Adult Adoptees Who Did Good

Spreading a bit of inspiration today to lead optimistic lives – I take a look at a few adoptees (many with kinship or step-parent type adoptions) who made some difference or achieved something worthwhile with their lives.

[1] Babe Ruth – was sent to an orphanage at a young age along with his sister. There he was taught and encouraged to play baseball. Ruth eventually spent 22 record-breaking seasons playing baseball and became one of America’s greatest baseball players.

[2] Eleanor Roosevelt – by the age of 15, Roosevelt was a double orphan. She was then adopted by her grandmother. Roosevelt would become the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, as well as a United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She has been called the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

[3] Steve Jobs – Surrendered and adopted shortly after birth, Jobs was a successful entrepreneur who became the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. He has personally been linked to the technological revolution that has swept the world.

[4] Melissa Gilbert – After being adopted as a baby, Gilbert went on to star as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC series, Little House on the Prairie, from 1974 to 1984.

[5] John Hancock – Raised by extended family after the death of his father, Hancock became a prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. His signature is so well-recognized from signing the Declaration of Independence that the term “John Hancock” has become a synonym for signature, which point was made in the Will Smith movie Hancock.

[6] Michael Oher – Adopted at age 17 after spending years in various foster homes, Oher went on to play offensive lineman for the Ole Miss Rebels and then was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He is the main character in the movie, The Blind Side, which won an Academy Award movie.

[7] Nelson Mandela – Raised by a tribe chief after his father’s death (when Mandela was 9 years old), he was President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. He was known as a revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist.

[8] Leo Tolstoy – Raised by extended family after the death of his parents, Tolstoy became a famous Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, and philosopher. His written work is still widely read today.

[9] Nancy Reagan – After her parents separated, Reagan (born Anne Frances Robbins) lived with an aunt and uncle during most of her childhood. She eventually reunited with her mom and took her stepfather’s last name, “Davis.” She was the First Lady during her husband’s administration.

[10] Dave Thomas – Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to a young unmarried woman he never knew, Thomas was adopted at 6 weeks old. At age 5, when his (adoptive) mother died, Thomas moved in with his grandmother. As an adult, Thomas became the founder and CEO of Wendy’s restaurant chain.

[11] Edgar Allan Poe – Born in 1809, Poe’s father abandoned the family in 1810. His mother died the following year. Orphaned, he went to live with the Allan family in Virginia, who then raised him to adulthood. He was an American writer known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his mysteries. He is considered the inventor of detective fiction.

[12] Gerald Ford – Leslie Lynch King Jr was only 16 days old when his parents went their separate ways. A couple of years later, King’s mother remarried and they changed Leslie Lynch King Jr’s name to Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr, in honor of his stepfather (whom Ford says played a wonderful role in his life). Ford was our 38th President of the United States.

[13] Simone Biles – After spending time in and out of foster care, Biles was adopted by her grandparents who helped her pursue her dream to reach the Olympics. As an American gymnast, Biles became the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault, and floor gold medalist. As an integral part of the “Final Five,” she is currently the most decorated American gymnast with nineteen Olympic and World Championship medals.

Seeking To Clarify The Story

Recently a friend alerted me to a writing contest, called the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize that is hosted by The Missouri Review (my home state), that will pay $5,000 to winners in the Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry categories along with a few other perks. At first, I really wasn’t going to add the distraction as I’m in the process of editing my two manuscripts. One is yet another revision of my adoption roots story. However, yesterday, I did a 180 on this. I need to condense down my almost 90,000 word manuscript to 8,500 words. The deadline is Oct 1st and so this is just a temporary distraction that may yet pay dividends for my effort to tell the story.

I realized that at this point in my process (I am almost done with my first read through to correct from a first person present narrative to a third person omniscient perspective and won’t say I’ve caught all of the outliers !!) that tightening up the story to the basic facts might be a good process. Certainly, $5,000 would be welcome and winning this year’s contest would open the door to getting the revised manuscript published. So, yesterday I began the effort in earnest.

I’ve told this story so many times, in so many ways. When sharing it vocally one-on-one with other people, there seems to be some interest. Unlike back in the early 1990s, when my mom was seeking to connect with the woman who gave birth to her (and was devastated to learn that she had died some years earlier) or at least receive her full adoption file from the state of Tennessee, I am seeing today, whereas in my mom’s push few adoptees made the effort, today attempts to create reunions are now common for adoptees and donor conceived persons.

Beyond that, many people are not well versed in their family genealogy and much of my own successful effort was not only connecting with living relatives from each branch of my family (both of my parents were adopted) but learning the stories of my ancestors – some of which stretched back prior to the American Revolution. I found connections to the Civil War that thankfully are balanced in my own personal history by northern Yankees and Danish immigrants in my other family line.

So, I am accepting this pause and this effort for the purpose of getting to the heart of the story of my own journey to know from whom and from where my own origins began.

Each Small Death

. . . is just a season where a part of us is shed to make way for a new one. ~ Jonas Ellison

This quote captured something in my heart.  When I was already into my 60s, I lost first my mom and then 4 months later, my dad, to the normal processes of life that end in one’s death.  When they died, none of us knew who their original parents were.  They were both adopted and their adoptive parents were also dead.

Turns out my original grandparents were all dead as well.

But there is “new” life in me because I now know so much more about my authentic family history.  I know there is a lot of Danish in me because of my paternal grandfather who was an immigrant.  And there is a good deal of Scottish in me because of my maternal grandmother.

On my paternal grandmother’s side is a long history that includes an ancestor who wrote a journal that is still in print.  It is considered to be one of the best records of early colonial life in New London Connecticut spanning a 47 year period from 1711 to 1758.  Yes, before our Revolutionary War.  His home is on the national register and a museum now.

That leaves my maternal grandfather.  His own grandfather was 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate Army from 1861 through 1864. He fought in the battles of Shiloh, Chattanooga and Spring Hill, as well as other less notable engagements.  There are actually Confederate connections on my maternal grandmother’s side as well.  Not that I take any real pride in that, it just is the honest truth.

All of this is “new” to me.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to know about these people but learning about them and meeting some living descendants has made me whole again.  Even though it was too late for my parents, losing them opened up the path for me to know these things about my family history.

All that to say, if you are in a similar circumstance by all means push ahead.  Inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites that include 23 and Me as well as Ancestry are making it possible for many people who’s past was clouded by adoption to finally know who and from where their roots are grounded in reality.