With the arrival of March, came thoughts about my father. He was an adoptee, as was my mother. Like my mom, he never knew anything about his familial origins. When he died, he had a half-sister living only 90 miles away who could have told him so much about his birth mother. Sadly, he never wanted to know and counseled my mom not to go searching that it might be like opening a can of worms – fisherman that he was all of his life.
My dad was sociable and outgoing which had me reflecting on my dad’s own father – Rasmus Martin Hansen, who was born in Denmark and immigrated to the US in the 1920s. He was a married man having an affair at the time my dad’s mother conceived him. It does not appear that he ever knew he had a son and my dad was the only child he ever fathered (as far as is known LOL). What I know of him is that he was also outgoing and sociable. He was the dock master at a yacht club in San Diego until his untimely death from a heart attack while driving home. He had many celebrity friends who even came for his funeral.
So, my dad comes by his fisherman genes honestly by way of this other fisherman who was his father. My dad is also a Pisces (as was his father) and was born just a few steps away from the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. He just was as he was conceived and born to be. He passed away February 3 2016. I do miss him dearly.
While he could be a lot of fun as a father – gave me a dirt bike to ride when I was still a school girls and took us for rides in his dune buggy in the desert sandhills of El Paso Texas where we grew up – he could also be infuriating and at times when I was growing up, truly terrifying (while never laying a hand on us). Even so, though I did get angry at him and would give him a piece of my mind quite honestly on many occasions, it never diminished a deep love I had for him. After all, when my unwed teenage mother turned up pregnant with me – he did not abandon us.
His birthday is so close to St Patrick’s Day that I have never forgotten it and so he was given the middle name of Patrick when he was adopted (his birth name was Arthur Martin Hempstead – the first a family name, the middle his dad’s name and the surname, his unmarried mother’s surname). Interestingly, I have learned that my Grandfather Rasmus’ birthday is very close (March 10th) to my dad’s and so, I think of both of them with the arrival of March.
I feel a kinship with this man’s DNA Roots journey. In fact, my family just finished watching the original Roots series based on the book by Alex Haley. I had my own roots journey and like this man, Tim Curran, 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA did help me on my way only I didn’t leave the US in search of family – yet. I’d love to travel to Denmark – from where my paternal grandfather immigrated to the US.
Tim’s story comes to me by way of CNN Travel. LINK>I used DNA analysis to find my birth family and it sent me across three continents. California connects Tim’s story to mine and like me, he found the impenetrable walls of sealed records and tight-lipped officials in that state. Only he was born in 1961 and my dad was born there in 1935. From what I know of my own father’s story, this part of Tim’s story seems to be very similar – “On opposite sides of the world, they had both butted heads with difficult parents and left home at the first opportunity. They both wound up in one of the most free-thinking places on Earth: San Francisco.” On my paternal side, it was San Diego.
I don’t think my paternal grandfather actually butted heads in his family but opportunities in that country for siblings other than the first born were limited. My grandfather was the 5th of 10 children and several of his siblings had already migrated to the US – mostly into the Illinois and Wisconsin areas. My grandfather chose to take a train from NYC, where he landed, and on that train met a woman, much older than him and a private duty nurse, who agreed to marry him. It was mostly a marriage of convenience. When we don’t really know the accurate story, like Tim, I filled in the gaps. I suspect he may have eaten dinners, while his wife was on duty with some person, at the restaurant on the beach where my grandmother was employed by her aunt and uncle. She had a truly evil step-mother and so yes, she fled them and refused to return to Asheville North Carolina, after they traveled to visit her grandfather in California.
Like Tim, I have found my mother’s and father’s families welcoming me – even though they hardly, if even, knew I existed before I made contact. Some were vaguely aware that one or the other of my grandmothers had given a child up for adoption but really didn’t know any more than that. Sadly, it does not appear that my grandfather ever knew he had a son, being the married man having an affair with a much younger woman. But resourceful as she was, she simply handled it ending up employed by the Salvation Army after giving birth in one of their homes for unwed mothers.
Back to Tim’s story (which you can read in full at the LINK at the top of this blog) – his father worked as floor installer in the city’s North Beach neighborhood — where she was a cocktail waitress and dancer. I pictured them meeting while he installed floors in a nightclub where she was working. By all accounts, it must have been a very brief affair. My father was living with a girlfriend, and my mother’s sister says she never once heard my mother discuss my father in any way. Other than the sister and her mother, no one else in her family was told she was pregnant. (I was lucky enough that my grandmother had a photo album with a head shot and the name of my grandfather on the back.) My father’s family says they are 100% certain he was never told. (And my Danish relatives likewise, never knew my grandfather had a son.)
Tim has a large Moroccan family who own a set of neighboring summer homes just yards from the beach. The houses are built on property his grandfather bought nearly a century ago (when the land was thought to be worthless). It is a place where they go to escape the summer heat of Casablanca. In that family, he was able to recognize that many of their personality traits and quirks – how boisterous, curious and sly they are – just like he was as well. When I met a cousin on my paternal line, her appearance could have made her my youngest sister’s twin. That obvious physical appearance connection between our families seems to have mattered greatly to her.
Touring the country of Morocco, the sites he saw were beautiful and awe-inspiring, alien yet weirdly familiar. He experienced the country in a unique and very personal way thanks to his DNA journey: as a son just one generation removed from his father’s homeland. Though Alex Haley was further removed from his own African roots, it must have been deeply emotional to experience the native culture, which was so different from the modern life in the United States that he became a successful author in.
Like Tim, I bravely went looking. I was not content with the not knowing that my parents died with. I had the wherewithall to seek answers and with determination found success. Just as Tim and Alex both did. It is a journey well worth taking and many have written about similar adoptee root journeys that they have taken. Not every effort succeeds. Tim’s parents were both deceased and my grandparents were all deceased. For Alex, the stories lived on, passed down orally from one generation to the next.