Updated: Mar 30, 2020
A couple years ago, I got a call from my older brother Dylan. He left a voice mail, "Hey Kenz, when you get this please call." Well that was rather odd, 1. Dylan NEVER leaves voicemails 2. he sounded a little, off. I called him back and he said, "Kenz, I didn't know who else to go to..." interrupting him, " What's wrong? Did something happen?" When your older wiser brother turns to you in such a vague way you wonder what is going on. Naturally I was worried...
This is when he began into his story. "Know how I'm on ancestry.com to find out my lineage/heritage? How it got it for Dad too? Well you can message people through it and connect, and some guy just messaged me and he thinks we are cousins..."
He went into more detail and shared with me what he knew to that point. Then he asked a series of questions:
- Do you ever think about your biological family?
M: Yes. Always have. In fact sometimes I imagine I was born into the mafia and for my protection was put up for adoption (we both laughed).
- Do you think Mom and Dad would be cool about it? Would it upset them?
M: Ummm YES they are going to be cool with it. Are you serious? No it won't upset them.
- Wait, have you talked to them about this before? You didn't tell me about it? (I'll admit he seemed disappointed I didn't go to him about it... not sure if he or not but it seemed that way). M: Yes, lots on and off through the years. Do you remember my sweet sixteen Dylan? I asked for donations to Adoptions Together instead of asking for gifts. Then I delivered it to Janice and got to ask some questions starting then... Mom knew I've always been curious.
- Should I try to connect? I'm so overwhelmed, its such a weird feeling - I don't know how to describe it. It's surreal. I wasn't even looking for them...
M: Overwhelmed? This is AMAZING Dylan! I'm so excited for you especially since I've always wondered what it would be like!
(In reflection... boy I had no idea what it would be like, but now I know exactly what he meant.)
- When should I tell Mom and Dad? How?
M: Whenever and however it feels right.
We both talked about how happy we were to have each other to talk to about being adopting and the overwhelming feeling it is. He thanked me for talking and said I was the only person who would understand and he was glad it was me. I was so touched. '
I didn't hear more than that phone call until the day we celebrated Father's Day, now three years ago. Dylan decided with the development of what he had learned to share with the whole family. He talked about his birth mother (Dana), tante Linda, his many half siblings. He shared little stories or bits about each of them, having been in conversation with many of them. Talking about how they connected, how many of them there are, about where they are now and so much else. Dylan talked about going out West to meet some of them and he was so excited to share. He brought a book that was written by a relative of his (not sure which off hand) about their time in Japan. It was amazing. And naturally, I wanted to know more too. Mom and Dad added a piece of information we didn't know... part of the reason they decided to adopt me after loosing Catherine was because his birth mother and my birth father shared the same name... Dana. It was wild, I was so curious. I wanted to know more. Dylan shared and the conversation was still going around, I asked my Mom is she knew anything about my birth parents beyond what I knew. She said, its a story for another time.
After everyone else left, Mom sat me down and told me about what she knew. She told me that my birth parents had an affair and that she had to make a very difficult decision, felt putting you up for adoption would be best, knowing you'd have a family. She told me that my birth father really wasn't in love with the idea of giving me up but knew he couldn't raise me on his own and ultimately agreed, but was quite saddened. Then she took me down to the filing cabinet with the adoption papers, Dylan's, Catherine's, and mine. She couldn't quite remember my birth mother's name but we found her hospital bracelet from when I was born in the folder and it had her full name, address etc. I came across a 1st Birthday card from JoEllen and Dana with a note saying they'd always love me and that my Mom and Dad had agreed to give me items as they felt I was ready. There was apparently a necklace that he gave me that he wore to match. My parents and I couldn't figure out if I had it and what it looked like - I was so bummed. From what I could tell, Dana really wanted me in his life and really struggled. I asked what else they might have sent, she said that shirt growing up you wore to shreds (is somewhere hidden and stored away from you) is painted by him. That the red jewelry box that I so loved growing up was from him... I had always thought it was from my Grandmama who loved giving me music boxes. I ran upstairs and grabbed it, I had recently cleaned out the room and had put it in the giveaway pile.... I felt guilty but Mom reassured me that it never would have made it out of the house. Then Dad joined, claiming we had one of Dana's paintings... Mom disagreed and Dad went looking but couldn't find it. But I didn't care, I was so overwhelmed. Mom did sit me down before I left and started to cry, I didn't know what was going to come out of her mouth. She said I never met your birth parents, but I know it wasn't an easy decision for either of them. I heard much more about your birth father and knew this day would come... through tears she told me that when I was about 11 years old, my birth father died. She didn't know how but knew from what Janice shared that he was very troubled when they gave you up. I teared up a little, but snapped out of it. How was I allowed to cry - I literally barely knew anything about him?
I drove home and the song "Wait" by M83 came on.
And for whatever reason, I cried all the way home. As if I had known him all along, as if I could feel his presence - I cried. It was really late and also knew I'd be taking Sunrise Yoga for the Solstice the next morning. I got little sleep that night for a number of reasons. I remember being in a fog... present but not as focused as normal. Yoga with Jeramie Vaine was a treat and pleasure as always and I had the pleasure of sharing with him my news.
He just hugged me and commented on how overwhelmed I must be... I was. But Vaine has this way of bringing ease and comfort to those he is surrounded by. I was so grateful for our morning class, though foggier than I wanted to be, I knew I was in the right place. This picture of the sunrise above was exactly what we saw as we went through class. It was breath taking and between that and the seemingly senseless tears from the night before, the calm of the water and the bliss of moving meditation - I felt at home and at ease. But I always did when I was at CapitalSUP. I was... well I am still... so blessed to be a part of this community. It's another home for me and that morning I was given that warm hug of the present day on Spa Creek.
Later that day, Brian could tell something was off from the minute I got off the water, not terrible just funky. He too held me tight and asked what was wrong. I told him everything I knew. He didn't know how to help but him holding me and just letting me feel all the feels helped. He always did know how to help even if he didn't feel like he was doing much.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months and months to over two years. It still popped into mind but wasn't the forefront thought like it had been and I was back into my little world of dance, paddling, family, friends, and adventure. Not that I had forgotten about it, but I wasn't as pressed to know all the details quite yet. I knew I wanted to look but I wasn't in a rush. When Brian ended things with me, I started thinking about things that had happened over the years together, about moments I didn't give as much time to, about all things girls find a way overthink and then one night... I was in my room cleaning to keep from thinking about him, staying focused, doing a cleaning meditation of sorts as I was really reconnecting with my reading, my meditation, and my yoga practice physical and spiritual. I was reading books on faith and just going through the process of finding myself, not that I was lost per say, just doing some soul searching, finding new paths, new passions, diving further into the passions I have. As I was deep cleaning, I lifted the red jewelry box to dust off and wipe it down when it hit me... I never did anything with that information I had learned. I was no less curious to know them than before, if anything I was in exactly the right place to go looking, I was setting on this self discovery mission, I was dancing again, I was being spontaneous and free. I was being with loved ones, reconnecting with myself and friends. Why not connect with my beginnings?
I called and told my Mom, asked at least three different times if she and Dad would be okay with me looking for them to which she responded, "Mackenzie, this is part of you. A big part of you. Your father and I knew there might be a day that this would be on you and our adopted kids minds, and agreed it was important to be by your side as much as you want if you decided to. When we adopted you guys, we agreed that it was something we'd support you guys in. We meant it. Of course its okay, and no it doesn't make us feel replaced or sad. I just want you to keep in mind, what I know and shared might not be accurate and they might not be as excited about you as you are them, not to hurt you, but it might be sensitive for them to hear from you. You really don't know how reconnecting will be received, obviously worth trying but keep a level head. But Dad and I support whatever you decide."
That night I wrote up my email to Janice at Adoptions Together asking for a meeting to talk. She was quick to respond and we set up a time to meet. I went in and asked lots of questions, shared WAY more than I ever dreamed of sharing, got lots of new information about Dana (she kept in close contact with him for years after I was born). She didn't know much about Joellen as they didn't keep in touch but had lots to share about what she knew. It was a really nice time talking to her, she knew answers, was an incredible listener. She shared how special my family was to her and how she will never forget the day I was born and our family's case. I called my mom afterwards and she laughed, "Mackenzie, Janice really is the best. But it also helps that she's in social work, she listens all the time. But our family did come to her at a very specific point in her career, we were all special to each other." During that meeting, Janice talked a lot about Dana, how close they were, how much he loved me and how attached he was. She talked about how she knew and helped him and mentioned that after his death, his sister had reached out saying that if I ever came looking that they'd be excited to meet. I then asked what the steps for finding a birth family would be and she recommended writing letters to Joellen and Dana's family. So when I left, I knew that would be the next step. It look me a lot longer to write those letters that I expected.intended. I sat down a week after the meeting and didn't get too far in my drafts. Then I gave it some time... too much time. I didn't actually writing them until just before thanksgiving. At first, I thought writing Joellen's would be more difficult but with my favorite holiday just around the corner, it came rather naturally. I was pleased with my final draft, got my paper out and using my attempt at good handwriting put the words on paper. Now the easy letter.... Dana's family.... OK BACKFIRE.... not easier. I couldn't ask questions and say thank you the same way that I could with Joellen. It seemed more distant and I wanted that same personal touch but it was hard to write to people that were directly involved in my birth/adoption. I did manage to finish writing it and felt quite good about it - I told them of my family and how blessed I am and how even still I'd like to know them. Letters completed November 2017. Letters Delivered to Janice... January 16, 2018.
The next step was out of my hands, Janice had to find them and see how they would react. Now it was a waiting game. Just days before I delivered the letters, Dad did indeed find Dana's lighthouse painting and boy is it beautiful. I sent a picture of it to Janice and she did say how much he loved the water and how water scenes and lighthouses were some of his favorites.
March 27th 2018:
Kim and I just reached Cyndy, Dana's oldest sister and she was thrilled to hear that you had reached out. We will be sending the letter you wrote to her tomorrow and she lives in Front Royal, Virginia. We asked that she write back once she has your letter. She told us that after Dana died they found a box full of letters he had written to you and that her brother Jeff has the box and they hope to give it to you. She seemed very anxious to meet you and happy about the call.
Naturally I responded,
This email was such a delight to receive. Of course, I immediately called Dylan to share and then drove over to have a girls night with Mom and just told her. I am really excited and anxious and nervous, look forward to hearing from you and them. Thank you for keeping me posted on the progress.
Want to know how things have escalated since? You'll have to check back soon for PT III and I promise we are just getting started on the good stuff. To be continued...