I haven’t published much lately about my birth family discoveries, mainly because some of the more recent ones are taking me a while to process. There continues to be much gift for me through all of the experiences I’ve had, whether they’ve been the joyful reunion kind or the painful answers kind. I’m the kind of person who wants to know ALL the information, even the hard stuff.
Just because I want to know it doesn’t make it easy to know it. Some days the painful parts can feel like a hot coal in my hands. I toss it around, to keep the burns from getting too serious, and wait for it to cool off so I can explore it with less pain. I’m trying to feel all the feelings, in close to real time (which has not always been my practice), and to let them be what they are, what they need to be. (And, as I’ve said before and will say again, I’m grateful for excellent counseling and for insurance coverage that subsidizes it’s cost.)
Some of the ‘coals’ are still too hot to handle. I’ll get back to you someday with those–once they’ve cooled off and the burns have healed—when I can see the detail more clearly, appreciate their beauty, and make sense of what they have to offer me.
Here is one place where the beauty is starting to be visible, as things cool.
Last year I took an Ancestry DNA test. The results came back the test confirmed what my family tree would have suggested. I’m 100% Western European– mainly Ireland, Scotland, England. Half of my DNA matches make sense. I can figure out how my birth mother’s family tree connects with a number of my matches.
Then there is the other half. I can see how they were all related to each other. I can find their common ancestors, but none of the names are in my birth family tree. Hanson, Jenson, Sorenson, Williams–none of those names are in my birth father or birth mother’s tree.
After a lot of questioning, and helpful responses from strangers who happen to share my DNA, I now know my birth mother is wrong about who my birth father was. There is a lot I don’t know, but I do know I do not have the DNA of Ken McCourt, the man my birth mother still insists was my father, the man who believed he was my father, and the man whose family has been so loving and wonderful, welcoming me into their family. When I told my sister Carol that something was wonky about my DNA results and would she be willing to take a test, she replied with “sure, I’ll take the test, but I don’t really care what the results say. We’re keeping you. You’re family“.
When my birth mother wouldn’t welcome me into her family, Ken’s family did. My relationship with my birth father’s family was the first real gift of my journey. And had my birth mother kept me, not placed me for adoption, he would have been my father, and his family would have been my family. So I remain grateful for them, for their welcome, and for their continued love and continued ‘claim’ on me.
It’s been four years since I’ve received my original birth certificate, and known I was a part of the McCourt family. And it is stunningly painful to discover the error. I can’t even imagine what the pain would be for me had I been raised by him, and known him for the whole of my life. With ‘only’ four years of relationship, it hurts, painfully. I love the McCourt family and remain so grateful for their willingness to welcome me, to claim me, and to offer the grace of still being in their family.
If Ken McCourt isn’t the source of my DNA–who is? That was the next mystery.
Best I can figure out, (and if the Ancestry DNA sleuths want to help me out, that’d be super), my father was a man named Bill Williams. I’ve not met his family yet, in real life, but I’ve had some conversations, and they have shared some photos. I’m enjoying getting to know them through social media, and grateful for yet another family’s willingness to welcome me.
They see resemblance between their father and one of my sons. There are moments when I see resemblance too. And then there are moments when I catch myself being jaded. I’d already looked for, and found, resemblance, in another family. It’s hard to look for it again.
I don’t know what his relationship was to my birth mother. I may never know. It is his DNA, though, that I carry. He was born in Idaho Falls in 1924 and died in 2005. Turns out I’m a ‘jack Mormon’ (Jill Mormon?) and have Idaho roots. He had three children (and I guess I make four).
Hopefully there will be stories still to be told. I hope to meet his daughters and their families. I’m thankful for their willingness to help me figure out this mystery.
The kindness of strangers (on their way to becoming family) has been a consistent theme of my birth family experience. And their gracious welcome is like a salve for the burns from the hot coals of discovery.
Last night, as I drove home from a quick trip to the lake, I noticed a gorgeous sunset happening in my rear view mirror.
It seems an apt metaphor for my life right now. There is both darkness and beauty in my past, and glimpses of it accompany me as I move into the next part of the journey. Blessings to you in your journey. Thank you for accompanying me on mine.