Thursday, September 16, 2021

Losing my Father: Disenfranchised Grief and Adoptees


Three weeks ago, I received word from a Peruvian cousin Claudia who I am connected to via Facebook that my father is dead.  “He now enjoys the presence of God” she stated.  She sent kind wishes to my family. 

As I processed this information over several days, in between crying on and off, the doubting part of me said, “Is it really true?”

Could it be a ruse so I will go away? 

I know that this sounds ridiculous to anyone who grew up with their biological family and has always known the identity of their parents.  But it doesn’t sound crazy to those of us who are adopted.

As my friend Pam says, “Let me stand in front of his grave!”  

My relationship to my father is not considered equal to those who are raised by their fathers. Our relationship has not been socially sanctioned or acknowledged by those in authority.  There are no records to prove our relationship.  Some consider it a non-relationship because of my being legally adopted.

However, I am here to tell you that I consider him my father in all ways, irrespective of the fact that I had another father who adopted me.   I have two fathers.

I can’t drive to my father’s house to see for myself if it’s true.  He lives in another country.  There is no obituary and I have no idea if there was a funeral.  I have no photos of the paternal grandmother and aunt that I supposedly resemble.

This is a glimpse of what it is like to be part of a family but not enjoy the benefits of being truly part of a family. 

This is what it is like for some of us who are adopted and lose a parent that we never got to meet. 

This is disenfranchised grief. 

The grief is valid…even if others do not agree.

Antonio was alive for a year and a half after I learned his identity through Ancestry DNA.  He knew I was claiming to be his daughter.  Did he accept it as truth?

 I don’t know.

People frequently ask me if he remembered my mother.  They ask, “Did he know she was pregnant and gave you up for adoption?” 

I have no idea.

There were suggestions by one family member that his memory was not good.  It’s possible he had dementia and was not the same guy I heard giving a lecture titled, “In Search of Identity” in the 1980s.  The recording I found in a Canadian library is the most important piece of my father that I have. 

Within that recording he asks, “What does it mean to be a Peruvian?” I have asked myself that same question many times since learning of my Latin-American background.

A big part of my grief is accepting that I may never hear the true story about my parents' relationship. 

 I will never hear my father tell his side of the story.

                                                                                *********

One evening in an online genealogy group, I was sharing some of the research I had found about my father.  A woman I did not know asked in a judgmental tone, “Does your father know you are looking at all of these records?”  I was taken aback. Without missing a beat, I replied, “I would tell him if he would call me back!”

Truth is, she was putting me in my place.  Traditionally, genealogy focuses only on the deceased.  What I heard in her voice was a familiar bias toward adoptees who research living people.  People have been using public records since before the internet to research others. But wearing my adoptee hat, I am treated differently.  

Genetic genealogy requires that living people be researched in order to determine parentage.  People sometimes view us as doing something wrong when we are just trying to learn where we come from. 

When you are the only adopted person in a room full of genealogists, they sometimes look at you with a suspicious eye.  The family secret.  The whistle blower.  The one who causes trouble in their bio families.  

Don’t get me wrong, most genealogists are the first people to help an adoptee – yet when an adoptee pops up in their own bio families, THAT is the true test of equality. 

Will you help an adoptee if YOUR beloved grandfather is their bio dad?  And the adoptee was conceived during your grandparents’ marriage?  Puts a whole new reality check into the mix, eh?

Now that my father is gone, I am now LEGIT doing genealogy. 

I have made my tree public.  No more hiding in the shadows. 

My grief is still beating below the surface during the recent happy times of being with my adoption community in Indianapolis, watching my daughter begin her junior year of high school and looking forward to the changing leaves and cooler weather.

I remind myself (and you) that it’s o.k. to grieve for someone you never met.

Grief means we are capable of deep caring and love.

Even if others do not acknowledge the pain is real.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, August 2, 2021

A Peruvian Family Reunion

 

“Beware:  Guard Chihuahua on Duty” the sign read as my daughter, Parker*, and I approached the front door. 

Within seconds, we were being hugged by two paternal cousins.  After 15 agonizing years since locating my birth mom, I was at long last meeting my Peruvian family.  They were warm, engaging and lovely. 

My father, Tony, had been ignoring me since I discovered his identity last year the same week the state of Ohio closed down for Covid.  His foster sister from New York called me one day in response to a message I sent her on Facebook and promised to pass along my contact information.  She asked me if I had kids and she shared that Tony had two other kids. 

I heard nothing after that phone call.

On Mother’s Day 2020, I woke up in an Airbnb I rented out in the country to a notification on Facebook that my father Tony had accepted my friend request.  I completely freaked out and as soon as I got home disabled my account.  I had friend requested him when I was researching him as a potential candidate, before I knew he was my father, and had forgotten.

I was a basket case.  All the years of not knowing, the inconsistencies in my story, the outright lies, the years of waiting for a second cousin DNA match, and we are just going to be Facebook friends but not talk? He can just look at my life on Facebook from another country?  

More months passed including Christmas without a word from my father. I left a voice mail for my brother, wishing him a Merry Christmas but never heard back. 

Peruvian flag

As I watched the ball drop from my living room on New Year’s Eve, I was feeling more empowered about how to move forward.  Maybe I should do something bold, brave.  No more hiding in the shadows.  Announce myself!

I decided I would get back in touch with my closest Peruvian DNA match on Ancestry, who never wrote back to me when I first matched with her in January of 2020. 

Then I would write a letter to my father and send it to the address I found on-line of his non-profit.  A quick search on Google Earth seemed to confirm that the non-profit address was a residence in Canada.  I snapped a photo of the envelope and posted it privately for a few friends on social media before mailing it.

Within just a couple hours of my message to my DNA match on Ancestry, I heard back from Maria*.  I couldn’t believe it.  She never saw my first message many months before.  She was excited to hear from me and asked if I could call her.  We connected and I shared my story.  She was open and accepting.

One day, a year after discovering his identity, I was looking at my father’s Facebook profile and decided maybe I should call the mother of the girl’s photos I kept seeing, presumably, my sister.  She was only 16 and lived in Central America.  I video called her mom who did not speak any English. She handed the phone to Alicia*. 

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Lynn in Dayton, Ohio, USA.  I am Tony’s daughter.”

“Hello!! I am so excited to have a sister!  I have all brothers!”

Several more video conversations ensued over the next few days where in Alicia online-met my husband and kids. We invited her to visit Ohio; however, according to the laws of her country, she needed Tony’s permission to travel.  He refused permission.  

I logged into Facebook one day to find a message from Alicia sharing Tony’s phone number asking her big sister to call on her behalf.

This father of ours was basically ignoring me, so I knew that there was likely nothing I could say to plead my sister’s case.  I was resigned to just waiting until she turned 21 and could travel without a parent's permission, which seemed a long way off, but what other choice did we have?

I kept staring at the phone number. 

Of course, I had to call. 

If for no other reason than to just hear his voice.  I dialed the number on my cell phone before I could talk myself out of it.

“Hello?” (It’s him!)

“Hello.  This is Lynn from Dayton, Ohio, USA.”

(silence)

“Hello?”

“Hello, who is calling please?” the voice of a woman inquired.

“I am Tony’s daughter.”

(pause)

“Who is your mother?”

                                                      *********

I felt an immediate connection with my two paternal cousins that I had not felt when I met my first mother and her family.  (read my full story here).

As a highly sensitive person (HSP)and empath, I pick up on other people’s energy – at the time I met my mother, I was not aware that I was an HSP.  Looking back, I was picking up on my birth mom’s anxiety, especially surrounding the narrative of my father wherein she told me more than one version of their relationship.  The final version included being date-raped.

Maria brewed us some cappuccinos and asked for some help from Parker to pull out a stack of photo albums and records.  Looking through family photos and records is a genealogist’s dream.  I didn’t even have to ask! I snapped photos of some documents related to my uncle, a Peruvian military general, as well as some younger photos of my cousin Maria, who is in her 80’s now.

My uncle and his beautiful daughter, Maria

Maria also shared family stories and what she knew about the circumstances of my father arriving in the U.S. from Peru in the late 1950s.  It never ceases to amaze me that in 2021, at the age of 55, I finally have a narrative surrounding my father and what I see as a brave move to come to the US on a private plane with a friend to receive his education in the United States.  It has left me yearning to know more about his personal experiences; however, I have accepted that I may never get to hear the narrative from him.

Truly, I could have never imagined the outcome of my search over the years I just plowed ahead every month, every year, eagerly researching and patiently (sometimes impatiently) awaiting THE DNA match that would bring answers.


Not only did the DNA match bring answers, it brought ancestors, a sense of belonging, a sense of acceptance, and filled in the identity holes that had been present my entire life. 

Learning my father is an educator and a published author made so much sense.  I could finally understand my own yearning to write and to teach others.

As we said our goodbyes, we hugged and kissed and Maria surprised me with some beautiful Peruvian gifts to take home.

I am truly grateful to be in reunion with my first and second cousins and look forward to getting to know them better in the future.

 *not their real names

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

New Projects in the Works and Blog Sabbatical


Hello faithful blog readers.  It's been over a year since the discovery of my birth father which has led to some new projects and a sabbatical for this blog.  I have a memoir in the works which I hope to publish this year, so stay tuned for that.  I will continue to post adoption-related content over at the Facebook page.

Also, I have begun a new Instagram page that reflects where I am heading next:  Genealogy!  After so many years playing in my DNA and helping others play in theirs, it's time to become official.  I  have been taking classes at The National Institute for Genealogical Studies since 2020 and I will finish up my certificate program in 2022.  

In the meantime, I will be posting old photos, adoption documents and anything else I feel inspired to post at my new Instagram page:  @theadoptedgenealogist.  Would love it if you follow me there!

Thank you for all of your support during the search years and for your supportive comments.  As we continue to raise our collective voices, the adoption experience will be better understood. 

And speaking of our collective voices, check out two excellent adoptee-centric podcasts that I absolutely love:  Adoptees On and Once Upon a Time in Adopteeland

Enjoy your summer and I hope to see many of you at the NAAP Conference in September where I will be participating in a writing panel.

Until then . . . .keep on searching . . . . .🔎💚



Friday, June 18, 2021

Kinship Caregiving: The Original Family Preservation

Have you recently become or are you considering becoming a kinship caregiver?  Kinship caregivers could be family members or friends of a child.  What makes them “kin” is that they usually have an established relationship with the parent or child but are not the child’s biological parents.  Many are grandparents or great-grandparents or other relatives of a child.

Kinship carers are very important to all of us as they step in to love, care and provide for a child who would otherwise go to foster care.  Kinship caregivers are the unsung heroes of family preservation.  I say unsung because they do not get the financial support they deserve.

They also struggle deeply with bureaucracy such as custody, child support, government benefits, and childcare. On top of providing basic needs, sometimes a kinship carer's immediate family does not provide the emotional and practical support that was hoped for.  Many are faced with tough decisions such as removing custody from their own child.

If you or someone you know have recently become a kinship carer, I wanted to share an excellent resource.  Last night, I attended Attorney Robin Bovian’s custody seminar.  This was the second time I have heard her speak.  I was super impressed with her level of knowledge in so many areas of law that intersect with each other.   She stayed past the usual time-frame to give free legal advice to the attendees.

As someone who works in law and adopted a relative as a kinship caregiver, I know what a gem she is, disseminating information to a population who may not be able to afford private legal advice.  If you are a low-income kinship family, a new kinship carer, or just in need of a listening ear, reach out to Southeastern Legal Services.

I thank Angela Provenzano and Ohio State University for providing such timely support to kinship families in Ohio. It has truly been a lifeline during the pandemic.   I am so pleased and grateful for Angela’s mission and vision and most especially, her personal experience as a kinship carer. 

To learn more, visit the website or better yet, join us for the bi-weekly support group.


 

Friday, April 23, 2021

What Rejection Looks Like From Here

As an aspiring genealogist, finding my father was the beginning of my journey and not the end.  It felt like an "ending" in a way because it was such a long winding road to become aware of his identity.  But for a genealogist lacking one half of her identity, it was the beginning of a new journey.  

The first six to eight months after the discovery, I spent processing the reality of who my father was and what that meant for me in the big picture.  I also had to move past the shock and disbelief that he was/is alive. Although quite elderly, he is alive and well and living in another country.

I truly never expected to find a living biological father.  Maybe believing he was dead over the years helped me to not feel that time was running out to get to know him.

Turns out, time never really mattered because he has been actively ignoring me since his foster-sister sent him my contact information a year ago.  My same-age brother has also ignored my emails/calls. 

Although it is not the happy reunion ending I had hoped, I am content with the outcome of my search.  It is important for me to stress in this blog that my life was full and happy before I learned Julio's true identity.  And as I mentioned, his identity has opened up a whole new world to me.

Had I not spent so many years searching, investigating leads, studying my DNA and helping others do the same, I would not be who and where I am today.

I do not take a lack of communication from my father and brother as rejection (I admit, it's even weird to write the words "my father" and "my brother" when I have never seen them in real life).  I look at it as information about them and how they view me in the big picture of their lives.  

Julio's unacknowledgment of me does not feel personal. That's not to say that I am not disappointed.  I am.  But, let's face it, I am long past the age of needing a new parent-figure. Any pain I felt prior to knowing his identity was pain that was a result of the missing pieces of identity. 

I accept that they have communicated that I have no place in their lives at this time.   And if I want to make up a story about their behavior, which we all do, it will still fall into the category of fantasy (which adoptees have perfected), because I have no way of knowing the whole story, considering we have not spoken. 

But I will give you the story that is in my head. The story goes like this:  my father is an abandoner.  He abandoned my birth mom, he abandoned his former wife and their child and he abandoned his beautiful teen daughter.

Did he abandon me?  Yes, however maybe unintentionally.

Abandonment is truly in the eye of the abandoned.  

A former therapist I saw a couple decades ago explained that my adoptive father Max emotionally abandoned me.  (emotional abandonment can occur even if a father does not physically or financially abandon a child).  An only child, Max had a very difficult relationship with his mother.  He could not express love in a healthy way.  He drank and “checked out” of our family life.  

When a parent cannot provide for a child's emotional needs, it is called "emotional abandonment" even if this occurs inadvertently.   My dad didn't do it on purpose -- he just didn't have the skills.  There are people who, through no fault of ours, are unable to connect emotionally in a healthy way.  We all know people in our lives that this can apply to. 

Some of them are parents.  There are repercussions to kids whose parents either physically, emotionally and/or financially abandon them.  We all know that to be the case. Kelly Clarkson shares her personal story in her song, “Piece by Piece” about the father who abandoned her and how her husband was left to pick up the pieces.



However, not knowing about my biological father’s identity as a child, his abandonment of me, did not affect me in a tangible way.  I had a dad that lived with me: Max.  He provided for our family and although was unable to express it properly, loved me.

Did Julio really abandon my birth mother if she failed to advise him of my existence?  I guess that is open to interpretation.  Like a lot of things in an adoptee's journey, there are pieces of the story that may remain unknown.  

However, like a detective, I have tracked him over many decades and can see from following his footsteps which country he was in and which relationships he left.  Evidence is pointing to the reality that my papa was a rolling stone.  

I am in the process of writing my search memoir.  What I have realized while writing about my 15-year search is that the real story is about never giving up no matter how many roadblocks are thrown in your path.  



Piece by piece, I have gained a sense of myself as a whole person.  Every little nugget, every new discovery helps me get there.  My being whole is never dependent on someone else’s actions. Abandonment and identity circumstances shaped me but do not define me.

I will share with you the “icing on the cake” of discovering the other half of my identity.  I have an amazing first cousin and a sister that I am in communication with.  I was able to speak with both of them this month and because both of these relationships were unexpected, it makes them all the more sweet. My little sister lives in Central America and my son (her “older” nephew!) has offered to pay her way to the U.S. for a visit.

The takeways of abandonment and rejection are this:   we can re-evaluate who we are and what is worthy and beautiful about ourselves.  Through processing the losses and relationships (or lack thereof) with our birth or adoptive parents we can increase our self-love and strengthen our resolve to show up for ourselves in a way that is most beneficial to us and the people in our lives who are capable of loving us.  

And hopefully, in time, we can forgive those who were/are unable to show up in the way we needed.

 

Lynn Grubb is a Chicago, Illinois Baby-Scoop-Era adoptee raised in Ohio.  She found her maternal side in 2006 and through many years of DNA research, learned her father’s identity at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic.  She has published eight essays in various adoption anthologies and writes at her blog, No Apologies for Being Me.  She lives with her husband, daughter and two spoiled mini-Australian shepherds in Dayton, Ohio.  

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Defining Family: The Intersection of Biology, Adoption, Marriage and Soul

 

While we collectively experienced the pandemic of 2020, it collided with all the other events that happen to each person on the planet.  

Even during this monumental world event, we still have to make money, feed our families and keep our mental health in check.  All of it takes a lot of energy. 

Looking back, it seems like the world went into survival mode and we are just now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Entering back into the student role again in my 50’s has been interesting and it seems I am once again being thrust into a new Heroine’s Journey (highly recommend these 9 podcasts about that!).  

Biology is king (and queen) in genealogy.  Should adoptive relatives be added to your tree when they aren’t truly your genealogy? (you can ponder that ongoing debate for yourself.)

For me personally, in 2020, I experienced several events collide at the same time: my husband’s near-fatal heart attack, a family member’s mental health crisis, and the conclusion of my decades-long birth parent search.  How I have managed these circumstances and grown through them has changed me on a deep level.  

I imagine I am not alone, as individual changes can mirror how the world is changing in how we work, live, love, and communicate. 

I have been staying in touch with my support circle via an app called Marco Polo.  It’s really been a life-saver and allows me to communicate with my sister/best friend in Australia, a  beach-writers group, and a few other important people.

As I was using the Marco Polo app over a period of months, I had an epiphany of sorts today during a discussion with my soul sister.  The realization may also have to do with being in the crone stage of life. I have let go of things, jobs, drama, people and ideologies that no longer serve me.   The Crone energy encompasses a desire to speak out, give your own needs priority and a desire to give back collective wisdom to your tribe. It’s a shedding of skin, so to speak. 

Because I have been blessed with experiencing multiple family types (adoptive, biological, step, in-laws), I have realized something that many already suspected but have not necessarily experienced:

Family is who you choose to surround yourself with

For many, that means you will rarely step outside of your culture, your blood and your location of birth. For others that means you see the family you married or adopted into as your true family.  And for others, you may see the family you created (spouse/kids) as your true family.

For some, it will encompass all of these, or possibly, none of these.

It may have something to do with knowing so many adoptees and hearing about attachment difficulties growing up, we frequently choose non-relatives as family – a soul family – people we deeply connect with.

If you are into more mystical thinking, you may believe that this soul family planned to join you here on the earth plane ahead of time.  For others with more traditional beliefs, you may say that God planted these people in your lives. 

However, what this means to me is that we are drawn and feel connected to certain people and they may have different roles or titles, but those roles or titles are not what is important.  What is important is that they get us and we get them.

It’s taken me a long time to recognize that just because someone is your mother, child or biological relative, does not mean you will share this kind of connection.  As an adoptee, it is psychologically normal to fantasize about unknown birth families.  For some of us, the fantasies were positive and others, negative, or a mix of the two.  

But fantasies are just stories we make up to fill in the blanks of not-knowing.  They are rarely based on truth and instead are based on desire or fear.  They are very powerful and can lead us astray.

My B.S. meter is well developed and I trust it now, 100%. Intentions and promises no longer mean that much to me. I like people whose words and actions are in congruence with each other.   It’s taken a long time for me to trust myself.  Adoptees are gas-lit on the regular and pressured to see birth or adoptive family as their real families.  Rarely does someone ask how the adoptee feels about family.

I compare coming out of the fog to being deprogrammed from a cult.  The cult of adoption. I am so far out of the fog that I can remember the protective bubble of denial fondly and even longingly at times.  Being in the fog as an adoptee is like being a child in an over-protective family.  You feel safe, but you haven’t really stepped into your truth.

I choose to be with people who get me, who are all in, and they demonstrate that by their actions.  Our souls recognize each other and the labels of blood, adoption, and marriage are no longer hindering me from seeing clearly who loves, supports and gets me.

My soul family does not have to be in my pocket, so to speak, and in fact, we may not speak for months at a time. But when we see each other again, we jump back into our stories and connect once again. 

Who is part of your soul family?  (Please comment at my Facebook page).

💓









Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Broken Mirror


When I was growing up, like many others, I was fascinated by Alex Haley’s miniseries, “Roots”.  It aired in 1977 when I was 11.  I hung onto every word of every episode.  When I was older, and I could get the entire miniseries at the library, I checked it out and watched it again. 

I believe the reason that show had such an impact on me was because the story of Kunta Kinte was passed down through his ancestors.  Each generation kept the story intact for the next and it connected them all to each other. 

They were proud of who they were, and they never forgot where they came from.  This knowledge of their people gave them an identity during years of slavery, separation and other traumas they endured. 

I longed for the family stories of my ancestors as a child.  I would have given anything to have an accurate understanding of who my people were and what kinds of challenges they overcame – to know what they valued, loved and why I came to be separated from them. 

Without that knowledge, I felt directionless, unable to see myself clearly, with all my flaws, gifts and strengths.  I lived with a broken mirror.  

When I gazed into my mirror, I did not see the beauty of my biological mother’s curly hair or the brown eyes of my biological father staring back.  I only saw a distorted view of myself – somebody who was not attractive or popular - someone who did not belong. 

I also saw someone who wasn’t good enough -- someone who was floating around untethered to the people who created me and those who created them. 

I called my mom this week to see how her Covid vaccine went, and I mentioned the broken mirror.  I said, “Had I known then what I know now about myself and my ancestors, life would have looked very different.” 

She reminded me that when I was a young adult I wasn’t really in the habit of listening to other people’s advice. True enough. 

I reminded her that it doesn’t matter how much advice you are given when you are holding a broken mirror. I can't help but imagine how this knowledge of myself and my ancestors could have made such a big difference to me as a child and young adult.

The broken mirror also applied to my relationship with God, or lack thereof.  I know more Bible stories than most of my friends because I grew up in church.  I always felt connected to life spiritually (via music, water and animals), but religion rarely resonated with me nor answered my deepest questions.

All those begats and begots in the Bible – clearly God seemed to lay great importance on genealogy. So why couldn’t I have mine? Why would God rubber stamp the separation of my first family? 

As a kid, the unanswered questions brewed inside of me.  I would never be satisfied until I learned the truth and I would continue to look into my broken mirror.  

But what can a kid do besides ask a lot of annoying questions about their birth parents? 

So, this quest would have to wait until the right time.  When would that be? 

One way I practice spirituality today is trusting that God/Universe will show me the right timing and provide the right resources or people to help me.  I am getting better at being patient as I have learned my timing is not necessarily God/Universe' timing.  Doors open and people appear in a timing that I could have never engineered on my own.  Sometimes doors don’t open.  And I also see that as an answer.

Trying to live in the here and now is tough when you have spent decades searching for your people.  If I am being honest, I can admit there were times when searching bordered on an unhealthy obsession.

However, knowing my ancestors has given me permission to be wholly who I am. 

Without the broken mirror, I can see for the first time the strengths that eluded me before, the faults that I denied in the past, and the knowledge that people love me in spite of and because of who I am.   

I am loved and protected by God/Universe and I fully embrace the freedom to do and be anything I want in this life.  Will it be smooth sailing from here?  Of course not.  However, I am better equipped now to see myself and others clearly, accept responsibility for my past choices, consider all I have learned about myself in future choices, and leave behind anything and anyone that does not honor the path I now travel. I truly believe that "you are not for everyone" (see graphic) and everything is not for you.  

One of the gifts of having a mirror now that reflects my truer self is that the desire to people please has mostly left me.  This has had a huge impact on my life in that I no longer accept jobs, projects or relationships that are not the right fit for me.

Sometimes after years of searching adoptees discover a relationship with birth family is not possible; however, a connection to the stories of our ancestors can allow many of unknown parentage to feel re-born - to fully be able to love and honor themselves like never before.


Losing my Father: Disenfranchised Grief and Adoptees

Three weeks ago, I received word from a Peruvian cousin Claudia who I am connected to via Facebook that my father is dead.  “He now enjoys t...