Monday, March 6, 2017

Making sense of it all, despite it all

So it was never any secret to me or anyone who knows me that I was adopted. My parents never kept it a secret and my mom told me all she knew from the nuns at the Catholic agency.

When I was in my 20's I began to search. I joined ALMA, an adoption organization for both adoptees and birth was there I learned certain nuances of the search and find. From other adoptees and some birth moms in the group, that once a birth mother was found, the chances of her revealing who the birth father was were pretty non existent. I don't know if it was the "shame" or to protect themselves from the hurt they themselves endured, but I do know that even some women who knew the birth father was deceased, still refused to give up who he was. Also, most birth mothers went on to marry and have families and NEVER told their spouses, or their children.

That is what my post here today is about. I will get into other specifics and stories at another time, but today I want to talk about this. This thing that today has me asking my birth mother Bernadette (who passed away in 1998) for forgiveness in my doubting her.

Imagine my surprise when after finding my birth mother Bernadette the early 90s, that yes, she had moved on and gotten married, and she had told her husband all about me. She also told my older half sister Kathy. Her dear husband Claude got on the phone with me once we connected and told me how truly happy he was that we had all found each other. This was a shock to me after hearing for years how birth mothers keep this secret to their grave.

So again, another surprise that while discussing things with her on the phone one day, I was sort of "dancing" around the subject and she just said to me, "Would you like to know who your birth father is?" Um, Uh, Yeah.... So she blurts out, "His name was Donald DiCesare and he worked for the Teamsters in the trucking industry." I remember writing it down on the nearest piece of paper I could find. I still have it on a little blue envelope meant for my car insurance payment.

And off I went.....on a wild chase. There are many different spellings and misspellings of that name but I did find one Donald in the phone book and placed a very nerve-wracking call. I spoke with a gentleman who was in his late 80s (much too old to be him) who assured me it was not him, but wished me well on my search. And then it was back to the drawing board.

Speaking to my sister Kathy, she informed me that Bernadette told her that my birth father was a dear friend of my uncles and gave me his name (we will call him N).....which I then mentioned to my Auntie Frances who thought that was insane. Her exact words were more like, "That's fucking insane, N was a heroin addict and couldn't even get it up!" (More on the rantings of my dear Auntie at another time)

By this time, Bernadette and I were not speaking very often, there had been lots of things that had gone on that caused a strain in our relationship, including but not limited to the fact that even though my adoptive mom encouraged my search, now that Bernadette was real and in the flesh, mom sort of "freaked out" to put it mildly. Besides, Cluade had been ill, she was caring for him, and she drank.... a lot. And the fact that my sister repeatedly told me that Bernadette lied about everything in general and you could not believe a thing she said.

So another search began, this time for my birth father, with more fits and starts, more confusion and frustration.....and a whole lot of nothing. Years of it, but hey, I was used to it by now.

Then in 2009, Auntie Frances decided we should meet up in New York with Kathy and do what she called "The Bernadette Tour". It was one of the most memorable times of my life. Tante (as I call her) rented a car, and drove us all around to see all the places they grew up and hung out. We even made a trip out to Long Island because she wanted to see the house that I grew up in. During that trip, there was lots of conversation as to who my birth father could be. Bernadette was quite a knockout and "dated" a lot back in the day, and she certainly enjoyed herself when it came to partying. One name kept coming up from Kathy. His name was Chuck, and he was married. Kathy remembered him because she thought he was a very nice man. He owned his own business which my sister had us drive by so I could write down the number.

When I returned home, I began to search for this "Chuck" guy in earnest. I even tracked down his daughter and called her on the premise that one of my aunts was celebrating her 80th birthday and she knew her dad from back in the old neighborhood. No luck. Then I searched her (the daughter) out on Facebook, neither she nor her brother looked anything like me, and neither did their dad. I sent the picture to my sister and she said that it was the right "Chuck". I looked over their profiles, nothing clicked. They were so very different from me, and I know people and circumstances could be different, but there really was no connection. Sounds crazy, but either you feel it or you don't.

Years go by again and then I decide to do the 23andme DNA test. When I receive the results I am automatically matched to my maternal cousins and my aunt (we had all already done the familydna test years ago) But then, there is this girl I will call Kay, listed as a second cousin to me, but not attached to anyone on my maternal side. I look at her profile and one of the last names in her DNA search is DiCesare. I contact her and we message back and forth. I tell her I am adopted and searching and she agrees to find out what she can, but most relatives are no longer living. I look at our tests and our connection and tell her I think our relation must be that her grandfather and my grandfather were brothers.

In the meantime, I am speaking to my sister (I should tell you that we have a difficult relationship) I offer to pay for her DNA test so I can see more clearly who I should be looking for. She agrees, and after the results come in that we definitely do not have the same father, I can continue my searching. She is still insisting that my birth father has to be Chuck. And even after I tell her that my DNA proves my relation to DiCesare she still doesn't believe it. She has a lot of resentment from growing up with Bernadette and I think every time she looks at me she sees her. I send her a note:

"Wondering if Bernadette really was telling the truth when she told me he (Donald DiCesare) was my bio father? And if so, how do I find him or his family?
Does the name ring a bell to you? Maybe it wasn't the man I contacted years ago, but someone else. I remember her saying he was a trucker with the Teamsters and lived in the city.
Sorry I keep bothering you with this, but I am so completely confused by this whole thing. I am not looking for anything but answers."

Her response is anything but supportive:

"I had to sit on this a bit. It was a lot and I wanted to really think about it.

I do not remember that name at all, or any Teamsters. I have no idea when my mother was telling the truth or lying. I know you want answers, but I don't understand why you don't confirm that Chuck is or isn't the one. You are going on instinct instead of fact. You think you spoke to his daughter, you think they're too conservative, you don't think there's a likeness. If you want answers you have to follow thru. I'm sorry, but that's the only idea I have on who your father might be.

As far as my upbringing, I have found peace. I am proud of my survival, and the person I have become. Not because of what happened to me, but in spite of it. I'm sorry you don't have that.
The doubts about my Father are just passing thoughts. Maybe it's true. maybe it's not. It doesn't matter to me. It won't change anything."

Well, needless to say, after that I just decided to deal with the "FACTS" Just because we are now living in an alternative fact society, it doesn't mean I have to be part of it. And the facts are that after DNA testing, it proves that there is some relation to the DiCesare family.

Months go by with nothing and this morning I see I have a message from Kay (on 23andme) and she and her niece have been doing some research and the information I gave her helped her find some of her missing links. What she doesn't realize is that what she is about to tell me, links me inevitably to what I have been searching. Seems her grandfather had some brothers and sisters, one of whom was named Romeo Victor DiCesare. She remembers him as Great Uncle Romeo and he had 8 children one of them is Donald and he was born in 1930 and a sister named Helen born in 1936 (same age as Bernadette). Donald passed in 2010 and Kay says she is sorry to find that he has passed. She also gives me the link to the tree her niece made so I can look at it.

I sat on this all morning thinking. My sister tells me I am going on instinct not fact.....actually I am running on both. And in the end, what Bernadette told me all those years ago was absolutely true.

Unfortunately I didn't go on instinct in the beginning, and that is where I need to ask Bernadette, even though she is no longer alive, for forgiveness. I want her to forgive me for doubting her based on "learned behavior" from the adoption search advocates. I want her to forgive me for not putting myself in her shoes, for if I had, I would have known. Had I been in her place I certainly would have told my husband about my past, despite what the experts say, and I definitely would tell my child the truth of who their biological father was, again despite the "norm"

I want her to forgive me for listening to others take on her and not seeing that I am so much like her on the inside.

I would also like to thank her for giving me this gift I now have, the one where I feel so connected to "me". I am grateful to her, not just for the gift of life, but also for all the things that make me "me" but also link me to her.....I hear it all the time from the cousins. Comments like "You look like you raided her closet" "you laugh just like her" and tons of other compliments....for to me, they are compliments beyond anything I could ever imagine. Growing up in a world where you look like no one else in the family, where your habits, likes, dislikes, talents and traits are a mystery to everyone, especially yourself, finally finding that connection definitely brings everything "Full Circle"

Bernadette and myself both about age 7