In The Face Of Another

Sometimes, when I would be fiddling around on the computer I would stop a moment and head to Google.  I would plug the words “who is my biological mother” into the empty information field and click “search”.  I would always chuckle to myself and shake my head as if to say “Silly girl. It’s not that simple, you know.”  And I knew it.  I knew it wasn’t that simple and would never be that simple to find my beginning.  Tell that to my heart of hearts, however.  There was always a part of me that was hopeful–even if it was a dim hope–that there would magically appear a name and a photograph of a strange young woman with a subdued smile on her face and a faraway look in her eyes.  I never imagined what she would actually look like, just that she would suddenly be there and I would have that feeling; the one that provides the “ah-there-you-are” moment.  You know. The moment where something that has been unrealized, hovering toward the back of your brain, suddenly is brought forward into the light and it seems as natural as breathing.  I wanted that moment.

I did this particular google search several times and, I’m here to tell you, Google doesn’t always know all.  I never had my moment.  Each time would end in a sigh and then I would move on to my next task…still wondering where the strange girl with the subdued smile and faraway look was. She certainly wasn’t on my computer screen.

So, I did nothing.  Many days of nothing.  Over a span of years, my desire and actions to find her would wax and wane with the seasons of my life.  Realizing that I, legally, had no rights as an adopted child of the 70’s was angering and disheartening.  Several times I told myself that my day would come but I only half believed it.

As my daughter was preparing to serve an LDS Mission to Nuku’Alofa, Tonga, I suddenly became overcome with the thought of having my DNA tested. Word on the street was that I have hispanic blood in me–given from my biological father’s side of the family–but I had no actual proof of that. For those of you who have seen me, I have had my fair share of people calling me Polynesian because I am a big girl.  Six feet tall and the build to match.  I was intrigued.  What if I really was polynesian?  What if my girl was being sent to my people?  I had the luxury of using my imagination and allowing my mind to follow the “what if” trail. But, I never did get the DNA test.

There are a few different places that will do it now and the price is downright reasonable (around $99 plus shipping). She and I discussed it several times and she even offered to pay for half of it, as a gift. I couldn’t justify spending that amount of money as all of my funds were going to prepare her to leave on her mission or to feed my family.  I just let it go. I figured it would be a passing fancy and that I wouldn’t have to worry about it much longer. I would simply teach myself to forget about it.

A week after she left us, I received a phone call from a strange number. Usually I don’t answer calls from numbers that I don’t recognize, but this time I decided to live large.  After picking up the phone, I learned that my mother-in-law had been talking to one of her friends about my desire to have a DNA test done.  This friend just ‘happened’ to have an extra DNA test kit lying around her house and was now calling to offer it to me.  I was amazed and truly grateful.  It was as if this test kit had fallen out of the blue, straight into my hispanic/polynesian lap.  Who has an extra DNA kit just laying around?  Its a common occurance, right?  This was completely unbelieveable.  I felt the hand of God in my life, gently pushing me in a direction I would gladly go.  This would be the biggest slice of information I would ever know about myself, independent of family myths and stories. The DNA results wouldn’t be ready for 6-8 weeks, but I would somehow fill the time.

Four and a half weeks later, my results came.  I was giddy.  The results were posted online, and after logging in, the first thing I saw was a pie chart of my ethnicity…a wagon wheel with many colors…each one representative of a region in the world where my DNA had come from, as distant as hundreds of years before. Percentages were approximate and after studying the results (luckily there was more than just a fancy pie chart available) I discovered that I am a woman of the world.  Many ethnicities: mostly European, Native American (which does not necessarily mean American Indian–hell-lo hispanic!), Irish, Italian/Greek, Iberian Peninsula, only a little British (‘ello govnah!) and to my surprise: traces of European Jew, Middle Eastern and African.  Not a scrap of Polynesian, anywhere, however.  You know what?  I was okay with that!  I loved the results!  I was like the freaking United Nations and I never even knew it!  My husband and I sat on the couch looking at the results and I cried.  I cried because this was myself right in front of me in percentages and colors and ethnicities.  This was the closest I had come to knowing anything about my past: concrete evidence that I did, indeed, exist and that there was more to my history than the moment my parents picked me up from the hospital.  This was my proof. This was me, all me.

Accompanying my DNA results were contacts of potential family members: folks who had previously taken the test and who’s DNA matched my own enough for the scientists at Ancestry.com to say “We think that ‘so and so’ may be your 2nd cousin” or “we think that ‘what’s her bucket’ may be your 4th-8th cousin once removed.”  It was pretty cool to see the list of names in front of me.  To think of the potential resources on my computer screen that could possibly open the door to me finding my biological mother! Suddenly Googling her again seemed feasible.  Productive. Hopeful.

At the top of the list was a lone name.  This particular individual had been placed there because my DNA was close enough to his to deem him a “close family member” which, upon further investigation, meant that he was either my brother, my uncle or my father.  Hold up.  What?  Yes.  He was either my biological brother, uncle or father.  I was taken back.  I looked at the hubs in disbelief and the tears flowed again.  While I knew that the test would provide me with SOME biological family leads, I had been warned that, more often than not, there is not typically a  match for close family members and not to get my hopes up.  Yet there he was.  He had only taken the DNA test 7 months before I received my results and his name–not a username–but his legitimate, legal name was there in front of me on the screen.  Suddenly that young woman with the wistful smile and the faraway look in her eyes seemed not like a vision, but a reality.

It didn’t take me long to start the investigation.  I took his name and headed straight to Facebook and looked for the most respectable individual.  As if I was being led, he was the first one I had selected and my investigation started again in earnest…almost with a fervor that I had a hard time keeping up with. I took the little information that I knew about my biological parents and started googling this man.  I went through his list of Facebook friends.  I found out a bit about his family and came to really discover that he was my connection and that he could possibly be my father.  I read and reread the limited Facebook posts he had available and discovered that his age wasn’t right.  He couldn’t be my father….too young. The first word that popped into my mind after this discovery was “sister”.   Sister.  I had to find a sister!  Back to the friends list and everyone that had his last name.  Again, more investigation of each of the candidates.  I was feeling a bit apprehensive at this point because I was unsure if she would be on Facebook and if she was, perhaps she didn’t use her maiden name if she was married.

I saw the smile first.

Not a wistful smile, but a sincere one.  I saw the eyes.  A different color than my own, but the shape was the same.  No faraway look.  She looked as if she knew right where she was. Then the nose.  She was wearing my dimples.  Not allowing myself, to get my hopes up, I told myself that I was only seeing things that I wanted to be there. I investigated her.  She is his sister.  Older sister.  Age matches up with how old I believed she was when she had me.  Pushing my hopes back down, I called the hubs to the computer.

With a voice wavering and sounding like it belonged to someone else, all I said was “I think I found her.”   He looked at the electric photo glowing in front of us and suddenly the electricity became tangible.  “Jen, I see you.”

Five hours after my results came back from ancestry.com, I had found my birth mother and was staring at her.  44 years of life on this earth and nothing could have prepared me for that moment.  It was beyond bedtime but I knew that sleep would not be coming for me that night. I felt as if I had already been sleeping for years and awoke to a whole new life.  How could anything ever be the same again? It couldn’t.  In just a short moments time my whole existence had shifted to a new sense of being.  I was looking at my beginning and now was wondering how to bring it into the present.  Broaching time travel.

Over the course of many years, I have had to come to think of and make peace with every possible scenario that finding my birth parents could bring. Every good and bad situation, every hopeful and disparaging outcome and all of the shades of possibility that lie in between must be considered, evaluated, dealt with and put away until the time you are faced with it.  I had no options at this point.  I had to contact her and have her confirm to me what I believed was true: she was my mother. I felt it and I was trying so hard not to get my hopes up but I knew in my bones it was her.  Certainly, I thought, since I came from her we would be enough alike that she would not ignore me or reject me.  I tried to keep my hopes In check, wanting to preserve myself in some way.

Writing the letter to her was not as difficult as I assumed it would be:

“Dear Mrs. Rosh,

The beginning of this letter is going to be very awkward.  There is just no way around it–I hope you can forgive me for that.

My name is Jennifer and I recently received my results from an ancestry.com DNA test.  Not only did I receive an ethnicity report, I also received a list of contacts that were possible biological matches.  One of those, your brother Steven (I am assuming he is your brother!?!) was listed as a close genetic family member–meaning he is either my brother, father or uncle.  

As a fluke, I found him on Facebook (what I assumed was him) and through deduction and my limited information I think we may be related.  

I was adopted 44 years ago in the state of Utah.  There really is no delicate way to ask this:  are you my biological mother?

I understand that this message and this question may come as a surprise and a shock to you.  My goal is not to hurt or annoy or anger you. I also do not want to be a disruption.  My goal is quite the opposite, actually.  

I have been searching for my biological mother because it has been one of my life’s ambitions to be able to thank her for the selflessness and wisdom she showed at such a young age. I have lived a blessed life and it has nothing to do with who I am, but absolutely everything to do with who she was and, I’m sure, continues to be.

Please know, if you answer this question and you happen to be “her”, I am not looking for a “long lost mother”.  I would love to be able to find more about where I came from, how my life began and what makes me innately me.  

I am not trying to be a burden or to dredge up pain.  I understand if you would like your privacy and I will respect that decision. On the flip side, I’m sure you can understand that after 44 years of questions, to be this close to my beginning makes me feel vulnerable and, yet, joyous. I don’t know what to expect and who to expect it from. If you are not my biological mother, please accept my apologies for the intrusion.

If you are my biological mother, please accept my love and gratitude for what it is–a sacred and sublime tribute to the one who gave me life.  

I eagerly await your reply.  
Thanks for your time,
Jennifer

P.S.  I’m a really fun girl. Not as stiff as this letter would make me seem.”

Pressing the send button on Facebook messenger would be the easiest part of trying to contact her.  Now I had to remind myself to breathe and to keep on living my life, reply or not.

I sent her the message on June 1st.  It wasn’t until June 17th that my reply came.  Painful is the only way to describe life during those two and a half weeks.  Like I was waiting to be born all over again, I was so close and yet so far away from my destination. My message had been held up in Facebook, going to her “other” message box instead of her “inbox” and she had no idea it was there.  There are no notifications for that box.  (You can find it on your computer next to your inbox when you are in “messages”. Go look now.  You’re welcome.) I tried to call her; phone number disconnected.  I had a friend contact a friend in her city to give her a message on how to find the message…it didn’t happen.  There was an address I had but was unsure if it was her mailing address or just her physical address, so I hesitated sending her a letter.  I almost road tripped it a couple of times to just end the pain and go for broke. I had friends praying, strangers praying, me praying and my heart breaking all at the same time—all waiting for her to find my letter. Tears and sighs and time spent wracking my brain.  So close and yet so impossibly far. Hope dwindling each day…and yet I still felt I was where I should be.

One night, as I poured over the internet–wracking my brain for a solution to my dilemma,  I discovered that I could pay Facebook a dollar to put my message into her inbox.  Since I had already tried to send her a message it wouldn’t give me that option.  Posing as the husband, I hacked into his account and changed his profile picture into something respectable—like a real photo of him instead of the ostrich picture he currently had.  I then sent her the message, acting as him sending it on my behalf, hoping that it wouldn’t look, like some freaky scam that originates somewhere in the world I have never heard of.  It had come to this: I was hacking and posing and lying and finagling and groveling and stalking  and crying for mercy all at the same time. I was nearly emotionally bankrupt. The only thing left after, this would have been to crawl to California on my knees.  It felt like a plausible option at this point.

Hope came for me the following day. One of the greatest days in my life.

“OMG! This letter is a dream come true! I have longed to know you, to meet you, to touch you. The answer to anything you want to know is yes! Yes! yes!

Steve is your uncle…..had he been born a girl…..he would have been named Jennifer.

My two children have grown up knowing all about u and how u came to be. They will be so excited to hear that u have reached out…..something we all have waited for.

I am eager to take the next step in this journey with you.

Thank you so much for being brave, reaching out, and most of all…..searching. This is truly an answer to my prayers.  I’m hoping it will be an answer to yours.

Tina”

All I could do was cry.

Tears of gratitude and tears of relief.  I sobbed as I felt her love envelop me.  She hadn’t really left me behind all those years ago, she had continued to carry me with the bright hope of meeting me again. She walked a road I could never really understand and she held none of it against me.  This beautiful life–my beautiful life–I could now present to her as a testament to what she had done with me. For me.

Messaging one another was constant almost immediately.  From that moment on we messaged one another until late at night and began again first thing in the morning.  I was hungry for information and to get to know her.  Like a hand knit sweater, she was mine for the unraveling…a mystery waiting to be taken apart and examined.  I noticed the way she wrote, how she explained things, what she found funny and what kinds of questions she asked me. I could tell just from those simple things how alike we were.  My list of questions was ever growing with each reply but nothing seemed as pressing as pinning down a time I would meet her.  This could not wait another moment longer; we both felt it.

Only two days after our first contact, she traveled 11 hours to see me.  I could not have hand picked anyone more suitable or  perfect to be the vessel through which I would come into this blessed world and be placed into my family.  I feel so fortunate to have her in my life. We are the perfect story.  We are the happy ending.

Meeting her has become almost a sacred event to me.  I won’t share what happened that night or since then because that story is one that is still being written.  Even the events that brought us to this point 44 years ago are not mine to give because she is the one that lived it before I came.  It’s hers for the telling, not mine.

What I will tell you is this:

The times that we see God in our lives is often after something has happened and we use our hindsight.  We can see the big picture while we are not caught up in it.  Usually I can see divine direction in moments I experienced but didn’t recognize as providential.  Looking back is when I see His hand in creating an experience that becomes meaningful–changing my life and possibly the lives of others. Hindsight is golden.

From the moment the DNA test dropped into my hands, I felt Him.  I felt myself being propelled and taken on the journey of a lifetime.  Things happened without my power.  His fingerprints are all over this miracle and I can’t deny that he is aware of my life and what is happening in it.  I saw myself in the middle of an outstanding journey that I had hoped and wished and prayed for, yet was utterly powerless in.  It was as if I was being swept along by His good current, bobbing and flowing wherever He deemed would be of greatest benefit to me.  I didn’t need hindsight for this one.  I was living it and recognizing it and being swallowed up by it’s goodness and wonder.  I felt Him, so strongly, orchestrating it! Do not tell me God is dead.  Do not tell me He doesn’t exist.  Do not tell me that he is unloving and unmerciful.  I have seen him in the face of another and felt him in the marrow of my life.  He lives. He is real. He is alive and well and in control. God is good.

I have also learned one of the most comforting and powerful ideas I have come to embrace: God never forgets.  He didn’t forget that 19 year old girl delivering a child far away from her family and he didn’t forget that little baby that was never held or seen by her.  I firmly believe that God simply turned around and 44 years of my life had passed…He turned around and utilized others and technology in helping my little life…He turned around and turned that little life into something more stunningly beautiful than it had been and that I ever believed it could be.

There are those that have asked about what role my biological mother will play in my life.

I have never heard of a human being who simply didn’t have room to love someone else.  There have been no reports of closed hearts due to “over-loving”.  Not one person has died from inviting others into their life and accepting them and including them in their circle of family.  No, she will not replace my adoptive mother. I was meant to be in the family I grew up in.  No doubt about it.  They are my people. Tina and her children and husband; her cousins and aunts and whoever else wants part in this miracle are more than welcome because they now I belong to their tribe as well.  I am encircled with more love than I could ever use up in this lifetime and I don’t suppose that such a great amount of love will kill me. Common to popular belief, people are not replaceable. People are priceless and meant to be welcomed in–arms and hearts wide open–and loved more fiercely than we allow ourselves to believe that we could.  There is no limit to love.

I got my moment.  The “Ah. There you are!” moment.  Now it washes over me in waves.  There she is;  my Hope, my Tina.

FullSizeRender (1)

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “In The Face Of Another

  1. Neil vanK says:

    I know that feeling of being swept along in His current. Maybe not recognizing at the time how things that happen, needed to happen and were just the right thing for me to become the best me I can achieve. Looking back and recognizing that is if a testimony of His love for me.

    I’m happy for the joy and fulfillment you feel from this journey

  2. Amy Patterson says:

    Jen, what a beautiful story. I am sooo happy for you. I have wanted to read it for a few weeks now but didn’t think I was emotionally prepared for it. Like you my husband was adopted 39 years ago. It has totally effected his self worth. I have really seen this first hand. I have also seen how it affects my own children to have that missing biological line. We think through DNA from ancestry.com that we have found Mike’s biological father and even sent him an email, with no response. We have been waiting since March. It has been quite an emotional ride since then. Mike can’t hope right now, because of the fear of being ‘rejected’ again, but I am holding on to it for his sake and my children’s sake. Your story gives me hope❤️ Thanks for sharing something so tender. May God continue to be with you through your amazing journey.

    • Sweet Amy,

      Thanks for your comment. I know that both you and I and Mike and myself have talked about this topic off and on and I’m so sorry for the pain that he has been experiencing. Please keep me posted about what happens. I pray that he gets the answers he needs to find peace. Love you much and miss you!

  3. Carol R says:

    Saw this on Facebook, shared by the Irish Genealogical Society. I have a similar story about searching for my mother’s biological family. You’ve captured exactly what it felt like waiting to hear back, and that consuming hunger to know more. It’s been three years and I still can’t believe we found them and they are part of our lives. My sister remarked that until we were in our 50s we had never seen anyone who looked like our mother. It’s a fantastic, mind-boggling thing.

    Congratulations on finding your mom!

  4. Annette Guidry says:

    I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this posting and the letter to your mother! I am also searching, although it is for an older sister who was born in France. My mother was a Moroccan Jew who came to settle in Boise Idaho after meeting my non Jewish father. Family Tree DNA has only come up with someone living in Los Angeles who is as close as a first or second cousin. I have asked the LDS Church for assistance, adoptive records are tough, especially if I’m unsure of her name. But I still hold out hope and I keep thinking of going to Morocco or France and searching. There were some difficult events that awakened my burning desire to find my sister — like you, I sense a higher power and something much bigger than me at play here. Thank you so much for sharing, you experienced a beautiful and inspiring miracle!

  5. Sandra Hull-Terry says:

    Your writing is priceless itself! The way you describe how these this felt at the time is vivid to me. Loved reading every word, your feelings flow better than average. I feel deeply proud of your sharing your testimony of God and knowing your daughter will be sharing that spirit on her mission. You touch me in that you are a fellow LDS member and fellow Utahn with this unabiding flow of connection to the Lord and His miraculous ways. Thank you for this post, and, oh, by the way, I am the adoptive mother of two children who is doing DNA research to find any of their biological relatives. I know every step of what you did to find yours but have not completely succeeded yet. Each year brings more information, however. Your post is extremely encouraging, spoke to me like no other so far, and I thank you for taking the time and doing all it takes to write something like this. Of couse I wish you and all your family members much happiness and fulfillment in the future.

  6. Anita Richardson says:

    Such a touching story. In 2009 at the age of 75 I was re-united with a sister that I had never seen. Such an emotional journey. It was love at first sight! Although I was raised by my birth mother and father my beautiful sister was not. But her adoptive parents must have been wonderful people to raise her so loving and kind. Best wishes to you and much happiness

    • Hello Toni!

      I did message them directly from Ancestry. Unfortunately they are both only on there sporadically and never responded to my messages.

      Thanks.

  7. DeAnn Brown says:

    Our family has also been affected by the miracle of DNA testing. As a gift to my husband and two sons who are all adopted I sent their DNA to ancestry.com so that we could identify their ethnicity, we were very excited to find out from whence they came. I had no idea that it could help you find those connected to you by DNA. Months after we received the results of the test I was telling a family member about it and logged back into ancestry.com to once again look at the ethnicity of my family. It was then that I found an e-mail from a stranger stating that she thought she was the grandmother of one of my sons. The adoption of our boys were “open” but the birthmother of my oldest has not wanted to maintain contact. I always felt bad that he didn’t have the opportunity to make the same connection to his birth mother that my youngest son had. The idea that we could ever find their birth fathers was never even entertained because we had no information on them. With my son’s permission I contacted his birth grandmother and found his birth father. They have not yet met in person but they have exchanged pictures and have fairly frequent contact. I don’t know how this will all turn out but I too believe that you can’t have too much “family” to love you. I know that this is an answer to my prayers to help my son get through some difficult things he has faced as a young adult. I believe in miracles and thank God for his hand in bringing this one to our family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s