of one of what I can only call a Dan decision.  I had a job that had turned from fun and pleasant into an absolute nightmare in just a few short months.  My stress levels and blood pressure were at all-time peaks.  So, rather than stay and do the walk-of-shame when fired from said job (which I could tell was on the horizon), I did the only thing that my being would allow me to.

I quit.

I had no back-up plan.  No new position lined up.  No savings.  Nothing.  The best way I can describe the feeling is what I can only imagine that sky-diving with no parachute might feel like.

But the day I walked out, I felt the best I had in years.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I updated my Facebook status.

“Elvis has left the building.”

A few days later, the reality set in.

I beat myself up.  Married.  Kids.  Debt up to my ass.  And now, turning 40 and unemployed.

What a fine life you’ve carved out for yourself, my mental Dan told me.

There are just somethings I cannot do.  And not be my honest self is one of those things.  It goes back to my earlier statement.

It’s a Dan thing.  You wouldn’t understand.  Sometimes I don’t understand.  Kind of like this blog.

Anyway, during my “sabbatical” I decided to hunt up some info on who I really am.  Maybe that might explain some of this mystifying behavior.

I called the adoption agency with some questions, under the guise of gathering some health history.  Those of you who might not be familiar with adoption, in this state, adoption records are court-sealed.  So I knew that names and addresses were out of the question.  But when the solitary traveler seeks, he takes what he can get.

A friendly gent answered, and I told him what I sought.  He called back within an hour and asked me to grab a pen and paper.

He then read me all of the notes from the intake workers (probably nuns) that occurred during the process.  Some highlights:

Father is Strikingly good-looking (it might help to view that in the context of a sexually-frustrated nun making the observation) and obviously a trait he didn’t share with me.  Selfish bastard.

Mother physical description:  25, 5’11, brown hair, green eyes.  (My wife’s exact description, except age, by the way)

The gentleman described how I was presented to my mother in the hospital 3 times during her stay.  Each time, she would have to hold me and hand me back to the social worker and confirm that she was willing to give me up for adoption.

Sounds absolutely brutal to me, but I get the gravity of the decision she was making.

The last time I was presented to her, she made a comment that the social worker wrote down.

“He certainly is a handsome baby.”

Every time that I think about that line, I cry.

I don’t know if the tears are for me or her or the both of us.  But I cry.

That experience scratched that particular itch for a while.

This summer, on Facebook, I found a study at Washington University for smokers and their DNA.  I decided to sign up, not for the money, but for the free DNA analysis.  I would receive a complete breakdown of what I was and where my roots were.

6 long weeks passed from giving the sample and getting the email.  Which I got last week.  Some of you who are Facebook friends may have seen the status post.

So, without further ado, my DNA is as follows:

96.5% European, broken down something like this:

2/3 British/Irish/French/German

1/3 Italian/Sardinian

2.9% Native American – I knew that there had to be some in me somewhere.  Native blood is strong and powerful.

0.1% Sub-Saharan African

Holy shit, I’m black.  A minute percentage, but I’m pretty sure I know where the black landed on me.  😉

For your mathematicians out there, you are asking for the remainder.

0.5%

And the last note on the report:

0.5% Not identified.

And therein lies the answer.  Whatever that 0.5% is, that’s where I believe the soul of who I am is.

Not identified. Uncommon.  Unexplained.  Raw, Neanderthal DNA still scratching at the rocks and howling at the moon.

0.5% that seems to win my heart and mind every time.

So when you read things here that you don’t understand or enjoy, blame the 0.5%.  That’s what I plan to do.