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Tuesday, 4 September 2018 / Co. Tipperary, Ireland

Found



I've written on here before about adoption, about how it feels to be an adult adoptee, 'long lost' and searching, wondering about my origins and my family.  If you're into these kind of stories pop over here and have a read.

 I was adopted a week after birth by my lovely mum and dad, both in the Heavenworlds now.
My adoptive dad's uncle's step-son's wife (seriously!) worked briefly with my birth mother before I was born. My parents had been refused permission to adopt via the local authority because they were too old, but a 'private' adoption was possible via this route. I did trace this woman after my parents' death, but she deepened the mystery of how my mother was connected to my great uncle by saying that she had lost contact with my mother five months before I was born, which was before my mother knew that my father wasn't going to, well, be a father. The only information I had about my mother was her name and a north London address.

The story I never dared to dream that I'd be writing, was the one about how at age 54 I went from lost to found one May evening in 2019.

I'd been in my new job two days, and at the end of a long day shift ( 7.30am to 8pm) Dave had picked me up, both of us tired and hungry.  We'd gone food shopping, tried unsuccessfully to collect the train ticket Dave had ordered for himself for the next day and managed to fit in a few cross words with each other before dragging the weekly shop through the front door.

We were unpacking the shopping, and boiling the kettle in the twilit kitchen when I decided to check my phone now that we were home and in range of WiFi.  It was in May, right around the time when GDPR emails were flying in and being deleted by one flick of my right thumb as quickly as they arrived. I was scrolling through a batch, feeling fried from the long day at my new job and in dire need of rehydration and food, and I very nearly deleted the email headed 'Adoption Contact Register, Possible Match'.

 About 12 or 13 years ago, I registered myself on the government's' Adoption Contact Register, leaving details of my birth name, place, date, mother's name, and addresses and any known information.  Being on this register gave me the permission I felt I needed to release myself from the pressure of searching that adopted people so often feel.  As time presses on, this pressure for me became more intense, but I found that the act of searching very emotionally draining, thus creating a sense of impasse. I figured that I'd done as much searching as I could handle, and that by being on the register I'd left a trail, and a door open to being found, and if it was meant to be, it would be.

 And it was.

The first words to hit me on opening the email were 'birth mother...deceased'.  What a way to find out that the mother you've longed to see for 54 years has passed away, and taken that possibility away with her for ever. And yet the truth of it resonated in my bones as if I'd felt the shock-waves of her passing all those years ago.  Why wouldn't I...the cells of mine that I left with her would have lived in her body until she died.

After that, the words: 'I think this person could be my sister.'

 Boom. Found!

I fired off an email immediately, and within 10 minutes I was speaking to my younger brother.  From the dates and scant information that I had, there was no doubt that we were siblings.  He had a wealth of information for me about our mother, her husband and our little sister, all of whom he met shortly before our mother's death in 2001.  He had even met the man who may be our father, also deceased.

It was a joy to be found, and a joy to discover that I am a sister.

Navigating the grieving process for people who passed before we could meet remains a journey of emotion that doesn't have a map.

There's a huge tangle of people, events and places.  People who are still secret, including me and my brother. Other siblings, one secret, and the only one everyone knew and adored, has passed.  There was information, but it brings more questions than will ever be answered now that the only person who could, has taken that knowledge to her grave.  There are people related to our mother, but I am a complete surprise to them.  They are unfailingly sweet about this, but it's tough.

And there's a small village in Tipperary, where my mother and her siblings grew up.  I always said that if I knew where to go in Ireland, I'd go. Six weeks later, we were on a plane to Dublin.

There's so much to this, and I'm feeling my way each day into this new situation, into being someone's sister.  Maybe one day I'll write some more about it, but for now I'm relishing the feeling of the weight of the burden of searching having rolled away, and the hope that I'll be reuniting with the one who changed me from lost to found, in one evening.

ONE YEAR LATER:

One year on and I have spoken once more to my mother's husband, written to him and we have exchanged photographs.  I have photographs of my mother, my little sister and their graves. This is epic for me.  He didn't want me to contact the family in Ireland, and to this day I'm not really clear precisely why, but he was insistent. In the heat of the moment I reassured him that I wouldn't go searching in Ireland, but it wasn't a promise I could keep. I hope he isn't upset with me because I'd love to meet and I would love to visit their graves.  I can't keep pressing the subject because he's not well.

 I did contact my mother's sister, and once again felt the indescribable emotion that comes from confessing that I exist.  So many years of work mean that I have released shame, but the action of introducing myself to my biological family made me sail closer to those rocks than I've been in a while.  We planned to meet, but it didn't happen.

I've spoken to my brother a few more times, and I email every few months.  Sometimes he replies.  Despite the passage of twelve months, we haven't met.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for the connection with all these people, but it carries with it the wound of separation, which of course it will.  We are close biological family, and strangers, all at once.  Secrets, lies, pain, sorrow and shame are at the root of our relationship, and it's probably hard for any of us to know how to forge forward with it.  Like I said, it's a journey across a terrain which has no map.  Despite this,the overriding emotions I choose to associate with this are joyous release, gratitude and love. And hope. I hope that one day, I'll be updating this post with more news.


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