Of All the Places
I have been very aware that I was adopted since I was ten. The meanest boy on the school bus loved to torture me just because I was the bus driver's daughter. The following day, after being assigned to the front seat across from mine, Andrew boarded with a huge grudge and the boasting of his nastier mother. As the door closed, his mother screamed, "You know what you must do." When the bus pulled from the stop, he shouted, "She's not your mother. You're adopted. Your real mother didn't want you." My mother tried to defuse the laughter by saying, "Don't pay attention to them; you're so special and loved that you have two sets of parents." The laughter may have died down, but the words still rattled around in my head and heart for years because children don't forget the things that will cut you the deepest.
I didn't let my mother know that I wanted to find out about my birth family until I was a teenager. I always wanted another sister; after Gloria died, Mom wouldn't take the chance of losing me, or maybe she thought there would be too many questions. One year, she asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I requested my birth certificate, file, and adoption folder. When I said that, the look on her face was hurt. Slowly, a tear dripped from one eye and rolled down her cheek, and she turned to go into the house. Later that night, after I was in bed, I heard my father telling Mom, "We knew the day would come when she would want to know why and if she could meet her. That doesn't mean she is unhappy; she is just curious. We must be ready for whatever questions she has for both sides." Mom stated she didn't want to see me hurt.
I was the one who had not thought about it until I was smacked in the face with the idea of having more parents out there somewhere. Years passed, and then I was alone after she put me out for getting pregnant. It was when I wished for either mom to be there, but it wasn't until my second pregnancy that I was challenged with the questions.
My big sister from the program surprised me for my birthday. I thought we were going out to lunch until we hit the highway; I just sat back and enjoyed the ride and the conversation. Tilly B. was the only person in my immediate circle who didn't scold, judge, or offer her opinion about what I should do about my situation. She only said that she thought I could use a day to escape; she was right.
We ended up in Doswell, Virginia, at Kings Dominion for the day. Knowing how expensive food was inside the park, we first went to the McDonald's across the street. We arrived just as the change from breakfast to lunch happened around 10:45. We were the only customers in the store trying to decide what to order when the cashier said, "I'll be with you in a minute." We responded without looking at her, saying, "Take your time; we don't even know what we want yet."
When she turned around, everyone's mouths dropped open; it was as if I was looking at my twin, doppelganger, or in a mirror. To be face-to-face with someone who looked like me was eerie but exciting. Was she my long-lost sister? Was she adopted also? Did mom keep her? I didn't ask any of those questions. Her name was Pam, according to her name tag. My sister found out that she was sixteen and moved to Richmond with her family a year earlier when the military transferred their father.
That encounter left me wondering for the first time if I had sisters or brothers somewhere. Did they know about me? Did they want to meet me? I called my mom the next day and told her about Pam, and that allowed us to talk about the conversation we should have had eight years back. She admitted that she feared I would want to meet my birth parents and want to go back to them. Again, afraid of the answers, I dismissed the thoughts.
My mother passed away in 1995, and at the funeral home, some distant cousin reminded me that I wasn't family, that I was adopted. Before my accident in 1998, I had just heard about DNA testing, but I didn't want anyone to think I looked them up because I needed their help. So, again, I dismissed any notion of searching for family.
2016, my caregiver and my family members got tired of repeating this phrase: "We don't know, she was adopted." When I finally woke up from a month-long coma, they gave me the Ancestry DNA test kit for Christmas. Fifty-something and still afraid of the answers, the kit sat on my dresser until the end of January. On her way home one Friday evening, Miss Peaches handed the test to my oldest son and said, "Make sure you two get this done today."
A month later, the results were available, and thirty-four days later, I received a message and the gift I had wanted all my life. I think you're my sister because of the number of matching alleles. We met within two weeks, and I found out that I have a little sister, eight years younger. She answered every question that I had wondered about over the years.
I learned that I had so many things in common with our mother. I was also told that she wanted to keep me, but we had no help from the sperm donor, and my great-grandmother wasn't going to have another mouth to feed. I met our mother's best friend and my sister's godmother, who told me that my mother regretted having to put me up for adoption. Unfortunately, our mother passed away in 1982, the same year my first son was born.