When I was reunited with my birth-mother, some 19+ years ago, she told me who my birth-father was, and gave me enough information to find him, over 1000 miles away from me, within a few more months. I called him on the phone, and by my dropping my birth-mother’s name, he knew immediately who I was, and my connection to him.
Our relationship has been friendly, although I wouldn’t characterize it as ‘close’. Certainly, I don’t view him as having paid the same kind of ‘price’ for my existence as my birth-mother did. He had his fun, and the rest was up to her. And in fact, when her father sued him, to cover her medical expenses, he treated her pretty shabbily; and I’ll leave it at that. So, yeah – his role in my coming-to-be was somewhat less than ‘heroic’.
And, on a more ‘existential’ level, I wasn’t in the market for someone to fill the role of ‘father’ in my life. ‘Mother’ is a very earthy, physical relationship – I lived for nine months in my birth-mother’s womb, and drew my sustenance from her body. And, in the current day and age (although not to the same degree when I was conceived and born), her own choice brought me to the day of my birth, and into my life ‘on the outside’. But ‘father’ is a much more ‘relational’ role in a child’s life, and that role had long since been filled in my life. My history with mothers had been somewhat checkered, but my dad had been the one, solid constant in my life. So, when my birth-father started to relate to me like his ‘long-lost son’, I recoiled from that, just a bit. I wasn’t looking for ‘another father’; I was only looking for insight into where, and who, I’d come from. I was happy to know and relate to him as my birth-father, and to enjoy the obvious genetic connection that we share (he’s a Jeopardy! freak, just like me), but the role of ‘father’ was already filled. Which, I think, hurt him, but it is what it is. I regret that he was hurt, but I don’t know how I could have done it differently.
Along with my birth-father, I also found two half-sisters, my birth-father’s daughters by his first wife (my birth-mother, you may recall, had an adopted daughter, but no other ‘children of her womb’, who would have been ‘genetically’ related to me). And my relationships with my half-sisters have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire search/reunion phenomenon.
My birth-father gave me the names of my sisters, and told me how to get in touch with them. I called the older one (call her Martha) first; we had a real nice conversation. I think it amused her a great deal to learn about her father’s ‘wild oats’. She told me that, in her teens, her dad had gotten drunk and told her and her sister that they had a brother, but he didn’t know where the brother was. Which she’d never known what to think of, but now, it seemed, her dad’s drunken ramblings had been true.
Martha was planning to be in Michigan, visiting relatives, within a couple months, and so we planned for her to visit us while she was here. The day came, and she called us as she was leaving her relatives’ house, saying, “We’ll be there in about an hour.” Something about how she said it struck me as odd, and as I hung up the phone, I turned to Molly and said, “I think Martha is a lesbian.” It was nothing specific, just an impression from what she’d said, and something about how she’d said it.
Not in the least that we wouldn’t have wanted to meet her; she was (and is) my sister, and I am happy for our connection, regardless of anything else. Still, we had an hour to wrap our minds around the possibility. Which was probably merciful, because it’s hard to know what our response would have been if we’d been blind-sided. Because when Martha arrived, with her partner, Laura, it was clear that my impressions had been accurate. It wasn’t so much the short hair – I’ve known lots of very heterosexual women who wore their hair short – but the studded black-leather outfit she wore fairly shouted her, uh, sexual preference. And I had to smile wryly to myself, realizing that she was intent on finding out, right up front, what our attitude to her ‘leanings’ was gonna be.
We had a really nice visit. She remarked, on seeing my face, that her dad could hardly deny me if he wanted to. We took a walk around our neighborhood, and at one point, Martha, walking behind me, remarked, “You’re definitely one of us – you got no ass at all.” I’d never particularly been accustomed to women talking about my ass, but it gave me a certain warm feeling that my half-sister was pointing out the marks of our genetic related-ness. At one point, 1F, who was about eight or nine at the time, noticed that Martha and Laura were wearing matching rings, and she asked them, “Are you married?” While I tried to clap my hand over her mouth, Martha and Laura just laughed, and said no, they weren’t married.
We got together with Martha a couple more times in the years following that, but after a certain point, she moved away from the town where her father lived, to another state, several hundred miles away, and stopped responding to our letters or phone calls. I don’t know if, or how, we offended her, but she also cut off contact with her father and split up with Laura around the same time, so it was evidently a time of some turmoil in her life.
I called my other sister (call her Janet) a few weeks after I called Martha. She was a single mother of a son, who was between 2F and 3M in age. Our relationship was slower to warm up, but over time, it has become a very warm relationship. In all sorts of ways, right down to our favorite books, and that we both like to ride bicycles, we just ‘clicked’ with each other, in ways similar to what I’d experienced with my birth-mother. And her son was, in a lot of ways, more like me than my own kids were. Which I found very ironically amusing.
Janet came to visit us at our house once, which was again, a very nice visit, although it came to a rather abrupt end when 3M and 4M got into a fight, resulting in me having to take 4M to the emergency room, after he punched a window in proxy for his brother.
Janet and I still talk on the phone a couple times a year, and whenever we do, neither of us wants to put the phone down. There is just something delicious about the connection with a genetic sibling that you just ‘get’ on some intrinsic level.
So, that completes the picture of my birth-family, from my birth-father’s side. His family – hard-drinking Southerners, originally from Mississippi – could hardly be more diametrically different from my birth-mother’s family of staid, German-Lutheran farmers. A marriage between the two of them would have been difficult on multiple levels. So, on the whole, it’s probably God’s mercy that I was adopted. But it has been very rich to get a glimpse at where my DNA has been, and what kinds of people came together, which resulted in me.