Reuniting His Birth Parents

Karen and Roger Caldwell

Such an irresistible story, I just had to share it today. The story is “old” but still sweet. The baby that tore two Kentucky teen-agers apart 25 years ago united them in marriage in August of 1991. Mark Kitts officiated at the wedding. His adoptee effort to reunite with his birth parents prompted them to speak to each other again for the first time since his mother learned she was pregnant.

“I’ve always been in love with him,” Karen Caldwell said of her high school sweetheart and now husband, Roger Caldwell. “I’ve never been in love with anyone else.” Karen Waterfill was a 15-year-old Western High School cheerleader in 1966. Roger Caldwell was an honor student and a basketball player at the same high school but by then a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

This is so much like the story of my parents. My mom was a junior in high school and my dad was a freshman at the U of NM at Las Cruces when I took up residence in her womb. My story turned out happier (I believe) than their son Mark Kitts, though he has no complaints. My parents were also high school sweethearts – both of them adoptees – and they remained married for over 50 years until death did part them.

Karen was sent away to a Lexington home for unwed mothers. On Sept 11 1966, she gave birth to a boy. I will always be forever grateful that this didn’t happen to me and my own parents. It could have so easily been my story as well as that was the norm in the mid-1950s. “I remember him crying, but I never got to hold him,” Karen said. The baby was adopted within a week.

A few months after the birth, Roger Caldwell, who did not know the child’s birth date or sex, married another woman, joined the Air Force and left town. But he told his wife, whom he divorced in 1988 after they raised two children together, that he really loved someone else. Karen eventually would say the same thing to two husbands. About six months after the baby was born, Karen returned to the home to ask about him. They would tell her only that he had been adopted by “good people.”

This is so much like what happened to my mom’s mother with Georgia Tann who wouldn’t tell her anything about who adopted my mom or where she went.

Mark’s adoptive parents were Gene and Linda Kitts of Lexington, who adopted their second son, a baby they named Mark. In all, the Kittses, who lived in Louisville when this story was published, eventually had six children — five of whom are adopted and three of whom have found their birth parents. It was a search that the Kittses supported. Linda Kitts said that she often wondered about the women who gave birth to her children.

John Ellis was a mutual friend of the Caldwells in high school. Karen and Roger each quizzed Ellis about how the other was doing. Roger occasionally drove by Karen’s house, hoping she would be outside. Karen got dressed to go to the visitation after Roger’s mother died, but then changed her mind.

When Mark’s wife Dee-dee became pregnant, he start thinking about his own birth. He obtained a court order for the state to attempt to locate his birth mother. Karen Williams was married and living in Frankfort. She eventually agreed to meet Mark Kitts and to see whether Roger Caldwell would meet him as well.

They agreed to meet and discuss Mark’s request. So. Roger came to Kentucky and picked Karen up. The couple cried and talked, then began seeing each other every day. Their relationship went so smoothly that when they met Mark, he thought, “Wow, this is odd. This couple really gets along well.” Karen said it was like giving birth to Mark all over again. Only this time Roger was by her side.

Karen Caldwell also had a 22-year-old daughter and a grandchild living in Frankfort but she quit her job in Kentucky to marry Roger and move to Tennessee. Karen filed for divorce — something she says she had been considering anyway — and then Roger asked her to marry him. Three days after the divorce became final, Mark officiated at the couple’s wedding in Covington, Kentucky.

Mark said, “I’ve been very happy with my life. I don’t wish it was different. We’re trying to build a relationship on the future, not the past.”

 

Fostering A Pregnant Teen

The girl in the photo is NOT known to me or who this blog is about today. It comes up from time to time how much a teen in foster care who finds herself pregnant can use support. The main thought is enough support to break the cycle she grew up within and parent her baby.

The discussion was in response to a video about someone who was doing that – creating a supportive environment for a pregnant teen still in foster care. I won’t be sharing that video here but the thoughts related to it.

The first comment was related to food – both foster kids and adoptees often have food issues. My adoptee mom had food issues and she passed those on to me. My dad (also an adoptee) had food insecurity issues, so we always had more food on the table than could be eaten at a meal. At 67 years old, I’m still trying to overcome my own food issues. That said, I remember being ravenous and able to eat stuff I wouldn’t dare to eat now, while I was pregnant with my sons.

Here is the comment – What bothered me was the amount of junk food offered as items of comfort. I have food issues and am working to reprogram my brain from emotional eating and using food to soothe emotional needs. While I understand she mostly has teenage girls placed with her, and teenagers generally prefer these kinds of snacks, I just don’t think think this is ok. Give them other outlets for comfort. But again, I’m an adoptee working on my own food issues; I understand and appreciate that this is a different situation than what I experienced.

A comment in response was this – I didn’t love the way she was like “of course I have healthier food but this is like a piece of home.” It rubbed me wrong. Like we’re better than this but you know how poor people eat.” However, someone else noted – “I am mixed about this. Honestly, it seems better than the crazy perspective of many foster parents that repress foster children’s food intake and then post complaints about how much they eat. Food security is important.”

Another issue had to do with TV. I do like the part about suggesting a TV in their room. I see a lot of foster parents angry about screen time and cracking down with their rules, especially if they also have biological children. If a kid is used to sleeping on a floor in front of a TV, you can’t just say “oh we don’t do TV at night here!” and expect them to sleep. Sure, you can phase it out over time if it matters that much to you, but foster parents need to calm down when a kid is going through serious trauma. The teen may just need to be comforted to sleep!

Actually, when I was single and living in the city, until I met my husband (who lives in a very quiet rural location), the white noise of the TV was always on in my home – waking or sleeping – but I was not usually actually watching it. When I was in New Mexico settling my parents estate – it was the same – always on in the motel room.

There were also a few appreciative comments too. “It seems like a foster home I would’ve been thankful for but it’s still a foster home. What I don’t like is how she goes about posting it. It seems like she is looking for praise from former foster care youth.” And this, “I wish one of my foster parents was as welcoming as this?” And another one – “I think it’s absolutely wonderful, she’s doing everything in her power to make them feel as comfy as possible.”

I think a realistic comment was this one – my first thought on it is, she goes to great lengths to “get to know them.” I’m pretty cool with most of this, but the part where she wants to spend time with them to get to know them sits strange with me. Putting myself in their shoes, I’d think that I wouldn’t want to talk to some stranger about *anything* and I’d just want to be left alone to deal with whatever feelings I was having, instead of having to bear all to her. That might just be me, because I’m a quiet, lonely griever, but I can’t imagine that every child she brings into her home feels comfortable with the “getting to know one another” part.

Yet that was just one perspective. It seems that the woman in the video is an emergency or short term placement foster home. In some of the other videos she has made, it seems more like the teen can play games and watch movies and not so much getting to know each other. That makes more sense. There are other videos by her, where she talks about letting them do whatever they want to do, so that they can process their situation.

Yet another one said – I don’t like to be around anyone or talk to anyone while I’m going through things. I also like to cry quietly in my room and not talk to people. I’m kind of antisocial to begin with. I am pulled in different directions though, because if left alone too long, especially as a teen, I would let myself feel bad and dissociate as long as I could get away with. I feel like she should leave them to grieve and process (with therapy, of course) and maybe after some time passed, then make an effort to take them out and get to know them? Just let them grieve their situation first and give them some space.

Given my own maternal grandmother’s experience of pregnancy with my mom, this one really spoke to my heart.

My mom was shunned back in the 60’s for being an unwed Mom. She was basically kicked out of town and told not to come back with the ‘bastard’ (me). She was very kindly taken in by a Home for Unwed Mothers. She was able to continue working, given counseling and advice on adoption etc. Long story short, that home was my first home. You could stay for 6 months after birth. All Moms helped and supported each other when moms had to go back to work. Essentially first time Moms were getting some hands on experience and moms and babies were safe, happy and content. Today I run a place of safety for abandoned babies and often think if there were still places like that, perhaps we wouldn’t have such a high rate of abortion and abandonments.

Without My Brother

When I first saw this image, I thought of my Aunt Daisy. I don’t think she knew about my dad until after her mother had died. Her older sister did. My cousin, who is the daughter of that older sister is how I came by pictures of my grandmother holding my dad and one of him when he was a toddler.

When my Aunt Daisy’s daughter discovered me thanks to 23 and Me, her first question was – is your dad still alive ? Sadly I had to tell her no. In fact my Aunt Daisy was living only 90 miles away from my dad in the very same state at the time he died. Such a pity. I see him in her photos.

I am told my paternal grandmother never really got over “losing” my dad to adoption. It certainly wasn’t her intention to give him up. His father was a married man, still un-naturalized as a citizen at the time my dad was conceived, having immigrated from Denmark. I would guess my grandmother never told him – IF she even was still in contact with him at the time. But without a doubt, she did know who his father was and it is thanks to her own effort to leave us breadcrumbs that I know who my dad’s father was. She quietly handled her pregnancy through the Salvation Army home for unwed mothers at Ocean Beach CA. It was such an appropriate birth. My dad, a Pisces, the son of a Danish fisherman, who himself was in love with fishing and the ocean. Their resemblance to one another makes it unmistakable and lately, my reconnecting with Danish relatives still living in Denmark due to our shared genes is the proof, that didn’t exist back in the day. She obtained employment with the Salvation Army and migrated with my dad in tow to El Paso Texas, where she was pressured to give him up for adoption at 8 months old.

My slightly increased risk of breast cancer probably comes from my paternal grandmother. The day she was due to be released from the hospital after surgery for breast cancer, she suffered a fatal heart attack. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew which I suspect comes from my paternal side – if not my grandmother, then my Danish grandfather.

It still amazes me that after over 60 years totally clueless in the dark, I know so much about my family origins. Never would I have predicted that such a possibility would actually become real.

Abortion Prevents Adoptions

I once had an abortion. The timing of my pregnancy was all wrong (and significant drug use was taking place), the father to be all wrong (not interested), the progression of the pregnancy was all wrong (see drug use above) as breakthrough bleeding was occurring. My sister-in-law gave birth to a son with severe birth defects. While I cannot know if her desperate attempts to hide her high school, out of wedlock, pregnancy played a role, it could have. I know when my first husband discovered I was pregnant at a time when he had an active case of hepatitis (most likely also drug related) he feared our child would be compromised. I stuck with that pregnancy and she is as close to perfect as any of us are (we do all have our individual health related challenges in life).

So, I was grateful for the ability to have a safe and clean, medically provided, mental health counseling included before the procedure, abortion at Reproductive Services in El Paso Texas in the mid-1970s. Honestly, it has haunted me. Not because I think it was the wrong decision but because abortion is such a contentious issue. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone I had had one.

I am old enough now that whether abortion was outlawed or not, it would not affect me personally. I am wise enough to think, instead of trying to control women’s bodies, men could choose to control their own. For one by not promiscuously pursuing sex. Young men could be given vasectomies that are reversible when they become mature enough to be responsible as fathers. That’s a winning option in my perspective.

I loved the passion in Paxton Smith’s speech because I see my own self when I was that age. I have always been an outspoken person. I loved to debate the boys in my Algebra class in high school (I also had a coach for Geometry class who made it more understandable). I gave impassioned speeches at pep rallies on occasion. I am still outspoken as anyone who follows my Facebook page surely knows. Paxton has said the most meaningful reactions to her speech have come from concerned fathers who fear for their own daughters’ futures.

Paxton Smith had pre-written a speech on how TV and media have shaped her worldview, which had been approved by school administrators. But when it came time to address the graduating class of Lake Highlands high, she switched course. Her nervous emotions are plain to see before they reach that level of impassioned anger. I recognize how that feels.

Texas’s new “heartbeat” measure ranks among the most extreme abortion bans in the US, blocking the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – before many women and girls even know they’re pregnant. The bill, due to come into force in September, doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest and allows private citizens to enforce its provisions through what could be a torrent of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

Abortion or Pro-Life issues are the hot button for evangelical Christians. It is not lost on me, what the Salvation Army in El Paso Texas told me when I was researching my dad’s adoption through them – they had to close down their homes for unwed mothers (a method of channeling infants to prospective adoptive parents) after Roe v Wade passed because there were simply not enough clients to keep the enterprise going. Another factor is the societal acceptance of single mothers – I know more than one who is doing a fantastic job raising their children – both genders included in this number. I don’t know if the Salvation Army took “donations” from prospective adoptive parents in exchange for infants but it would not surprise me if they did. Adoption is a lucrative business at any level of charitable intent.

Evangelical Christians are very interested in taking heathen babies and converting them to the faith. True, it may simply be emotional, adorable baby feelings that they think causes them to be against abortion and Pro-Life. However, just like Mitch McConnell’s nefarious agenda for our government’s institutions, the powers that be in the Christian hierarchy seek to increase the number of the faithful in part through adoption.

The Baby Saver

Debbe Magnusen CEO Project Cuddle

I don’t know, I have conflicting feelings about this woman (she signs her own self as The Baby Saver on a post I saw) and her organization, Project Cuddle. On the one hand, she has found her calling and who can argue with saving a baby in danger of being abandoned ? On the other hand, it is a method of being something like an adoption agency, who doesn’t identify themselves as such, who doesn’t sell babies but seeks donations to fund their organization.

They have Rescue Families not adoptive parents. Their official line is this – We are not an adoption agency or facilitator. We charge nothing to the girls who come to us seeking assistance nor to our vetted “Rescue Families”. We are a non-profit charity. Our only goal is to help each girl or woman make safe, legal decisions regarding their pregnancy and subsequent baby.

They don’t pick babies up from dumpsters. Project Cuddle says – We help frightened girls and women find safe and legal alternatives for their baby’s future, so that abandonment need never happen. A girl or woman will never have to leave a baby in a dumpster, at a church, lying in some back alley, or anywhere else for that matter.

In day’s of yore, they might have been referred to as a home for unwed mothers, much like the Door of Hope that my paternal grandmother went to in Ocean Beach CA – after she discovered she was pregnant and that her boyfriend was actually married to someone else.

Child abandonment appears in many different forms. It can apply to a minor who is left without appropriate supervision for an extended period of time. That is the kind of situation that brings Child Welfare Agencies and the courts into the picture. Project Cuddle’s mission is officially preventing baby abandonment by supporting an unwed pregnant woman with prenatal care, maternity clothes, hospital delivery and a family waiting to adopt her baby.

They remind me a bit of the old Salvation Army (that is where my paternal grandmother went for help). Project Cuddle says – after the mother has delivered, Project Cuddle continues to assist her in establishing a plan for her future. We never judge any girl or woman that calls us for help.

They do claim NOT to be promoting surrender or adoption – The decision to give her baby up for adoption is entirely left to the birthmother. This can be as quick as two days or take as long as twenty years. Hmmm, really ? 20 years. Isn’t the baby a legal adult by that time ? What mother cuts ties with a baby she has been involved with that long ? Never mind, I’m certain it happens. Parents and children do become estranged in some families. I wonder just how non-coercive Project Cuddle is about moving a baby into an adoptive family. They do say – the more open a rescue family is towards things such as sex, ethnicity and drug exposure – the more quickly they may be matched with a birthmother choosing surrender.

I don’t know. I continue feel squeamish about this whole “project” – while at the same time recognizing there is a need for mothers and their babies to have the support when they need it. When society doesn’t deliver that support, individuals with a savior complex often do step in. You can learn more about Project Cuddle at their website. However, from a comment thread I have read – all is not 100% as it seems. The terminology is exploitative and deceiving and there is every indication that “counselors” do coerce the mother into surrender, regardless of how much they try to say otherwise (this comes from some real life experiences that are now being openly shared).

It’s A Matter Of Responsibility

Artist Delphine Boel

One of my guilty pleasures in life is not an obsessive but a casual interest in royalty.  So I could say that this blog is simply for fun.  The artist looks like a “fun” person to me but it is about a lot more than fun.  It is about how men so often plant their seeds wherever they wish to and don’t take any responsibility for it.

I’ll never know entirely what transpired between my dad’s parents.  His father was a married man and unless he was simply hiding the truth that he fathered a son, he never knew about it.  I give him the benefit of the doubt regarding that because my grandmother was a very self-sufficient woman and it is likely she just handled her pregnancy very quietly, turning to the Salvation Army’s home for unwed mothers in San Diego (actually Ocean Beach) California.

And I won’t judge King Albert II of Belgium either.  Maybe he knew and hid it and maybe he didn’t but he does know now.  DNA has been a miracle at revealing familial identities for children conceived out of wedlock and adoptees alike.

Delphine’s mother, Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps, said she and Albert II had been involved in an 18-year-long affair before he was crowned king.  The Belgian aristocrat also claimed the royal had been a presence during Ms Boël’s childhood.  Speculation surrounding an illegitimate child of King Albert II sparked in 1999 after the publication of an unauthorized biography of the monarch’s wife, Queen Paola.  This sensational claim prompted a royal scandal and growing gossip surrounding the court.

Ms Boël first publicly spoke out and claimed she was the love child of King Albert II in 2005.  She could not open court proceedings until 2013, after he abdicated in favor of his firstborn, King Philippe, and lost his immunity to prosecution.  Despite the launch of the legal case against him, the former king initially resisted court orders to undergo DNA testing.  He only caved in when told he faced fines of £4,500 (€5,000) for every day he would push back the test.

After he “learnt the results of the DNA tests”, Albert II acknowledged Ms Boël as his fourth child.  King Albert’s lawyer issued a statement on January 27 reading: “Scientific conclusions indicate that he is the biological father of Mrs Delphine Boel.  King Albert has decided to put an end to this painful procedure in good conscience.”

The love child’s lawyer described this royal admission as a “relief”.  He continued: “Her life has been a long nightmare because of this quest for identity.  She wants to have exactly the same privileges, titles and capacities as her brothers and her sister.”  Reports suggest a victory of Ms Boël in court could see her children become eligible for a royal title – much like the other grandchildren of King Albert II in the line of succession to the throne.  But the former monarch’s lawyer says the court has no power to hand out titles and only a royal decree would make Ms Boël a princess.

An Interesting Adoptee Reunion

Robert Spencer and Sleepy LaBeef

One look at the two men pretty much confirms the father/son relationship.  It reminds me of when I first saw a picture of my own dad’s father – a man I never expected to identify because my dad’s mom was unwed and gave birth to him at a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Ocean Beach CA.

In Robert’s case, one could say he is fortunate he was adopted.  His mother, Agnes, was a follower of Jim Jones who led his congregation known as the People’s Temple to commit mass suicide in Guyana.  Robert’s mother and 4 siblings all died in that horrific event.  I actually stumbled on Robert’s story looking into some information I encountered about Jim Jones adopting children.

Jim Jones was a charismatic white man who preached racial equality and socialism.  When he moved his followers to the South American jungles of Guyana, which is a multiracial country, he planned to build what he called a “rainbow utopia.”  When Robert was 10 years old and living in Hayward CA with his adoptive parents, they had to break the news to him that his mother had died in the sad tragedy.  His birth mother, Agnes Bishop Jones, was the eldest adopted child of Jim Jones and his wife, Marceline.

Robert turned out to be a fine man.  He is employed as a park ranger in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a firefighter in the summer. He also volunteers at his church and labor union.  For years, Robert shut the door on his family connection to Jonestown.  Eventually though he became consumed by questions about why he’s helpful, why he’s tall, why his skin is olive and why his eyes are clear-blue.  He didn’t want to replace his adoptive parents, who he says loved and raised him. But he says there was “something about that biological connection” that he was desperate to experience.  He wanted to know more about his mother, Agnes, and about her life in the Temple. One big question that nagged him: Why wasn’t he with her and his siblings on that fateful day?

Since both his mother, Agnes, and Robert were adopted, it made searching for blood relatives that much harder. The only biological child of Jim and Marceline Jones, Stephan Jones, who survived the 1978 tragedy because he was on the other side of the small South American country playing basketball when his father’s suicide order came down.  He was 19 years old at the time and had spent his entire life in the Temple.

Robert and Stephan met in person in 2014 at a reunion of Jonestown survivors, friends and families in San Diego.  People there began asking questions about Robert’s claim that Agnes had put him up for adoption. They believed him, but it raised a red flag because Temple members didn’t put their children up for adoption to outsiders.  Some people at the reunion began to speculate that perhaps Jim Jones was Robert’s biological father and he just wanted to “make that go away” by putting him up for adoption.  DNA testing by Stephan proved that Robert was not Jim Jones’ son.  That was actually a relief even though it did not answer his identity questions.

Eventually, DNA led Robert to his father, Thomas LaBeff who was born in Smackover Arkansas in 1935 (same year my dad was born). He now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  He is a recording artist for Columbia Records under the name Sleepy LaBeef.  His music is a mix of American roots music – blues, country and rockabilly.  The only explanation for Agnes and Sleepy getting together was that she was one of the fans taht would come backstage to meet the musicians.  Sleepy admits, “sometimes we were not as responsible as we should have been … and so things happened.”  Best guess was a Nashville night club, possibly Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge or The Honey Club.

Though they look a lot alike they are very different people.  He’s a Democrat and they are all Republicans.  They’re Pentecostal and he’s not.  But he has been warmly welcomed and has “family” now.  Of course, he’s thankful to Agnes for giving birth to him in the first place and understandably thankful she let him go.  Thanks to being given up for adoption, he can tell the rest of that story of how he is a “rock ‘n’ roll baby.”  He is also at peace now.

Married Men !!

A woman asked for advice regarding this situation –

Advice needed for revealing an unplanned pregnancy with a married man at the worst time in your life, and facing judgment and disappointment from others. Is it better to get it over with or hide as long as possible? I know it was wrong, and I deserve the judgment thrown my way.

The good news is that this woman is determined to parent her child.

I responded with this –

I would never say you “deserve” any ill effects. I do not know the entire story. My parents were both adopted. My dad’s mother was unwed. She had an affair with a much older man who was an immigrant, not yet naturalized though he did become a citizen later on. I doubt she knew he was married when she first started seeing him. In my younger days the same situation (though not a pregnancy) happened to me. His disloyalty to his marriage was entirely 100% his issue as far as I am concerned in EVERY case of this.

I do NOT recommend my self-sufficient grandmother’s solution to you. She went to a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers. She never told my dad’s father. I do share this with you because since I discovered who that man was (something I never thought was going to be possible since he was un-named but my wonderful grandmother left me breadcrumbs in her photo album which a cousin I discovered happily shared with me) – my dad was so very much like him – in appearance and interests. What good friends they might have been. It is a sadness for my own self that they never had the chance.

I wish you good resolutions. My heart’s mind will hold you gently for the best outcome. HUGS !!

Another person responded – People are going to judge no matter what. So do whatever gives you less stress and more peace.  I would encourage you to tell him so you at least figure out where he’s at and don’t have to guess or wonder.

Someone else added – The father should know about his child, but I don’t see why anybody else has to know who the father is.

And another reminded her – He deserves to know. But you have the ultimate decision. Don’t let him talk you out of keeping the baby or into adoption. He can chose not to parent the child.

Someone else added – I would recommend disclosing it to those who need to know (in this case, the father). The fear of all the possible reactions can be debilitating. Better to just be upfront and tell him. It isn’t really other people’s business to know who the father is unless you wish to disclose it. I don’t see why you need to volunteer his marital status to your friends and family. Your child has a right to know who his/her father is. Acquaintances do not.

My favorite was what this woman shared – This is me! I told my baby daddy. I have a wonderful 16 year old whose father decided he would be involved about 7 years ago. I have been open and honest about his beginnings and have no shame. People will think what they will and I can’t control that. My son is an honor student, lettered in lacrosse in 9th grade and plays high school hockey. I’m bursting with pride about this kid! Have your baby and celebrate your child loud and proud!

Family Contact Matters

I understand this as the child of two adoptees.  The adoptions for both of my parents were closed and my parents both died knowing very little about their origins or the details behind why they ended up adopted.  Since their deaths, I have been able to recover a lot of my rightful family history.  I now know of genetic relatives for each of the four grandparents.  It has been quite a journey.  It wasn’t easy (though maybe easier for me due to our unique circumstances than for many) and it required persistence and determination to see it through.

Certainly DNA testing and the two major matching sites – Ancestry as well as 23 and Me – were instrumental to my success.  Since the genetic relations I was coming into first contact with had no prior knowledge of me and I am well over 60 years old, seeing the DNA truth that I was related to them, I believe it mattered.  It is hard to refute when it is right there clear and certain.

My mom had four living half-siblings on her father’s side when she was born.  One died young of a sudden heart failure.  I barely missed getting to meet my mom’s youngest half-sister by only a few months.  I was lucky to connect with her daughter who had all of her mom’s photo albums and possession of a lot of family history, including written accounts.  One afternoon with her and I felt like I had lived my Moore family’s history.  The family photos I now have digital copies of are precious treasures.

Though my Stark family was the first I became aware of and within a month, I had visited the graves of my grandmother and her parents east of Memphis in Eads Tennessee, those living descendants were the last I finally made a good strong connection with.  The reality is that I simply can’t recover 6 decades of not living with the usual family interactions with my true genetic relatives.  All I can do is try and build relationships with whatever time each of us has left.  The personal memories of my grandmother that my mom’s cousins possessed (she was our favorite aunt, they said) made her come alive for me.

The Salvation Army was somewhat forthcoming with information about my father’s birth at one of their homes for unwed mothers in the San Diego California area just walking distance from the beach and ocean.  They were able to give me my father’s full name and the missing piece of how he got from San Diego to El Paso Texas where he was ultimately adopted.  Once I knew my grandmother’s first married name (born Hempstead including my dad, later Barnes, Timm at death) and a cousin did 23 and Me, my discoveries were off and running.  Her mother, my dad’s youngest half-sibling, was living only 90 miles away from him when he died.  Mores the pity.

I thought I’d never know who my dad’s father was since his mother was unwed but the next cousin I met who I share a grandmother with had her photo albums and she left us a breadcrumb.  Clearly she had no doubt who my dad’s father was.  His father, Rasmus Martin Hansen, was an immigrant, not yet a citizen, and married to a much older woman.  So, he probably never knew he was a father and that’s a pity because I do believe my dad and his dad would have been great friends.

I now also have contact with my Danish grandfather’s genetic relatives.  If it had not been for the pandemic, they would have had their annual reunion there in Denmark.  I haven’t heard but I would not be surprised to know it is postponed.  My relative (who I share a great-grandfather with – my dad being the only child of my grandfather) planned to make the Danish relatives aware of me.

To anyone who thinks not knowing who your true relatives are – if the adoptions were more or less good enough, happy enough and loving enough – I am here to tell you that not knowing anything about your family (including medical history) and being cut off from the people you are actually genetically related to DOES matter.  Adoption records should be UNSEALED for ALL adult adoptees at their request.  Sadly over half of these United States still withhold that information.  I know from experience as I encountered this problem in Virginia, Arizona and California.  If my mom’s adoption had not been connected to the Georgia Tann, Tennessee Children’s Home Society baby stealing and selling scandal, I would not have gotten my first breakthrough.

Falsified Birth Certificates

This was the only birth certificate my dad knew as the original.  Yet another one was created when he was 8 years old when his adoptive mother re-married following a divorce.

Neither of the two certificates were “true” as to who my dad was born to.  The attending physician’s location was actually a clue but I didn’t know that until I received some additional information from the Salvation Army through whom he was adopted in El Paso Texas.

My dad’s name at birth was Arthur Martin Hempstead.  He was given his mother’s surname as she was unwed.  I believe his father, a married man, Danish immigrant and not yet a citizen never even knew of my dad’s existence.  More’s the pity – they would have gone fishing together.

We did always know he had been born in San Diego.  Ocean Beach would have been more accurate.  He was born at the Door of Hope home for unwed mothers on Voltaire walking distance from the ocean’s shore.

This falsifying the birth certificate to make it appear that an adoptee was born to someone they were not born to was common in the 1930s when each of my parents were adopted.  Actually, to my knowledge it is still common practice – though reform activists would desire that to change.

When a child is adopted, their origins are falsified, they are given a new name and the identity of their parents becomes the names of the couple who adopted them.

Can you imagine being forced to live a lie all your life ?