[ 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]
My second conversation with my new half-brother, Ben, and his wife Alex, occurred the day after our first. It was an early evening for Steve and me, a late evening for them. I sat on the floor with my back against Steve’s recliner, a fire burned in the fireplace and the mood was calm as we initiated our next conversation. My heart was heavy with the knowledge that my father, Sean Andersen was gone, but I felt encouraged and happy that my half-brother and his wife were eager to connect. I had so many questions!
After saying our hellos and both admitting to a bad night sleep the night before, we went quickly into questions, answers and sharing. Ben wanted to know about me and my life, how many children I had, how I grew up, did I always know I was adopted, what did I learn about my birth mother? We got side tracked on the topic of both attending Vestal High School and attempted to recall any parties that we both had attended. We discovered some common friends but, in the end, we didn’t come up with anything from our memory where we would have shared a conversation. And then I said out loud what we both were thinking,
“Thank God we never dated!”
We shifted the topic to Ben, his family and to my father. I wanted to learn about their life and about the man, Sean Andersen. Ben shared how his, I mean “our”, father died from complications of colon cancer that he struggled with for years (Ben suggested I schedule a colonoscopy). He told me about Sean’s career but also about his hobby and true passion as a writer. Sean wrote numerous short stories and scripts for plays and film. I excitedly shared that I too had a passion for writing and that talent was extended to my youngest son, Kai. Kai has exceptional talent for creative writing. For the first time in my life, I was finding connections between myself and a genetic relative.
As I listened to Ben and Alex take turns talking about my birth father, a beautiful picture began to take shape. They loved him deeply and were very close. Ben shared about conversations they had and how his parent’s relationship was one of those fairy tale romances where love endured and grew through the years. Quite frankly, I had not had much exposure to that type of marital love and it was so beautiful to hear Ben and Alex talk about it. It moved me deeply and I felt a tinge of envy about what it must be like to be a child of parents who loved each other this way.
Then, Ben and Alex told me that they just visited Ben’s mother, Linda, to tell her about me and all that had transpired over the past 24 hours. I was taken aback with that news. There was so much secrecy and fear on my Birth Mother’s family side. The Verde’s, especially Angela, handled the news of me so fearfully, like I was a grenade that could destroy the family and its very foundation. In contrast, Ben and Alex, immediately felt compelled to talk to Linda to fill her in.
I felt a lump rise in my throat. “How did that conversation go?”, I asked.
“Well, it was a difficult one”, Ben said. Alex and Ben took turns relaying how they broke the news to Linda. They told me how she listened but then interrupted at one point to ask if they wanted to hear Sean’s side of the story. This question took Ben and Alex by surprise. They were assuming that Linda didn’t know anything about a pregnancy.
Linda then told them about how Sean and she had fallen in love and that they wanted to get married. But they had a few obstacles, one was that Linda was a senior in high school and her family felt she was too young to get married. The other was that Sean was engaged to Angela Verde. Sean wanted to call off his engagement to Angela and he had several reasons for his change of heart but, of course, it was complicated. Linda and Sean went together to meet with Angela to tell her of their love. Linda said that during that meeting, Angela never mentioned a pregnancy, and Sean and Angela ended the engagement.
Linda continued and described how the drama escalated from the Verde family. Angela’s parents showed up one night at the Andersen home. They confronted Sean and Sean parents with the fact that Sean was abandoning their daughter while she was pregnant. The confrontation was heated and emotional and Sean and his parents didn’t believe the pregnancy was real. They felt it was a manipulation tactic to get Sean to marry Angela.
In the face of the controversy and drama, Sean and Linda eloped before Linda graduated high school. They never heard another word from Angela or her family again, so they had no reason to believe that the pregnancy was real, let alone that Angela ever gave a baby up for adoption.
Linda had a hard time believing this was possible. Ben told her he would take a DNA test to confirm it but told her that she should start considering the possibility that Sean had a child that was given up for adoption.
Linda’s heart was broken, and she was angry. I understood all her feelings. This is when it hit me that no adoption story is without pain, lies or secrecy. And my story had them all. I told Ben how empathetic I was for his mother’s pain and that I felt horrible to be the cause of any of it. My calm and logical half-brother exclaimed that I was not the cause of any of it. Two twenty-year-old kids, over fifty years ago, made choices that are quite forgivable. He also assured me that his mother’s loving nature would take over and that she eventually would come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness.
Our hour-long call ended with not nearly half of my questions answered. But I learned that I had a half-sister and several nieces and nephews. We agreed to talk again soon.
I was days away from my trip to Florida where I would meet my cousin Tina face to face. I hoped that one day I could arrange a trip to meet Ben and Alex face to face.