[If this is your first time reading my Adoption Story, it is a fascinating journey told in pieces. For your best experience, start from the beginning at: Adoptee with a Note]
Over the next couple days, Tina and I talked about what my next steps should be. Tina had filled me in on the Verde family history and what she knew about her Aunt Angela (Angie). According to Tina, Angie was a sweet and loving mother to her three children (I had half siblings!) and had been very compassionate to Tina’s grandmother. Angie was now divorced and had moved away from Binghamton. Tina’s father was cousins with Angie (their fathers were brothers), which made Tina and I second cousins. Ancestry got that right. Tina was certain that Angie would be open to me reaching out and thought that after the initial shock of it, she would be open to relationship with me. Her optimism gave me the courage to move forward.
I decided that sending a letter in the mail was the least threatening. I wrote the letter and, after ruling out sending the letter inside the Children's Book, "Are you my Mother?", I found a nice card with birds on it to send it in instead . [What? I thought it would lighten the mood and show my incredible sense of humor! :-) Apparently I was the only one who thought so. LOL! In retrospect, a card was definitely the best decision.]
It was not difficult to find Angela’s address online. I sent the bright pink envelope off in the mail with a kiss of hope and a prayer. Then... I waited.
Here is the letter I sent. Reading it now I see it is a rambling jumble of nervous words but I hope I expressed my intention and that I came across nonthreatening. What do you think? How would you respond if you received it? :
I'm not quite sure how to even start a letter like this, so forgive it's awkwardness.
My name is Lisa and 53 years ago in November I was born in Upstate NY and adopted by a wonderful Polish/Czech family. I had two brothers, one who was also adopted and the youngest who was a surprise miracle baby to my parents (who couldn't get pregnant). I grew up always knowing that I was adopted and NEVER having any bad feelings about it at all. In fact, I actually felt I was special, probably due to the ingenious way that my parents would celebrate my birthday and celebrate the anniversary of my coming into their home. As a child, I thought it was the coolest thing, and to the envy of all my friends who really wanted to make fun of me for being adopted, I celebrated two birthdays, each with presents and special dinners and showers of love! All my friends wished they were adopted too! If I had to advise any new adopting parents how to deal with the adoption subject with their child, I'd suggest this tactic, as I LOVED being adopted. :-) I wish I could find a cartoon that I had cut out and kept in my desk or dresser drawer ...I don't remember if it was Calvin and Hobbes or something like that, but it was one child talking to another and the one child said, "Well my parents picked me out, but yours were just stuck with what they got!". LOL! I know that's not how it worked, but it was funny to me as a kid.
As a child, I often thought of my birth mom, her family and thought of her kindly. Even at that young age, I was able to realize the sacrifice and selflessness that it took on her part to give me up for a life that she could not provide me. I drew pictures of her and wrote stories about my birth family... all from my imagination. I had no information, except that I was Italian and Danish (with a little bit more info), so I made up my own stories. Some I still remember. I grew up loved, was pretty smart in school (I actually LOVED school and earned a BS in Math and Computer Science) and I went on to have a very successful career as a Software/Database Engineer. I traveled around the world with my job and as I took on new jobs, I ventured from Upstate NY, to Boston, to Texas and then finally landed in beautiful Colorado. In Texas, I married a man that I met at work and together we did very well together with our careers. We had two beautiful children (who are the joy and light of my life) and I was content and happy. I gave up my career when we moved to Colorado to be a full-time mom. I also used this opportunity to pursue my childhood passion of art (I went back to school and got my BFA degree).
When I was pregnant with my first born I began to think again about my birth mother. I felt the enormous gratitude of her gift of love and life that she gave to me. It was at that time that I began searching diligently to find her and hopefully my birth father as well. My main intent to finding her was to relay my gratitude and my realization of the sacrifice she made for me. Secondly, I hoped that she also might have thought about me over the years and perhaps wondered how my life was and how I was doing. I hoped that connecting with her, even in a small way, might provide some answers to us both and closure on a part of lives and our hearts that needed it. Frustratingly, I ran into many dead ends with my research. New York state is a closed adoption state and there was no way to get around those laws. I did hire a private investigator at one point who promised to get me information, but that turned up a dead end as well. It was easy to think about giving up. From that point forward my search went in spurts, I'd start with a new fervor but then after hitting dead ends over and over again, I would stop; until I got another inspiration to try again. I read many articles about adoptees reuniting, and many were not happy stories, this made me wonder if I was doing the right thing by searching. I realize that my birth mother went through a lot to give me life and may not want to revisit this painful part of her life and may have kept it a secret from everyone. I certainly do not want my return to cause any stress, pain or disruption for her. I decided that if I found her, at the very least I can reach out, tell her who I am and how I have loved her in my heart my whole life and how I am so grateful for what she did for me, giving me the gift of life. If I could do that, well, that would make me happy. Perhaps, after I did that, she could take her time and decide, on her schedule and on her terms, when and if and how she would want to connect with me.
I also would want to share with her that my whole life I embraced my Italian heritage and clung to all the Italian people in my life. My god-parents were Italian, my grandmother's best friend was Italian and through these people I absorbed as much Italian "stuff" as I could absorb. I learned to cook wonderful authentic Italian foods and I learned to speak Italian through an Italian friend and through some classes. I have visited Italy three times, once in the North (which was ok), but I fell in love and connected with Southern Italy. I spent a week outside of Florence attending a cooking class with a friend, speaking Italian with the assistant chefs and helpers in the class. Most recently in 2015 I remarried (I divorced in 2010) to a wonderful man and we spent our honeymoon touring Southern Italy for a month. I know my blood and soul is Italian and I feel at home there. My dream now is to own a home and/or live a bit in Tuscany. My Italian heritage is what I identify with and interestingly enough, so do both my children. My husband, Steve, and I are both retired and empty nesters. We have 5 children between us. His kids are older than mine and have already started their own families, so I have also become a grandmother (Nana) to two grandchildren, with one on the way. We watch our granddaughter once a week and I LOVE being a grandmother! We spend as much time as possible traveling and exploring the world. I paint and write and research in my free time, Steve is a photographer, writer and musician on his free time. We are both very happy!
At this point, you may be asking yourself why am I telling you all this and why are you receiving this letter from me. The answer is that recently I received the results of a DNA test I took from Ancestry.com, which is a resource I have been using over the years to do my birth parent research. I knew about the DNA portion of their site, but wasn't sure how well it could work for me. It could only do a match with another person if that other person also did a DNA test and I wasn't confident that my birth mom or dad would do that. What I learned though is that it also matches to cousins, distant cousins, etc. so I did the test. I now know that I have some matches to first and second and third cousins and I began research from there. Third cousins seemed very distant to start with, so I looked at some of the family trees created by the first and second cousin matches of mine. I also reached out to them via Ancestry. Interestingly two of the three trees that came up as first and second cousins have the Verde surname. So since the two trees shared my DNA and shared the surname Verde, I used my investigative skills that I have honed over the years to create an expansive family tree for the Verde family (my tree contains probably 400 people and traces back to early 1800s, some earlier). But my purpose was to find a woman who was born in 1944 who was unmarried in 1964 and hadn't yet had any children by then - AND would satisfy the relationship of my match to the 1st and 2nd cousins. Interestingly enough, out of all those people...you were the only single woman, born in 1944, matching the rest of the criteria. There is no question that I could have made a mistake, missed something, etc. that has directed me erroneously towards you, and if that is the case, please accept my deepest apology and tell me, so that I continue my search in a different direction. But if I am correct, I wanted to reach out to you, to give you the opportunity to digest this and to know that I am here.
I certainly hope to hear from you, one way or the other and I understand and will accept any decision you make.
If you are not my birth mother, we are surely related in some way as the DNA tells us and I will find out how eventually, perhaps with your assistance?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. It was a difficult one for me to write and I confess I am very excited, anxious, nervous and terrified to think of possibly having found who I was looking for, for so long.
Please reach out in any way you feel the most comfortable. My contact information is below.