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Rare and ... Rare

"Have you ever heard of people saying, “this feels like it’s happening to someone else” or something to that effect? Now I can completely relate to that. I kind of feel like. Well, I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s a new sensation.  Extremely weird, but not entirely unpleasant." - my newly-discovered maternal half-sister

"I have to admit, this is incredibly awkward, but I am happy to get to know you." - my newly-discovered paternal half-sister

"That is a picture of your grandmother.  If you want to know what she looked like when she was younger, look in the mirror.  You look just like her." - a great-uncle

"Who the Hell are you, where did  you come from, and what's this nonsense about a Promised Land?" - the Canaanites

I waited a week for my biological mother to call my biological father, then picked up the phone and called him myself. Guess what?  She hadn't called yet.  I told him she had given me his name, and that I was their daughter.  He was upset for a long time.  Not angry or anything, just reliving old traumas.  He has two younger children with his wife, so I now have gone from one sibling to five.  Our relationship is -- awkward.  He feels guilty but won't say it.  I could give  him every reason to feel guilty, but I don't want to drive him away so I won't say it either.  Upshot:  there's a lot of things unsaid.

The next day my birth mother called my birth father and talked to him.  They affirmed for each other that they had done the right thing by me and felt really good about it.

Nobody asked me my opinion.  I didn't give it either.

His wife is disabled.  I don't know if she's been told that I'm back.  She went to school with my biological mother, so I don't see how she couldn't know about me being born.  But maybe I'm still supposed to be a modern-day secret.

A few weeks after that was my mother's family's reunion.  I had been invited back in the spring, and since then, as curiosity about me grew in the family, had morphed into the star attraction.  The week before I was so excited I didn't sleep a wink.  One morning I poured sweet tea over my breakfast cereal.

More people showed up than had come in ages.  Some were genuinely curious to meet me, others just wanted to see the curiosity, still others came for the food.  But for the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who had my nose, my hair, my height.  That did some good.

None of the immediate family was there, it was all cousins.  My mother had begged off at the last minute in spite of being provided with free transportation, claiming she had forgotten she had a medical test scheduled on that day for a rather severe condition.  But one woman looked like a photo of my mother had looked ten years ago and dressed like I do when I'm feeling good, so there's that.  I made her uncomfortable telling her that, so we didn't talk again.

I was connected to the attendees through my maternal grandmother.  I was told to solicit stories about her, but when I did people laughed uncomfortably and changed the subject.  Apparently her name is still used as a synonym for a bossy woman.  Pity, we might have gotten on well.  Or at least had some memorable arguments.

And that's where things stand.  My parents are relieved to find out that I am alive and well, but uncomfortable with me, our situation, or both.  Some people are glad to get to know me.  Others don't know what to make of me. Still others wish I had never been born.  For others I'm a curiosity.

It's a complex, delicate negotiation adoptees find themselves in, trying to place themselves within the context of the actual people in our biological family.   Unfortunately the stesses that come from being an adoptee lead to a lack of validation of our feelings and an inability to connect with others.  My people skills are essentially nonexistent.  Thus, the very skills we need the most in reunion are the very ones we have the least.  That hurts.

Dealing with all this proved very painful.  I spent most of the summer and into fall as a walking basket case.  The pain has gradually subsided, although it flares up on occasion, such as when I  come across mention of an interesting relative who died before I could find them.  My distraction of choice has been Animal Crossing New Leaf; I don't even want to look up how many hours I've logged in on that.  But the time I spend with it is slowly diminishing.  I'm still terribly absent-minded though.  It's hard to read for any length of time, or remember anything.  And I really shouldn't be trusted with any handheld electronics other than my 2DS.

But painful as it has been, I'm still glad I did it.  Most of the relatives I've met have been pleasant, and even the unpleasant people are easier to mentally grapple with than phantoms.  Wrestling with facts, even painful ones, is so much better than wrestling with nothingness.  In that slot at the back of my head labelled "Where I Came From" there is now information, not half-formed guesses.  That is huge.

It's just that the nature of the (entirely artificial) situation is like walking into a room where you are going to be the guest of honor at a party through a door that has a bucket of mop water perched on top of it.  I have to get through the door, and there's no way I can avoid the dirty water.  I don't like that, and I'm not too happy about the people who set it up, and the fact that they didn't mean to set it up isn't going to keep me one speck cleaner.

But one big mystery remains.  How did I come to be -- me?  What parts are biology, environment, and sheer will?

I'm a fairly standard-issue female INTP (brainy, absent-minded, socially awkward, fanatically honest and obsessed with the truth), albeit generously leavened with developmental trauma.  Except there's nothing standard about female INTPs, at 1% - 2% of the population we are more rare than hen's teeth.  In spite of genetics, they don't seem to be any more common in my biological families.  While they may be in hiding (we are introverts after all) it appears the last one before me came of age in the Great Depression.  So, IDK, is there something latent in the genes that only manifests as INTPs under extreme stress?  Do we only appear **drops voice dramatically** "When the Need is Great"?  DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

Great theory, except for the fact that female INTPs are the least popular personality/gender combination on the planet  (Really, people.  That dreadfully underestimates the damage an S dedicated to an evil cause can do.)

I'm being maudlin.  That's not going to help.

Whachu mean by that?  It helps me deal, so chill!

**deep breath** Get it together now....  My thoughts are whirling around like fish in a bubble net.

Still, it's a valid question.  How much of my obsession with the truth comes from something in my genes and how much is from being so thoroughly lied to at such a young age?

And if it is something in my genes, is it something hard-coded in, or something emergenic, that depends on a randomly occurring combination of traits and/or circumstances?  Is it just -- one of those things?

"One of those BELLS that now and then RINGS,

It was just one of those things."

 I don't know the answer.  I know more than when I started out, but nothing definitive in that regard.  Typical.

Gradually more of my internal CPU is starting to kick free of this conundrum and show up for other work.  This is great.  "Hey Brain, long time no see!  How have you been?  I've missed you!  Tell my creativity I miss her as well!"  There's still a few more posts on this topic that need to be made, but I'm ready to move away from it being the bulk of my attention.

(And not a moment too soon, my house looks like it's auditioning for Great Expectations.)

And I don't want to sound too surly, most people I've met have been wonderful.  I'm just not used to having so many wonderful relatives!

Now I have to figure out what to do with all these extra people in my life.  Y'know all those feel-good movies that end with the curmudgeonly hermit making a ton of new friends?  Notice how they always roll the credits before they show how he copes with the sudden jump in social stimulation.  Why is that?  :P

Mixed Blessing

I haven't posted lately because I've been down with the flu.  The good news is it's not psychosomatic for once.  I know this because the whole family's got it!

The bad news is the whole family's got it.

Small Fritters For Small Fry

The kids were pestering me for snacks while I was deboning chicken for supper tonight, so I threw the skin in a skillet and made cracklings. First time I've done that, but the kids liked it and it can't be less healthy than the chemicals they put in junk food.


A Story

After a couple weeks of "phone tag" I got up with my mother.  She talked a bit about being at the maternity home with me, even though she couldn't remember the name.  Apparently her mother wrote either Ann Landers or Dear Abby for a recommendation as to where to send her.  I may have made the paper before I was even born.  Thanks Ann -- not!

So after she got pregnant she and my father talked about getting married.  She's Protestant and he's Catholic.  They went to see the priest, who would only marry them if I was reared Catholic.  My mother balked at that, and the wedding was off.  Thanks Roman Catholic Church -- not!

But she says my father knows about me and is a real nice guy, and offered to call him for me if I gave her his number, which I did.  That's a relief off me.  It felt good, until everything slotted into place.

Because if everybody and his buddy knew about me, and everybody and his buddy were all real nice people, then the problem comes down to this:  none of those real nice people was willing to fight for me.  Not one.  And that fact is an absolutely devastating thing to have to face.  I haven't stopped crying, and I don't think I will for a while.

Unpleasant Thought About Dark Shadows

If Barnabas Collins were active today, he'd be a Tea Partier.  He's got that vindictive, classist entiltiment down cold.  In his case, literally....

Fracture Reduction

AKA "Shit gets real."

"Fracture reduction" is the fancy term for resetting a broken bone that's healed the wrong way.  Somebody breaks a bone.  They should lie up and have someone else take them immediately to the doctor, but that doesn't always happen.  Maybe they can't get to the doctor, maybe there's no doctor around, maybe they have to use that broken bone anyway just to get by until they can find a doctor.  Whatever.

So when they finally get to the doctor's office, what happens?  The doctors get out the bone saw and the knives and takes the broken bone back apart.  They "break" it again into at least as many parts as the first time, if not more.  They have to do this in order to set it properly.  It's the only way they can ever hope to restore the limb to full functioning.

But the pain is out of this world.  The patient screams and struggles, fighting to escape from the excruciating suffering.  Knowing it's the only way to regain the full use of their body does nothing to spare them from the agony they are going through.

That's sort of what's been going on inside my head the last two months.

Between abandonment and bad parenting my spirit was shattered at such a young age I never knew what it felt like to be whole.   But broken or not, I still had to get around.  I glued my psyche back together as best as I could with what I had on hand and went about the business of growing up.  I didn't know which pieces went where, but I tried.  Over time things fused into an ugly but functional mess.

Now I know more about how the pieces are supposed to fit together.  The old glue is coming undone, and the pieces are starting to slide around into a better fitting alignment.  I'll be a stronger person when it's done.

But right now the pain is out of this world.

It isn't that anyone's been mean to me. I spent a weekend listening to stories from my First Cousin and his wife at their vacation home, and met some other cousins.  And a few days past my 48th birthday I got a phone call out of the blue from my mother.  We made awkward but functional small talk for a few minutes in spite of my pulling the phone out of the wall and breaking a pen trying to write down her contact information, and promised to get back in touch later.  And then I went to bed and was a complete basket case for the next two weeks, because it took 48 fucking years before I heard the sound of my mother's voice.

No, everyone's been perfectly lovely.  And that's the problem.

The reason given for closed adoption in the first place is that absolutely dreadful parents who couldn't cope on their own.  Both of my parents were married within a year of my birth, and began having children within two years who have all turned out to be fine adults.  While none of them are saints, there doesn't appear to be a real ogre in either set.

But if there are no ogres out there that I had to be protected from, then how the bloody hell do you justify what was done to me?  What reasons were so compelling that it excused subjecting me to a childhood full of alienation and abuse?

Misogyny and greed.  I can't think of anything that doesn't come down to a fancy way of saying misogyny and greed.

Other adoptees warned me that the emotional pain skyrocketed after reunion.  When the loss stops being ambiguous, it becomes acute.  Then you know for a fact that it didn't have to be like that, it could have been like this.  While this wouldn't have been perfect, it would have been a damn sight better than that.  I'm grateful for the warning, as I'm not sure I could have survived these past few weeks if such intense grief had caught me unawares.

As it was I was all but incapacitated, to the exasperation of my loving but very put-upon family.  At least my body spared me the physiological drama-queen antics of the past fall.

I had a dream while writing this.  I dreamed I was walking around with my brain exposed to the open air, to give it a chance to heal from deep lacerations that had been made to it.  And then my six year-old son wanted to run around with  his brain exposed as well, and ended up nearly cutting through his brain stem.  **sigh**

I'm going to take it as a sign that I'm getting better.  Maybe the poison is finally working its way out my body, and not a moment too soon.


My husband came across this sophomoric attempt at "philosophy" today. I'm highly offended that the writer conflates the upper class with morality, "inauthenticity" with manners, and "authenticity" with our base desires (That's three strikes, you're out!)  I'm a big advocate of good manners, but they are a poor substitute for empathy and compassion.  The authentic self is the one able to "think outside the box" and transcend our immediate impulses.  The writer shows know no familiarity with empathy,  transcendence, humility, compassion or grace; urging the reader to practice bad acting in their place.

I stink at acting.  I'll stick to being compassionate instead.

Strive to Be Inauthentic!

Praise the Gods of Genre TV

I'm eager for Doctor Who to come back; I need some good stuff to look forward to.  At least Korra is firing on all cylinders.  Thank you, Korra people.

DNA Matches Part 3: Overloaded

Usually things get easier to write about over time.  Not this time.  It's getting harder.

My First Cousin (technically he's not, but he'll always be my Very First Cousin) was eager to help me.  He's an elderly man in poor health, who needed the mental stimulation such a puzzle provided.  He's been very encouraging, even as my moods have swung like a weather-vane in storm.

I'm one of the least emotional people you'll ever meet, although I'm self-aware enough to realize that for me this symptom is a sign of an underlying problem.  But here I was obsessively combing through genealogies and bursting into tears at every photograph.  I desperately wanted to know who these people were, what their stories told about them, and how their stories related to my stories.   I craved the stories grownups swapped while visiting and told to the kids on the porch during long afternoons.

I cried the first time I spoke to First Cousin on the phone.  It was the first time I'd heard the voice of a blood relation I hadn't given birth to.

But I'm still me, capable of burying myself in data to the exclusion of the outside world.  So I was hard at work in trying to figure out my father's genealogy when my First Cousin emailed me that he had a possible lead on my mother, a young woman the right age at the right place in the right time and a promising genealogical match.  I wrote back, "Great!  I'm tracking down leads on the other end!" and went back to work.

Hours later the meaning behind his words hit me.  I was a basket case for the next three days.  Fortunately it was spring and I could pull weeds to my heart's content, as I wasn't fit for much else.

We narrowed it down to two good leads and a wild card.  First Cousin made inquiries, but no one knew anything.  A lot of interest was raised in me however.  I became the hottest topic of gossip they'd had in ages, and my promise to show up at this fall's family reunion caused promises of attendance to jump.

I was just thrilled to get the invitation, but also amused on another level.

After my finances recovered from Ancestry's price tag, it was time to get the second of the Big 3 gene-matching tests, 23&Me.  They're more science oriented instead of history oriented.  First your Neanderthal percentage shows up (2.7%), then your cousins start to trickle in.  Many of the same profiles were there, but I did find another cousin fifteen years older than I am who was also adopted and searching for her biological family.  We've had a great time swapping stories.

Then one day there was a bright red link at the top of my cousins' list.  It said "Close Relations".  I clicked on it and a warning popped up.  "Going any further might tell you things you don't want to know."  Thanks, but that's what I signed up for.  I clicked on it.

Up popped a name I'd never seen before, designated my "niece".  Who, what?  She had the exact same mitochondrial DNA as I do, indicating a close maternal relative.  I looked up the alternate designations for a match that close:  "grandchild, niece or nephew, double first cousin, or half-sibling".  I double-checked my genealogy.  The only one of those that made any sense in the given context was half-sibling.

Oh My God.

The first name was the same as the daughter of one of the two good leads. She must have married.  I wrote her a quick, "Hi, let's get acquainted!" note.  She didn't answer.  Days went by.  Okay, maybe she didn't check 23&Me that often.  I set about trying to find another contact point for her.

Google came up with two women in America with her name, and one lived near her  hometown and was the right age.  I took a deep breath and called her up.

She'd never heard of 23&Me and had no idea what I was talking about.

After it sunk in that she was telling the truth, I put the phone down and tried to deal with my embarrassment and grief.  Immediately I got a message from First Cousin that the woman I was looking for had moved to Canada.


First Cousin got the contact information, and introduced me as someone looking for genealogical information.  She hadn't bothered to look at the genealogical information on 23&Me, just the health information.  She didn't have a clue what our "close" relationship meant, so I said we could talk about other things and save that for later.

We spent a week and a half chatting intensively.  Unbelievably, she has the same number of children the same ages as I do, has also homeschooled, lives in a similar town, and moved with her husband into a trailer that's the same make and almost the same model as ours, only wider.

Giving her time to adjust, not blurting everything out all at once, was a constant stress.  Every time she commented on our resemblance I wracked my brains to come up with a neutral comment to make.  It worked, but I burned five meals in a week from the strain.  There's no way I could have done this in my younger days; I didn't have the patience or self-control.

Meantime, she friended me on Facebook, which gave me access to her journal.  I read about her life, and her view of her mother.  It's clear her mother -- our mother -- is troubled in certain ways.  Becoming a birthmother is toxic to the soul, and she has every negative psychological symptom associated with repressing such a trauma.  Reading about her troubles was like going down a checklist.

I'm saddened, but not surprised.

Finally she's ready to go over the findings.  I break it down for her as simply and gently as I can, then point out that her mother's constellation of problems is associated with being an unacknowledged birthmother.  I sent the email and sat back, hoping she believed me.

She did.

After she got over the shock, she called her parents.  Her -- our -- mother confirmed the news, said she had told her husband-to-be when they met (they married shortly before my first birthday) but they hadn't told their children, said she was too traumatized by what had happened to remember much (not uncommon), but gave the name of my father.

So, all's mostly well on that front.  My sister and I have had several long conversations.  She's excited to finally have a sister at this late date, and grateful to know the cause of our mother's condition.  Our mother isn't up to talking yet, but that's to be expected.  It may be several months before she's ready.  But I've been welcomed into the family and told her husband would not have objected to rearing me.

That is huge.  It meant my childhood didn't have to be the way it was.  There might have been someone around on the same wavelength as me.  I didn't have to be alone.  I probably would still have been an oddball, but not an alien.

There's also a severe grief associated with that fact, and anger.  This is what I should have had; and a bunch of prissy, greedy, no-nothing busybodies took it away from me.  It's going to take a while for that emotional constellation to settle out as well.

Without the trauma of relinquishment, my mother would doubtless be in better shape today.  I don't know if she had problems beforehand, but that certainly didn't help any.  Although even with problems she didn't do that bad rearing my brother and sister, so she wasn't incapacitated or anything.

Of course now other cousins are starting to "remember" the details they had "forgotten" earlier.  Sheesh.

A few days ago I took a break from the constant emailing to give my feelings time to catch up.  I guess I feel elated; it's hard to say with all the stirred-up muck my emotions have to traverse these days to make it to my consciousness.  There's a few tons of shock, and the stress of having to adjust to new relationships.  It's similar to becoming a stepmother, only to two different families at the same time and on top of enormous other strains.

I've felt emotionally overwhelmed before, but always with negative emotions.  It's a numbness with barbs attached.  I've always sneered at Pink Floyd's phrase, "comfortably numb"; there's nothing comfortable about feeling too worn out to hurt anymore.  This is a numbness without barbs.  There's some trepidation, but that's common with any new relationship.  It will take time for everything to sort out, but I knew that going in.

I haven't mentioned that I was an abused child yet.  I  will have to keep that from my mother until she gets over the initial shock.  I may have to keep it from her forever.  Time will tell.

Meantime I feel strange.  More solid, like I'm not about to float away in the first stiff breeze.  There are people who look like me and to a certain extent think like me that I can compare notes with.  That's new.  I can now sort out what's unique to me and what I share with other people.  I never really had that opportunity before, as what was unique to me then was "everything".

I'm working on approaching my father.  I'll get back to you on that effort later.

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November 2014


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