……I got all my sisters with me.
That’s about all the lyrics I know from the Sister Sledge song, but they are enough.
This weekend I flew to Seattle, stayed with my sister, visited another sister, and met a new sister. I have one more sister yet to meet, and one other sister I have already met.
I have an abundance of sisters now.
It has been pointed out that I should travel with a flow chart, or a white board, so I can explain how I’m related to all of these sisters. (There are also brothers. One I grew up with and who was really bratty as a child but turned into a really great friend. Two who died a while back, and one I’m not expecting to meet any time soon. Another blog post for another day).
I appreciate all of you have followed this birth family journey the past four years. While so much of this has been private, personal work, I am grateful I haven’t had to do it alone. Here’s an update for you from my weekend of sisters.
My first sister, adopted sister, is Annette. She was already in the family when I was adopted. I called her “sisser” when I was little, before I could pronounce her name. I’m grateful for her, the way she has been my companion through it all.
My next sister is Carol. My birth mother told me her father was my birth father. So I contacted her four years ago and she welcomed me to the family instantly. Annette and I went to visit her Sunday afternoon, and we watched much of the lamentable Seahawks game and visited and caught up on life. Carol was the first birth family person who agreed to meet me.
This past year, I discovered from my Ancestry DNA test that I’m not actually related to Carol’s father (Surprise! Read more abut that here). Carol agreed to take a DNA test to confirm it, but she said she didn’t really care what the results showed. As far as she was concerned, we are sisters. And that’s all that mattered to her.
I think Carol is pretty damn amazing. I’m really grateful for the way she and the rest of the McCourt family have “kept” me. i wish we shared DNA, because I want to be like her when I grow up.
I refer to her as “Carol One” because the man DNA tells me is my birth father also had a daughter named Karol. She is “Karol with a K”, or “Karol Two”. And like “Carol One”, she’s been exceedingly generous in her welcome. Annette and I met her and some of her family this weekend. Others have friended me on Facebook. I love them. It felt so easy and natural. I wanted to just stay all night long. I’m excited to see what develops. Karol has a sister I’ve not yet met and she had a brother who died a while back. (Another thing she has in common with Carol One. Also, both birth fathers lived in the same neighborhood.) I’m not putting identifying information out about Karol Two’s family yet, since I don’t want to violate privacy of family I’ve not yet met. (She did give me permission to use this picture).
My other half sister and brother are on my birth mother’s side. I’ve met that sister, but not the brother. Those relationships are a little more complicated, because their mother (my birth mother) is still alive.
I’m not sure what a large groups of sisters is called? A congress? A gaggle? A passel? Whatever it is, I’m grateful– for the sister I’ve had my whole life, the sisters I’ve met more recently, and the sister I’ve yet to meet.
In a world that seems to be ever more fracturing along lines of arbitrary categorization, I hope we can remember my “family”. I was born to one, adopted into another, claimed by a third, and now a fourth. I went from being a stranger to being a member of a family. In many cases, all it took was a phone call.
Think about that.
Fifty years ago, my parents got a phone call to come get a baby. I went from being an orphan to being a daughter and a sister.
Four years ago, when my birth certificate came out, I called Carol One, told her the story, and her reply was “I’ve never had a sister before!” I went from being a random stranger on the phone to being a sister.
This past year, as the DNA knowledge has unfolded, I’ve been welcomed in to yet another family, through phone calls and online conversations. I went from being a DNA profile on Ancestry.com to being a sister.
While my birth family story hasn’t been uniformly sunshine and puppies, overall I would say it has been pretty remarkable. I’ve been the recipient of welcome and grace, time after time. It’s reminded me of the goodness of people. And it challenges me to expand my sense of who is family, of who deserves welcome.
Don’t let the world divide us. We’re so much better together. We are family.
May we break down the walls that divide. May we be fearless in our welcome. May we choose to include.
Grateful for my sisters who are showing me how.