Late Discoveries

This is not as uncommon as you might believe. There are people who believe that someone is their original parent all of their lives, and suddenly, usually because someone in their family has died, they learn the truth. Today’s story is one of those . . .

My grandmother just passed away a few days ago. Yesterday my mother (grandmother’s oldest of six kids) gets a call from one of the sisters who has been taking care of things (the mother is in Colorado, sister and grandmother are in Hawaii). The sister tells my mother that my grandmother was married to another man, prior to marrying the man who we all thought was my mother’s dad.

The first husband was my mother’s actual biological father. He abandoned my grandmother, leaving her with my mom and disappeared. So the ‘grandfather ‘ we always knew, offered to marry my grandmother and tell everyone that my mom was his oldest daughter. They got married and moved to Germany. They told everyone that my mom was his daughter. And this was my mom’s life.

Somehow my mom, lived into her 60’s without ever needing a copy of her birth certificate….honestly, which I am not sure how…but yeah. Now, she needs her birth certificate and asks her mother if she has it….her mom tells her that the hospital had burned down or flooded and all the records were destroyed….

Somehow after going back and forth, my mom managed to get a copy of her birth certificate…which had what she thought was the wrong name on it. It had my great grandmother’s last name on it, my grandmother’s ‘maiden’ name….which coincidentally turns out to be also the last name of her biological father. (Apparently grandmother married a step brother? Maybe. No actual biological relationship though….because his father was not my grandmother’s father and his mother was not her mother.) My mom has a fit and somehow manages to get her birth certificate changed to my grandfather’s last name….all because that is who she has always thought she was.

Now she is questioning everything. Apparently she is not who she thought she was. Her birth certificate should not have my grandfather’s name on it. She wants to know if she is LEGALLY married to my dad…they have been ‘married’ for over 50 years.

But of course – Yes, she is legally married to the woman’s dad because she legally used her legal name when filing for her marriage certificate. Officials do ask for information on the parents, but that is to streamline county record keeping and would not make the marriage certificate null and void. The mom answered those questions to the best of her ability with the knowledge she had, she did not commit fraud and her marriage is valid.

 It is shocking to hear something like this. It takes a while to adjust and get through the emotions that any person would feel when presented with such unexpected information. It is not unusual in these kinds of circumstances to find out after one’s mother has passed. In this case, the mom at the age of 70….this grandmother would have been 92, but she passed a few days before her birthday. It is life changing and learning this is like having the rug pulled out from a person.

The sister finding out was accidental. There are three sisters. The father told the second sister in 1984 after he had been drinking too much…and she told everyone but the mother and a third sister. The third sister found out and crying, very upset, told the mother. She only told her because the second sister was threatening to tell the mother but not a nice way. Sadly, the family is a bit horrible and not terribly close.

Feeling Out Of Place

Sometimes it happens when an adoptee goes into reunion with their original family that they suddenly become aware that the reality of really seeing the people one is genetically related to makes the adoptee realize their adoptive family are truly the genetic strangers they are.  It can be very confusing and emotional for the adoptee.

An adoptee might notice – I feel so different than this adoptive family I have been made a part of.

An adoptee may honestly love the people in their adoptive family and still feel like (after coming into physical contact with genetic family) a stark spotlight has been shone on the differences between the adoptee and that adoptive family.

Meeting the genetic family cold make a lot of foggy feelings crystal clear.  For an adoptee, meeting these people can be utterly life changing.

It may be that the adoptee will lay their head on their mothers lap and cry while she strokes their hair on that first day of meeting. The adoptee may feel like they could trust her like no one else ever present in their life.  The adoptee may feel a love they had never felt before.  Such is the true mother/child bond.

An adoptee may feel  a deep cellular connection with genetic family that they don’t experience with their adoptive family. One adult adoptee admitted that – “When I have a very real problem, my first mother is often the first person I go to. For me, the reason I do this is because she understands better than most other people the way I think and the way my mind works. We’re very alike and being very alike means she can help me solve my problems better than my adoptive mother, who doesn’t think like I do at all.”

An adoptee may wrestle with guilt feelings about not feeling a sense of belonging to their adopted family.  It can be jarring for an adoptee to find people who are so much like them. That may also be the moment they realize what they have been missing all the years they spent in their adoptive family.  It may become clear how unlike their adoptive family they actually are.  It may only happen when they meet their genetic parents and siblings.

In the nature verses nurture debate, nature can be the undeniable winner in adoption circumstances – though it takes a reunion – and it may take decades before this awareness fully impacts the adoptee.