|How could anyone not love her?|
Well, where does one begin?
At the beginning, I suppose.
My mother in law, whom I love very much, for a variety of reasons, is nearing the end of her life. The family is working with hospice, as her mind and body begins its wind down. We lost my father in law about 14 months ago, now it's her time for her farewell performance.
Nothing is imminent, it's just the doctor has said that given her age, that if she has another internal bleeding episode that it would be easier on her if we just to let nature take its course. At 92, she is simply tired.
Faced with this, the husband and I started working doubly hard on trying to find her birth parents. It's been a decades process that never really yielded anything. All her adoption agency would give her when she was well was "non-identifying" information, which was all accurate, but impossible to prove.
Last spring, after watch Dr. Henry Gates use a genetic genealogist by the name of Cece Moore, I thought, now there's something that we've never done before. So I contacted Ms. Moore, and she was delighted to help us. Since her plate was full, she handed us over to another able professional named Angela, and together we marched forward, until all of us got distracted with the things in our lives.
Then this past fall, we really pushed forward. Finally, with MIL's DNA providing us nothing but ancient overseas matches, we tried another route.
Go back to the source of our frustrations.
We decided to contact the adoption agency.
MIL was adopted in New York, and New York laws on adoptions were, for years, byzantine at best and pure gothic at its worst.
In 1989, MIL started playing this "ask me a question and I'll tell you no lies" routine that led nowhere but the "non-identification" information which contained things like "Your father was a protestant; your mother a Catholic." And "Your mother was raised in a convent for six years of her life."
What are you supposed to do when an agency is bound by rules and laws that can only tell you "On the day that you were born, the sun came up in the east, and set in the west"? You give up after exhausting what you think are the logical steps that take you nowhere.
This time, given her advanced age, the agency got a legal opinion that enough time had passed, and they kindly provided us with information.
We then came upon a letter written by MIL to the agency in 1991 in which she expressed her displeasure with the whole "snatch this pebble from my hand" routine and in it, it said that she would like to meet her siblings, if they could be found. The letter was a whole lot nicer than I would have been, still, you could sense her annoyance between the lines causing the words and meanings to vibrate with sarcasm.
Apparently, MIL's birth parents were married, and following the birth of third child, the birth mother went into a deep cycle postpartum depression. This lifted with her fourth pregnancy, which was MIL, but she crashed again and was institutionalized, possibly for the rest of her life. She could no longer function or care for the other three children, what good was she, thought her husband who was making .87 hour as a tool and die maker. So we knew they were out there. What we didn't know where they ended up.
Well, apparently, two of them ended up with the birth father. Son and second daughter ended up with the father and were living with them by 1940. But we couldn't much on them, so we focused on the eldest daughter, "Agatha". She had married a man with a unique last name, so running those lines came easily. We found that woman's son on Ancestry, and his descendents through Facebook. They were all in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs.
We contacted them and we waited.
And one of them bit at it and answered back. We said that we did want anything, we weren't there to sell anything, and we wanted no personal information, but we did want to share the MIL adoption with them. We laid all the cards out of the table, but we did not provide anything in writing in documents. Those we would share if we got to meet them. We would even pay for the DNA test to prove it.
They said they would mull it over the holiday. And we waited.
Finally on Saturday afternoon we received a tersely worded statement that that went something like this: "Since this was something never discussed in the family, we chose not to believe it or get involved." and "We would appreciate never hearing from you again."
Now granted, this family line has a lot of "stuff" going on in it that is outside the norm. And yes, 90 years had gone past since the adoption. But that was really a kick in pants.
So I responded, and said that I felt we were owed something from them. And that something was we got to tell them that our door was always open to them should they change their minds. But I also slipped in there that whether or not they chose to embrace this wonderful woman, it still didn't change the fact that she was "Agatha's" sister. And there was nothing that they could do or say to the contrary. They could either come around, or not, but that was their decision, not ours. I wished them well.
Away from it - we have no idea what "Agatha" knew or didn't know. She would have been nine when the MIL was removed from the family home. Maybe her father told her he had put her up for adoption. Maybe the hurt was so bad that she was never mentioned again, like a death. Maybe "Agatha" was so put off by her father's actions that she blamed him. There is even the possibility that "Agatha" was a totally unpleasant person.
We'll never know until "Agatha's" people decide to man up, and reach out.
They may think they won the battle by telling us to go away, but we won the war.
And how did we win the war? Well, for starters, we have had my Mother-in-Law, a woman of such great compassion that had these people come knocking at the door, she would have taken them in, no questions asked. And we have each other, though there is always room at the family table for more. But we have the truth, and can give it to my mother in law. She gets to know that her biological father did indeed do the best thing for her, which was putting her up for adoption, through which she was chosen and loved every moment of her adoptive parents lives, totally, and without question - she was their daughter.
So last week was a week of great celebration, and crushing defeat. Now we push on to find the heirs of the other two siblings, and the final resting places of MIL's birth parents.
So yeah, we are a very lucky family. And now I get to love her all the more.