Whatever perspective each of us have in life is borne out as the sum total of our life experiences, whatever those may be.
What is normal for you or I may seem extreme or weird for anyone else. And that is OK. It’s what makes us one big human family. So, when I try to explain my life to others, it begins and ends with my mom and my mother.
Like many children, I often got to hear about the first time my mom saw me. I am sure that you have heard those stories about you, a zillion times on your birthday, right?
My mom first saw me in a government office in March 1968. I was almost 11 months old. That was the beginning of my “normal.” I was born May 3, 1967 to a single woman who immediately placed me for adoption. She was living and working near Dayton, Ohio. I was born in Kettering, and immediately placed in foster care. Her parental rights ended in September of that year.
From the time of my adoption, it was obvious that I was in a family that loved and wanted me. While I do not recall those early days and years, the pictures from then are those of a doting family and a smiling chubby little boy. Me. One of my first memories is going to the truck stop with my dad for breakfast. I was about two and a half. We were going somewhere to get my mom and brother. I didn’t know what that meant, but it did mean that my mom would be home soon, so that was good.
Fast forward a few years, I was maybe 9 or so, and asked my mom what being adopted meant. I was called that at school. I still remember the feeling of happiness from that conversation. She told me that she had tried to have a baby and it died, and she and my dad had a chance to adopt a baby. They got to choose one just for them.
They chose me.
Later she got pregnant and had my brother in the hospital, so they were kind of stuck with him, but they CHOSE me. That simple explanation has stuck with me for the rest of my life.
Everyone loved my brother. Yes he was born to them, and yes, I was adopted, but not for one second did I feel slighted by my mom or my family. We were loved equally. However the inside joke between us was always that I was chosen, and they got stuck with him.
As I got older, as I matured and learned more about life, I wondered more and more about the biological side of me. I pondered the old nature versus nurture ideologies and constantly thought… what if….
It was never that anything was missing from my childhood. I would probably describe it as idyllic. Growing up in a stable family, living on a small farm, riding bicycles to my grandparents and visiting cousins who were my first and lifelong best friends as well. Our little freewill Baptist church was also a big part of my life as a youth, and my church friends will always be in my heart as family as well.
I learned the value of hard work, the value of a dollar, and the value of family.
Then everything fell apart. When I was in high school my brother was involved in a dirt motorcycle accident. He broke his leg and was sidelined for a while. After his leg had healed the orthopedic physician, for some reason decided the rod in his leg should be removed. It was a minor surgery, it would take 15 minutes and he would be okay. One the day of surgery, it was snowy that day. We were both out of school, so off we went to the hospital. He never woke up. Until that time period, I do not ever recall my dad crying. After that, it was months before I saw him without a tear.
I was a senior in high school when it happened. I remember some things from then and have permanently erased others. But, I can recall how I felt. I think today we call it survivor’s guilt. Why was he gone and me, the adoptee still there? That I was adopted didn’t matter to my parents, but it did to me for a long time.
About a year later the old nature versus nurture thing reared its ugly head when I was in college biology and psychology classes. Genetics class killed me, because everyone was charting their family’s genetic traits on widow’s peak, dominant hand, hair color, skin tones and on and on…. The teacher told me to just make it up.
One day about that time I talked to my mom and told her that I was interested in finding my biological family mainly so I could fill in those genetic markers. Through tear-filled eyes she told me that it was my choice, but she would prefer I not do it while she was alive. I didn’t understand then, but now, I realize, she didn’t want to take a chance of losing another son. She was my mom. The only one I would ever have, but she couldn’t bear the risk of me finding anyone else to call mom. That could never happen.
So, silently I searched, not sure what I would have done had I found even a trace of my biological history. Eventually she lost a courageous battle to ovarian cancer. The mom who chose me was gone physically, but the love of a mother endures all.
A few years later, my wife Michele was able to set things in motion that changed not only the course of my life, but others as well, I think. She tracked down a searcher who pointed me in the right direction, and later gifted me with an AncestryDNA kit. Both would prove instrumental in my future.
Until that point, I had an original birth certificate with my mom and dad’s names, birth places and occupations on there. I also had a loving and thoughtful letter from the foster mother who took me in and loved me for the first ten months of my life. And, I had a few pages of “non-identifying biological information.”
Finally, I was able to acquire my original birth certificate. My mom’s name was not on there. But my biological mother’s name was in her place. The father was listed as unknown; however, in my “non-identifying biological information” I know that she knew my biological father very well. I saw the year of their birth, how many siblings each parent had, their jobs, eye and hair color, etc.… facts. Just the facts.
So, I went from knowing very little to having a name, her birthday, and hometown. It was 2016, and I was on Facebook and Google in a matter of minutes. I found that she had passed away in 2012. Armed with the new information, and free from hurting my mom, I searched with a vengeance. I found relatives both near and far. Some who knew I existed, some who were shell-shocked. All have since welcomed me with open arms.
I met many relatives that first year through social media and in person at a family function. It was overwhelming to go somewhere and be so welcomed. My mother’s family is a wonderful family and I was right at home.
As my search continued, I found out that my biological mother had a first child, a boy named Kevin and she left him in the care of her sister.
The mother went on to have a second child, a girl, whom she placed for adoption.
She had a third child. Me. I was named John at the hospital, and that name stuck. That was pre-ordained according to my God-fearing grandmother, who opened her bible to the book or story of John the Baptist several times before my parents went to get me.
I was told by the birth mother’s sister that there was a fourth child, a boy born the year after me, but that has never been verified.
After a period of time the birth mother married and went back to get Kevin.
Summer of 2017 I went to visit with Kevin and his wife. He was not sure that I existed. He had heard rumors but it was never verified. It was amazing to meet someone who looks enough like me to be my brother, and it actually is my brother.
For Mother’s Day 2018 I posted a social media message thanking some of the women who had been important in my life. I thanked my biological mother and called her by name. It was shared as a public post somehow. Because of security purposes, I did not make public posts. This one was divine intervention.
In July of that year, a 52-year-old adoptee, Trilby, was home alone for a few days and she searched biological mother’s name. She knew who the mother was, and had talked to her when she was 18. She came across my post and was confused. She knew she had a brother Kevin. But that was her only sibling. Or so she thought. She fired off a quick and impulsive message to me and tried for hours to recover and delete it. The next morning I saw the message and told her that I had been looking for her all of my life. A very fast and deep relationship has developed almost as if by magic.
While Trilby and I have met several times because of us living close to each other; Kevin, Trilby and I collectively have not been together yet, but we hope to make that occur sooner rather than later.
We are blessed to have each other. And that could be the end of an amazing adoption story.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!!
In January of 2019, I get a message from a lady on AncestryDNA that said we were a close match biologically, but she had no idea how. After about 3 rounds of playing 20 questions we figured out that her brother and my confirmed biological mother were together about 9 months before I was born. And, that non-identifying biological information fit her family to a “T.”
We are very early in the “getting to know you phase” with his immediate family, but I feel just as connected to and welcomed by them as I did for the mother.
Because of blind luck, some help by my wife, an adoption searcher, social media, and Ancestry DNA, most of the pieces are fitting together for my “biological/nature side.”
Each of us is the sum total of our genetic material, and all of our life experiences and decisions. Some things we are stuck with. Some things are choices.
I know that I everything in my life is viewed through the lens that is both nature and nurture made, and that is okay.
I know that my family, the ones who chose me, and those who are stuck with me, are some of the best people on this planet. I would not be who I am if someone had not chosen to give me a better life. And I definitely would not be who I am if someone had not chosen me.
I was chosen.
John McGlone is retired educator and lives in Boyd County, Kentucky.
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