A Second Snowflake

In what, I hope, becomes a blizzard of beautiful moments for me in 2018.

This snowflake is from my oldest brother.


Last August when I made my final visit to my parent’s home, I cleaned out a block of eight file drawers filled with my moms collection of papers. I’d been looking for her journals and asked Dad if he’d like me to clean out Mom’s drawers. He was happy to turn it over to me. It took me the better part of 12 hours. In the end I found parts of her journals, lots of birthday/mother’s day cards and some adoption odds and ends. One of those odds and ends was a baby book for a little boy. I put it in a pile of things for my brother and was able to give it to him the weekend of dad’s funeral.

I called my brother a few weeks ago to ask advice. He’s the one person in our family who isn’t up in arms about the stepmother situation. He has no issue with her. I know, I know!! But that is another blog post.


He said he had something to tell me, and recounted the following.

“Remember that baby book you gave me? Well, before we left town I was telling my wife about this memory I have of a little red brick house that belonged to my grandparents. My original grandparents. Before we left Idaho we drove through the town and as I got closer to the address we had looked up, I was able to take each turn by memory and there it was. The neat little red brick house from my memory. Pretty incredible. After we got back home and after I caught up at work, I had a few moments one afternoon and I took out the book and studied it. It wasn’t completely filled in but contained my original last name, my grandparent’s names, my mother’s name. I remembered something that had happened when my oldest daughter was born. I told mom I was thinking about naming her Tina. Mom was surprised and said though she didn’t think I remembered, I had a younger sister named Tina. Hm. I turned to my computer and googled my mother’s name. No result. Turning back to my baby book I googled her with her maiden name. It brought up an obituary. I read it and there she was, daughter Tina. Not only that, but I found out I had an older sister, Roxanne. I, of course, wasn’t listed, but there they were, Roxanne, one year older, and Tina, two years younger. There she was, my mother, the obituary included her married name, my old last name. Looking back at Tina, it gave a married last name and city. I googled her and though the obituary was from 2007, I found Tina, still in that same city AND with a home number listed. Thinking it was probably an old disconnected number, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed. The phone rang once, twice, and then was answered by a woman. Now what do I do?”

At this point I was so excited I could hardly stand myself! What did you do? What did you say?!?

“I said hello, I’m calling for Tina. She said, this is Tina. I sat there silent for a moment wondering what I should say next. I finally said, this might sound odd to you, but my name is ____ _____ -. She started yelling into the phone – Oh my God, Oh my God! You’re my brother! You’re my big brother! I can’t believe you’re calling me! Oh my God!”

It gave me chills, brought tears to my eyes. Made my brother utterly speechless. He had no actual memory of Tina, just a name my mother spoke, a name written in pencil in a faded, incomplete baby book. He was taken completely off guard.

Hello, Tina said, probably afraid I’d hung up. I apologized and said, how do you know who I am? My brother asked.

Tina’s story

“I’ve known who you are my entire life. Grandma and Grandpa showed us your picture and talked about you every day. It broke their hearts when they lost you. Roxy and I have always known about you. In fact, when I was sixteen I found your parents number and called your house. Your mom answered and I told her I wanted to talk to my older brother! She told me you wanted nothing to do with us and I was never to call that house again. I was devastated. Not to long after that, our schools played each other in football. I asked a kid from your school if they knew you. They pointed you out in the pep band. I saw you that one time, but didn’t dare talk to you. I’ve missed you so much! I can’t believe you’re calling me! This is amazing!”

Of course, he had a million questions, and she answered them all. Between the two of them they worked out his adoption story.

His mother married his dad when she was 13 and pregnant with Roxanne. His dad was 18. He was born when she was 15 and Tina when she was 16. Not long after, (and not surprisingly) she had a nervous breakdown. Unable to care for her kids, married to a brutally abusive man who beat not only her but the children as well, she turned her children over to her parents to raise. His mother had been the youngest and her parents were older, thinking they had raised all their children. Though they loved their grandchildren, these three little kids were more than they could handle, along with their ailing daughter.

The grandfather worked with my great-uncle, who knew that his niece was pining for children. He talked the grandfather into letting mom and dad adopt the boy. (An aunt has said that mom and dad wanted to adopt all three but the grandparents just couldn’t give them all up) There was an agreement that the grandparents could stay in contact. Why that didn’t play out, no one living knows. He came to live with mom and dad when he was four years old. He came bearing the scars of the beatings he’d taken from his father. Cigarette burns on his arms and torso and thin white lines where he’d been whipped with the vacuum cleaner cord.

kids first four
   Myself, Middle brother, Oldest brother, Younger sister (who obviously adores me) We were the first four adopted. We all arrived in window of five short years.

He and Tina concurred on the brutality of their father. Tina said mom wasn’t much better. Rarely, she was present and a good mom, mostly she was depressed and looking for her next hit. His father was military and served in Korea. When he returned, he and the mother divorced when he learned she was hanging around with college boys. Tina said they’d never heard another thing from him. She’d never met her father’s parents and thought they had stayed in Germany, never coming to America like their son. Gerry’s mom remarried in the seventies and he has 6 additional half siblings out there. She died of heart failure, though Tina says she and Roxanne are pretty sure it was some form of drug interaction or overdose. My brother is hoping to take a trip to visit his new sisters this summer.

After they got off the phone, he went back to the computer and was quickly able to track down his father. Found him living in Utah with several felony convictions and lots of mug shots. He has no interest whatsoever in meeting the man of whom he has very vivid memories. But he got something even more interesting, a current picture. The similarities are jaw-dropping.

He said he couldn’t make his wife understand, this feeling, this hole he’s lived with his entire life that’s suddenly filled.

“It’s nuts.” He said. “I can’t even explain it.”

“I know.” I replied. “That moment you look at another person, and your own face looks back at you.”





Because we’ve been talking the lunar calendar all month in math and because I like the sound of it. It makes me think of stormy nights, a break in the clouds, moonlight glowing in the darkest corners.

January is almost over. In truth, nothing much has changed. That said, there are a couple of little things that have morphed and moved and taken on a life of their own.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned what I got for Christmas this year. A thoughtful person gifted me with a DNA kit. The Ancestry kit. I sent it off.

I got my results last Sunday. They’re rather fascinating.

69%     Great Britain

7%      Finland/Northwest Russia

5%      Scandinavia

The remaining 19% a mixture of  Europe, coast to coast, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, no more than 2-3% from any of them. A proper mutt. Hardy as they come.

I can see a hint of hardy Russian. Also explained, the amount of money I’m willing to spend to stay a blonde. Go Scandinavia!

The search turned up a couple of matches in the 1st-2nd cousin range. I’ve left a couple of messages, leaving my name and the fact I was adopted, from where and the year. I got a reply. Yes, I did. A woman in Caspar, Wyoming replied that she did have relatives in California at that time but she was unaware of any kids given up for adoption. Then again, she was only 17 that particular year. She’s calling her cousin in LA today to see if she can learn anything more. We’re related somewhere along her mother’s line. She’s a bit excited about how closely related we are.

I’m a little dumbfounded.



Do Something Different

I get the Seeds of Life blog in my inbox and often I only read the title but every so often it lights a little fire in me. If only because I would love to be able to forgive myself for any of a million things, a little food for thought.

Let today be a day of self-compassion. A day to forgive ourselves for a past regret, past struggle, missed opportunity. We all have times in life where we would have liked to have reacted or done things a bit differently. Made a different choice, chose a different word, taken a different road. But regret always…

via Self-Compassion Helps Release a Piece of What’s Holding You Back – Unknown — The Seeds 4 Life

A Common Occurrence

I sat across the table from my sister-in-law and listened to my brother tell us things we already knew. We were gathered in the kitchen of the rented house, some at the window seat, some here at the table, a few of the brother-in-laws leaning against the counter picking at the food set out there. For the first time in three days no one spoke much. No one was swearing or drinking. We all just sat in our own minds.

“He said he’s seen this a lot. It’s terrible, but a super common situation.”

A wave of rage batters the shore in my mind. I know Dad picked 2 because he’s the most successful, business wise. But he’s also the kindest.

Who leaves a mess like this for their kids to clean up?

“He said old men are just weak. He sees it all the time.” My brother shakes his head.


It doesn’t make any of us feel any better.

“I really think he thought he’d live forever. I don’t think he did this on purpose. He just thought he’d never die, thought he had another twenty years, at least!”

I think my brother is probably right, but I can’t feel it.

In the past three years, too many things have gone wrong all starting with mom’s sudden death. The kicker being that it wasn’t even cancer that killed her. After ten years of that bullshit, it wasn’t even the cancer that did it.  My father’s relief was more apparent than his grief, that was the next blow. Two of the seven children are still down for the count from that one. The other five soldiered on for eighty days until the next blow. He called each of us announcing his marriage. One was happy for him. The rest looked on in shocked silence. Not the reactions he was looking for, three months after his wedding he changed his will.

He left her everything.

Not just allowed her to live in the house until her death, but also, the final blow, left her all the personal possessions. Not just his, but everything of mom’s still in the house.

When she dies the house and property come back to the kids.

When she dies.

As I walked into the viewing, the same room mom’s was in, the first thing I heard was the second wife’s voice.

“No, he left me everything. There’s a will.”

I turned around and walked back out.

It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but hearing the words from her mouth make me very aware of that fine line that keeps me out of prison. That very thin line that defines me as human.

Out on the sidewalk in the cold night, I try to remember the last time I wanted to see someone dead. Okay, not that hard to remember, there are only two others. Is that number high?

I think about Kirk. It was almost thirty years ago. Back then I ran away to Hawaii. The distance helped but it took years to put myself back together.  Now, there are no beaches, no palm trees, nothing that resembles warmth on my horizon. Not this time. hawaii

He died on the toilet. Three years to the day after mom. He’d had a recent shoulder surgery and died of heart failure.

I like to think she slapped him silly when she saw him. Then I wonder if she hugged him and commiserated with him, stupid, ungrateful children? I wonder what she thought of his second choice in wives? I wonder if the two of them think of us and are embarrassed over the mess they’ve left us to sort? Did they watch her dismantle their great room, selling off rare plants and trees they’d had longer than any of their children?

That was just the Monday after the funeral. She waited till Tuesday to start posting their personal effects on Facebook Market.

Mostly, I wonder how long she‘ll live.


A Close Call

I’m not feeling the Christmas Spirit this year.

This morning I watched my youngest falter after opening her gifts. Her sister unwrapped a retro gaming system, and an Akibento box. Both things she’d been really excited about. Her brother got the laptop both of them asked for. She’d gotten a few bits from Stranger Things and a really nice Karaoke machine for the girl who sings everywhere she goes. Now, she didn’t ask for the Karaoke but I think she’s too young for a laptop and, in all honesty, I had a finite amount of energy to direct toward shopping. This morning I could see the disappointment. I pumped her up a bit, convinced she’d love the gift once we got it set up.

The look she gave me was incredibly familiar. I think I’ve seen it every year since she was born… So Skeptical!

I gave her a stern look and was gifted with the lip.


But half an hour later as we sang out first duet…Say Something…..the sun had come out again. all is well 1

But it was a close call I’ll remember.

Time to stand back up, put on my big girl panties, and let the dead roll in their  graves. I’ve got living to get back to.



Three steps to the Perfect Adoption

  1. Therapy  Yes, for you. I don’t care how wonderful your life has been, how many trophies you dust every weekend. Get yourself some therapy. Go talk about yourself a couple of times a month for a year or so. Not only will your children thank you, you will learn things about your own brain that will astound you. You will be a better parent.
  2. Expect Disappointment A child free of your genetic mistakes will have their own. They are not blank slates awaiting your fine hand. Every child comes with their own genetic history, their own likes and dislikes, their own weaknesses. You will need more than the usual amount of patience to successfully navigate this minefield of the unknown.
  3. Adopt an Infant I’m not kidding when I say, the younger the better. The older the child is, the more trauma they have endured. Trauma leaves its mark on the psyche and can take years to manifest. If you adopt a child older than one year old, you will deal with trauma scars. If you adopt a baby born addicted to drugs, you will deal with trauma scars. Take my word, stack the deck as much in your favor as you can. Adopt the youngest, healthiest child you can find.

Who the hell do I think I am?

I am that child you want to adopt. I’m one of the easy ones. A teenage mother, a father headed off to Vietnam. I’m two days old, a little banged up from a forceps birth but all in working order. That’s what you want, right? A tidy private adoption, your names as my parents on my birth certificate, no strings. No ugly surprises in six months, twelves months, ten years.

kids first four

My parents wanted that too. They engineered that for all eight of their adopted children. We grew up together in two phases, four of us in the seventies, and four of us in the eighties. 2nd four

My adoptive parents are both deceased now. I give you the advice I would have liked to give them. Advice they would have smiled through, nodded thoughtfully, bless your heart, and completely ignored. She was the eldest of thirteen, what more could she possibly learn? He was the youngest of three, children were for her to worry about, he was the breadwinner.

But I hope someone hears me.

Give your children a fighting chance.

Give your children the best version of yourself.