I’ll tell you WTF happened in 1972

Updated on January 26, 2021 in General Stuff
9 on January 25, 2021

Let me work backwards on this:

About 3 months ago, I get a text from a person in the Houston area stating that Ancestry. Com had indicated that she and I were “CLOSELY related,” the all caps hers.
I didn’t pick up on those capital letters. I should have.

I blew off the text, and then she left me a voice mail message asking for a call back. I finally decided it was not a salesperson or a political fundraiser, so I gave her a ring and asked what her interest was in the gang of horse thieves and cutthroats from which I had descended. She asked if I knew a woman named “Arly” from my hometown in Louisiana, many years ago, and then I knew what was up. I felt sick.

She explained that this woman, Arly, now 68, had recently told her that she was her mother and that she — Arly — had been in a long term relationship with someone matching my description back in 1972, in Monroe, Louisiana. She — the caller — was the offspring.

I heaved a sigh of relief at that point because I had never been in anything like a “relationship” in those years, and had never lived in Monroe, either. So I could not have been the father, I thought. She persists, though, when I tell her this, and asks hopefully if I perhaps have blue eyes. I heave another sigh of relief because, no, I do not have blue eyes. I secretly recalled in that moment, however, that my mother had hazel eyes, so lord knows what genes I have bouncing around inside. So t!he noose around my neck was alternately tightening and loosening as we continued talking.

If you’re wondering why I was sighing in relief as the story proceeded, instead of jumping for joy to find my long lost child, it’s because I was having visions of having to tell my adult children that they had an older half sister they never knew existed. 1972 was many years before I had met their mother, so there was no infidelity involved (but put an asterisk by that); still, it was awkward. What would my kids and my wife say? What would they ask? How could I have never acknowledged my own child?

This caller reassured me that her mother had never told the father that she was expecting, and instead had run off to Houston to have the baby in secret and give the baby up for adoption. So I was not a dead beat dad, either. The adoptive family was ex-military and professional with plenty of money. The adoption records were and are sealed. Adoption severs legal and familial ties with the biological parents.

Now here’s what really made me nervous, beyond the fact that DNA said that I was her father, regardless of the seeming geographical impossibility. What made me nervous was the revelation that mom had run off to Houston in 1972 to have the baby, you see, because, as the caller explained, “in those days, it was hard for 16 year old girls to tell their parents that they were pregnant.”

Gulp. That was true, but SIXTEEN???

To fast forward, I was only nervous about having committed a criminal act of carnal knowledge for a second or two, because I was by this time simultaneously recalling the image of the mother, Arly, whom I only knew briefly, and no 16 year old was so well developed as the woman I was remembering. She had a job, too. I did some more cross checking and confirmed that the mother was indeed 18.5 on the night of our fateful one night stand. As was I.

(I couldn’t very well say to this caller that “there was no way she was 16!” Since I was at that point denying that I had ever even … you know….)

I gradually came around and acknowledged reality and had a good long distance conference call with her and my wife, who was fascinated by it all and insisting that we should welcome this “child” — who is now 49 y.o. and a prosperous CPA — into the family. We aren’t quite there yet.

Anyway, remember the asterisk by the infidelity part? Well, while I was free and crazy in those years, I remember going to see this woman a few days after our fateful rendezvous, and when I smiled expectantly (“Hey baby what’s up?”), I vividly remember her averting her gaze and extending a long, lovely left arm to show me a diamond ring on her finger, a ring that she had not received from your humble narrator. The ring established that she was in another relationship when she “met” me. I had no idea about the other man,boy really
I guess she was having second thoughts about her engagement.

The ring would have been from the guy ith whom she was in the long term relationship in Monroe, see? So all this time, she appears to have assumed that the father of her child was a different guy. That’s one reason she never notified me. She wasn’t in my face about it. She was actually kind of sheepish and had a hard time looking me in the eye. Anyway, I wished her well and never saw her again. Still haven’t.

The only thing I haven’t explained, because I can’t, is why this woman told her daughter, after being tracked down, that she was 16 when she got pregnant. This was not a mistake, but a lie. Now why would she do that Anyone? Bueller?

 
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0 on January 25, 2021

I must be missing something.

“DNA said that I was her father”? How’d she get your DNA to run the test?

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0 on January 25, 2021

I’m with Jeff, but you’ve definitely got my attention!

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0 on January 25, 2021

PS: I should add, if you’re saying it is fully confirmed that you have in fact found a long lost daughter, then I guess congratulations are in order! Can I send you a cigar?

That had to be beyond shocking.

The age lie? Hard to say what that was about. One speculation is that by bending her age from 18 to 16, she created an enhanced sense of vulnerability in order to justify her decision to offer the baby for adoption.

*****

Coincidentally, I find myself, indirectly anyway, on the opposite side of a very similar story in recent days. Some time around 1980 (I make a point of keeping as much distance as I can from this whole business, so if I appear vague, it’s because of a fuzzy grasp of the facts, not evasiveness) my then future wife’s older sister got pregnant and ended up offering the baby for adoption. That was quite the family scandal at the time.

In recent weeks, this long-ago buried bit of history was brought back to the surface when the child, now a 40ish woman, contacted her mother (my sister in law).

The path to get there is still somewhat a mystery to me. My understanding of Nebraska adoption law (as it existed then, anyway) was that you could opt for a “closed” adoption, which meant the birth parents’ identities were permanently sealed from the public. There was some sort of back-door procedure, where a court could get involved in extreme cases, but even then the identity of the parents could never be disclosed without the parent(s) agreement. My understanding was that those cases were limited to things like extraordinary medical situations, where knowing the family history might save a life. Things like that.

Well, my sister in law never received any notification from any court or other authority. The contact from her daughter came directly from the daughter and totally out of the blue.

How’d that happen?

I’m not sure, and my “keep a distance” posture will probably prevent me from ever knowing the full details, but it goes something like this: The daughter went to the county courthouse and got a duplicate birth certificate. Previously, I would have assumed that the names of the birth parents would have been redacted on that document, but apparently because of either clerical error or some other thing, they were not. So, through that process, she ended up with my sister in law’s maiden name.

Next event in the story is the death of my father in law. The daughter happened to notice his obituary in the newspaper, since he had the same last name (a relatively unusual one) as my sister in law’s maiden name. Plus, my sister in law (with her married name) was listed in the “survived by” stuff. The daughter matched the last name from my father in law and the first name of my sister in law and in so doing. had my sister in law’s current first and last names. Plus, the obituary mentioned what church my father in law went to. 

Here’s where it gets even weirder. Late in life, my father in law remarried (church only, no marriage license) after the death of my mother in law. His new wife was and is a volunteer office attendant at that church. In addition, there was an absolute falling out between my inlaws (my wife is one of five brothers and sisters) and the “new wife” after my father in law’s death. Very ugly.

The adopted daughter called the church office looking for information. My father in law’s recently widowed second wife gave the adopted daughter her mother’s (my sister in law) cell phone number.

In that way, the first contact my sister in law had with her previously adopted daughter was a phone call that came out of the blue.

It’s been something of a shitshow ever since.

*****

I do wonder if my sister in law has a cause of action against either the county or the church. If they were smarter or more litigious people, they might go after that. As it stands, I’m not going anywhere near it.

*****

Back to the DNA question. Did you previously submit a DNA sample to ancestry.com that they used to make the match? Just thought of that possibility.

 

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0 on January 26, 2021

^^^Stranger things have happened through the advent of family tree DNA sites:

https://www.vox.com/2018/4/27/17290288/golden-state-killer-joseph-james-deangelo-dna-profile-match

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0 on January 26, 2021

Thanks for reading the too-lengthy OP.

To clarify, when you give your DNA (a cheek swab) to Ancestry.com, this in order to discover if you are really part 1/1024th Indian as Pocahontas Warren did, or related to President/General George Washington, you have to click a little button that says “share” (or not) the information with others.  I don’t remember seeing the option and inadvertently made it public, so that distant cousins could find me if they wanted to.  (I never said I was smart.)  What did I have to hide?  Answer: a lot, depending on your POV.

It can actually be kind of fun to discover your roots and long lost cousins.  But then you have to worry that some deadbeat or some murderer might write you from prison and tell you that he plans to look up his long lost cousin when he makes parole next year.  So a philosophical question poses itself:

“Was it a mistake to help my offspring find me?”   For me, the answer is “no,” because it had been eating at this lady to find her “real father” for many years.   She’s happy to know it turned out to be me and not, say, Charles Manson or Ted Bundy.  I guess she also benefitted from finding out about my own parents’ history of cancer, Parkinsons, and so on.  I gave her this info in our first conversation.  

But another answer is, yes, it’s a mistake, because the adoptive family adopted the child with the express intention of becoming the “real” and only parents, to the exclusion of the biologicals, and this is what the law countenances.

And then suppose she had not prospered in life and were in fact a depressed, drug addicted combat veteran living on the street in Chicago?  Would I not have had some obligation to help her?  I think so, yes.

 

 

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0 on January 26, 2021

I suppose, as in all au courante social contracts, the upstanding have more to lose. Some long lost cousin is a lot more likely to lose sleep over being related to a starving artist than I am to find out that I have an obligation to help an adult kid. 😀

Interesting stuff.

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0 on January 26, 2021

What’s the path forward look like? Does your daughter indicate she wants some form of ongoing contact/relationship? Do you?

And what’s up with Arly these days? Have you made contact there?

I can’t begin to grok what a bizarre twist of fate this all is.

*****

Back to my sister in law. She ended up getting married a few years after the adoption kerfuffle. The man she married had a daughter from a previous marriage, and in a really odd twist of fate, the recently re-surfaced daughter has the same first name. That’s weird.

The two of them went on to have two more kids. They are both 20-somethings now. What I’ve come to learn is that the hardest part on my sister in law is that they never told any of the three kids about the baby that was adopted. It was well and truly buried in the past.

Until it wasn’t. Apparently, everything is out in the open now. No idea how the kids reacted to learning about their long lost half sister. Not that it matters much to me. The two younger ones are real douchebags anyway.

*****

I’ve never submitted a DNA sample to any of those sites. There’s enough “Edward Snowden” in me that I don’t trust it. But both of my brothers have. I wonder if they selected the “private” option, and if they didn’t, if I could be tracked anyway.

Hmmmmm…..

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0 on January 26, 2021

I’ve never done the DNA stuff mostly because I’ve got family members who’ve done the research and pretty much confirmed what I’ve already known- I’m a child of a long line of dysfunction. Big deal. I’m not worried about some long lost child showing up because I’ve never been that lucky with the ladies, but now I’ve got yet another reason not to care.

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0 on January 26, 2021

She and I plan to meet after President Biden inoculates, de-programs and de-louses us all.   It will be okay.  

One funny thing is that she has now told her husband that “You’d better not ever put your DNA out there.”  He’s a big, good looking guy who looks like he enjoyed football, convertibles and a little post-game, female companionship in his younger days, LOL.

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