Just Another Day

by Laura

“What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times … and you were there.” ~ Walter Cronkite, “You Are There”  for CBS News, 1953-1957; 1971-1972.

13 February 2016 was a Sunday. We went to Church. We came home. David had a meeting that evening, and I stayed home to work on my family tree. I was hot on the trail of my birthFather, and his name had just dropped into place, the night before. Suddenly, all 3 of my DNA 3rd and 4th cousins fell into place. Pay dirt.

Whilst I was working on this branch, I was also trying to break through a couple of niggling details on my maternal tree. Specifically, I was trying to pin down my Grandfather’s deathdate as well as his first Wife, Margaret’s information. As I continually searched through Ancestry’s databases, I kept coming across a couple of trees “owned” by folk who later turned out to be cousins: one in Ireland, two in Scotland, one in Australia (I’ve since connected with more overseas family). So when the tree owned by “cgm1488” with no location information popped up, I’m thinking, another overseas cousin.

So I message him. He messages me. Very quickly, we’re in tricky water because, no, he isn’t overseas. He’s here. In the States. In my Stateside Family’s hometown, no less. And he’s a McManus…not something I would necessarily know since living folk are hidden on Ancestry to protect their privacy.

Well, by the end of the day, 13 February 2016, we had talked on the phone and we had figured out who we were to each other. On Valentines Day, the 14th, we’re passing family information back and forth, and by the end of the day, Michele, another cousin, and I are Facebook friends and chatting online. She talked to my Sister-in-Law, Sharon, who then spoke to my Brother and Sister.

By the end of that week, I had my first contact with Mike and Cathy… my siblings. This was the week that seemed as if it would be like any other week, filled with events that altered and illuminated my life and the lives of so many others.

It’s been a year since that week. And I won’t lie. For me, it’s been bumpy. It’s like the stereotypical blended family on steroids because of our ages (would this be easier if we were younger and less “set in our ways?”), because of the circumstances under which we’re blending (unknown sister??? unknown brothers and sister???), because of all the lived life we each bring with us (again, that age thing…). There was the immediate relief I felt that the decision of where and when and how to introduce myself was pretty much made for me when I stumbled into Colin. Then there was the euphoria that all that work: the time, the money, the poring over documents, the frustrating dead-ends, was done. This had been a successful search. What I never imagined doing, I had done. I had found my family, 60 years after the fact. Then there is the “honeymoon period” searches such as this always seem to bring with them. There is the shock and awe of looking into a stranger’s face and finding yourself there. Of family pictures and seeing your Mom or your Dad, Grandparents, for the very first time. There is the emotional wrench of putting together two realities:  your adopted history and your birth history, which is now up close and personal, and standing next to you.  For real.

It’s a wee bit overwhelming.

I have nephews and nieces who are adults. They have children and families of their own. I have a Brother, John, I’ll never know because he died the year before all this happened. These folk are a part of me. My folk are a part of them. Yet as with all great endeavours, the devil is in the details. There are myriad differences between us; differences borne by nurture, not necessarily nature, and it is in the assumed paradigm of family (you are one of us therefore you are like us) that ends up inevitably being exploded. Everywhere. On all sides.

There ain’t no good guys; there ain’t no bad guys. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I would do this again. What would I do differently? do I have any regrets? (No.) Do I feel like I’ve abandoned my adopted family? Ironically, these are not new questions for me. Anyone who has been widowed and remarried would find them familiar. So I think about, what next?

One year and counting. Doing a DNA test, analysing results, tracking down matches, building a forest of family trees is the easy part for an adoptee who is searching for answers. The hard part kinda reminds me of that joke about the dog chasing the car:

Now that you’ve got the car, what are you going to do with it?