The People And Trees Around Us

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The people and trees around us seem to share some things in common. Both are around us yet we know very little about the actual life they have lived. We observe them both grow and age. Trees and people carry on with their life whether we are their to share it or if we have missed out. I know that sounds pretty deep but it is also a really simple truth when one sits down for the comparison. Well then, what’s my point? We will get to that or maybe you might even see what it is by the time I am done here. But let’s start with the tree that has fallen a few months ago out at the far edge of what I mow as part of my yard. Call me lazy but I just haven’t reaaly felt like dealing with this fallen tree because of the work I knew I would be having to do with it. However, as spring is now in full effect where I live in southeast Texas, I know I only have a few more weeks before it is very hot and swampy outside. It won’t be too much longer and we will be flirting with triple digits. Due to the heat I try to accomplish major things outside in our very short cool weather months. So, as I mowed my grass with my brand spanking new John Deere riding mower (the replacement), I drove by this tree which reminded me that there was work to be done. Or,leave it and let the other trees and vines consume it. But I don’t want this to look unkept, a personal choice, so I made the plans to handle it yesterday, Monday, since I have found it is better to plan things into my empty days instead of just throwing caution to the wind. After mowing I made sure my chainsaw was sharpened, my tractor was fueled up, and the burn pile had been knocked down, all in preparation for Monday’s task. I also went ahead and loaded the tractor onto the trailer already connected to my truck so there wouldn’t need to be so much back and forth walking on my part. Sadly, I know this dress all too well with all the old and majestic trees on the property.

Just before first light, just before the first glimpse that day is breaking, before the buttcrack of dawn, I was at the tree unloading my tractor from the trailer. I rearranged the small generator in the back of my truck so it was back on the runner mat, if not it vibrates allover the damn place. I plugged in my 80’s boom box and pushed play. Great news, we will be listening to Ozzy this morning. I cranked it up to max volume so I can hear it over the chainsaw. I am sure Mr. Crowley sounds pretty eerie creeping through the dense trees this early in the morning. Hot damn, chainsaw lit off on the first crank, time to let the wood chips fly! After about about an hour of cutting I begin to feel the warmth of the sun on the backs of my legs so I known I need to get moving so I can get it done. My son, riding the golf cart, came down to tell me he was off to catch the bus. He was a little upset he wasn’t helping me but was very understanding I think. Off he went, back to the house to get his bag so he could go catch his bus. Thankfully he brought down my big plastic mug that I left on the kitchen island, I was dreading having to break momentum to go back to the house. After a few hours I had a garbage pile and the wood I will keep for my outdoor fire pit. Oak is a great wood for these fire pits. I put a little effort into cutting the wood into very manageable pieces. I will split it in a few weeks to let it dry out more. First I need to fix my frankensplitter because it has a nasty hydraulic leak somewhere. Being done cutting, I hooked the chains to the bucket of the tractor so I can drag the bigger branches to the burn pile. Afterwards I loaded all the cut wood I was keeping onto the trailer. Tired now, and its only just shy of noon, I decide to leave everything where it is to go get a bite to eat up at the house. The hard work is done now so there isn’t actually much to do except clean up. I won’t lie, after making myself a toasted smoked turkey sandwich I did end up taking a short nap out on the deck while enjoy the slight breeze. But, nonetheless, I needed to finish. Before heading back down I loaded the crock pot up with chicken and spread the cheesy sauce on it and turned it on, dinner at 6 or so is my guess. Easy peasy done. I walked back down to my truck, loaded up, and the parked it back up alongside my shop. I will unload later, maybe even the next day (being today and it isn’t done yet).

While I waited for everyone to start trickling in from their day I took an ride down to get the mail. Bill, bill, advertising, sale, and something strange with no return address. I hopped back in the cart and headed back to the house. I opened the strange letter first. I skipped to the end to see who it was from, I know, bad habit. After realizing I didn’t know the person I started from the top. It started with a short explanation of how we don’t actually know each other but she knew me because of her mother and because she saw me in 2009 when I met my biological siblings for the first time in South Dakota. Technically she is my niece that I didn’t know I had until reading the letter. Her letter bears bad news, it seems that my biological grandmother has passed, someone I never met, and I am being informed that I was mentioned in the reading of her will. She will not disclose to what degree nor why, but told me to be expecting a package which contained some items belonging to my biological father. Items she had wanted to give me in person but it never happened. My biological father also died before I met him. In fact he had died before I never knew of him. Then the letter was signed with “Love, Gracie”. End of letter. Sadly, I never met the mother of my biological father, but I am sure she lived a very full life.

Which is where we get back to how trees and people share a similar path in life, both go on whether we are there to witness it or not. Both come and go in and out of existence and the is little we can do about it. There are many people I have not met and may never meet on that biological side of my family. Until 7 years ago the ones that have met me never knew I existed and when I dropped in on their lives I am sure it was as shocking as an old oak tree crashing into the living room because of a bad storm. And then in a crash of thunder, all of our lives changed. We questioned most of what we knew, and we embraced the changes that were coming whether we wanted them or not. I will wait for my package, impatient of course, because that is the way I get sometimes. So, this is where it ends today, with me waiting for my mystery package.

Explaining My Three Fathers

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Explaining my three fathers to my children has always been stories I enjoy telling. Sometimes it is like going down the wrong rabbit hole because it can be just a wee bit confusing. For those of y’all who just started playing along then I would guess y’all are at a bit of a loss. My recommendation is to search The Sting Of The Scorpion using the terms adoption, adopted, and biological. Then, perhaps y’all will be up to speed. Let me give a very brief review. I’m adopted, I’ve known my entire life. The fact that I was adopted was never the secret. In fact, until I turned 18 I never knew there was even a secret that people wished I never learned. In my case the records were sealed due to the circumstances of the pregnancy. Fortunately I was able to get them unsealed and have spent the better part of 25 years piecing together everyone’s dirty little secret, me.

On the backside of my property there lives an enormous oak tree. I find that when I’m in the presence of this oak tree that I tend to think of my family tree. My family tree is really twisted. If one was to look at it analytically I am actually the part of three family trees, if not more,  each in a separate way that leads into a different direction. Confused yet? We’ll get back to that. I have had “family”, specifically my biological family, on my mind recently since we (my wife & I) are planning to visit my oldest daughter (23) in Rapid City South Dakota over spring break this coming March 2014. Most of my biological family lives in the state of South Dakota, as well as my biological father and adopted father are both buried there also. For the purposes of explanation in this post the following will be the reference points when I discuss my three fathers, BF = Biological Father, AF = Adopted Father, SF = Step Father, my BM (biological mother/birth mother), and my AM (adopted mother/mother). Refer back to these abbreviations during this post if needed.

Everyone seems to want a piece of me when we go on the trip when all I really care to do is spend time with my daughter and my 2 y/o granddaughter whom we haven’t seen in some time now. Now, personally, my “agenda” will be to spend time with my wife, kids, and my granddaughter. Now, will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. As my younger children get older they have began to have questions about family because my side of the family is kinda complicated. Recently I, for the second or third time now, tried to explain things to my son, who I finally now think gets it. Me being adopted is not what is in question. How this fits into my life as well as my kids life is what always seems to be confusing. And, when I explain it here I might go out-of-order and bounce around a bit so just try pay attention. Like I mentioned above, from this point further I will address my fathers by their relationship to me. I needed to explain all of this to my children because they have never met my BF (biological father) or my AF (adopted father), all three of them only know my SF (step father) and all three of my children will be meeting my biological family (many of them but probably not all of them) in March.

So lets see where to begin here. I was born 06 November 1968 in a little town in the southeast of South Dakota. I was placed with my adopted parents within days of my birth. My adopted parents were divorced by the time I was 6. I will get into that another time. By the time I was turning 7 my mother was re-married and we all moved to the southwest side of Houston Texas. My AF remained in South Dakota where I visited him every Christmas break and summer vacation until he died at the end of the summer in 1983. I remained being raised by my SF and still to this day consider him to be my dad. Anything y’all read around this blog about the current happenings with my parents is about my mother and step father, which he is never referred to in the real world. There was never any secret of me being adopted, I have always “known” because I was told early on. Why? I don’t know. Before I start the next part, let it be known that my SF and my mother (AM) have always loved me and raised me if I was their own blood son. Their loyalty to me as a son has never, nor will it ever, be in question.

Once I was out on my own, joined the United States Air Force, married, and had my first daughter I was asked about my family history so medical records for my daughter could be started. I was at a loss, I was actually crushed because here I brought a child into existence and I don’t even know if I passed something on to her genetically that had the potential of being bad. I struggled with this fact for a few months as I held my daughter in my arms wondering if there were going to be things about herself that she would never know. After a brief discussion with my wife and a long conversation with my mother (AM) the decision was made I was going to find out who I was. It was the thought at the time, it gave me hope for myself and my daughter. Since I was stationed in Japan in 1991 I had to do things the old-fashioned way, I had to write letters. I actually only wrote two different letters, form letters, which I used to inquire about my adoption records and my biological parents. I won’t lie, I hit allot of dead ends, I got wrapped up in allot of red tape, and I was at a point (after a year) where I was ready to give up because there didn’t seem to be any information to have. Then, out of the blue, when I was ready to quit, I received a letter from the office of the Judge that was over my case back in 1968. I was informed that they had the information I was seeking, but, since I was overseas I needed to provide all my personal information along with an affidavit from my commander confirming my identity.

I gathered everything I had, to include birth certificate and the letter from my commander, loaded it in an envelope and sent it on it’s way. For the first couple of weeks I waited very patiently, then a month rolled by and my patience was wearing thin. After 3 months I just gave up. Soon after I received another letter from the office of the judge informing me that he has reviewed my case and my request and is granting my request to have my adoption records unsealed. I was informed that they were ordered sealed due to the circumstances of the adoption and the biological mother as a request of her parents. I had no idea what all of that meant and was more confused than ever. The following day I received a package (large envelope) from the judge’s office that had a complete copy of everything that was filed in accordance with my adoption proceedings. It was worse than my worst nightmare, everything I wanted to know was blacked out like this was some kind of top secret document. All of the names, dates, places, agencies, and so forth were either removed or blacked out altogether. These documents read like a very well written mystery, with one exception, I never got to find out “who did it”. So, for now, the quest for information is dead.

I was divorced in 1998, we split everything up, she went one way, and my daughter and I remained. I put 90% of my stuff into storage where it sat for the next few years. In 2000 I was remarried, I welcomed with open arms my own step daughter (that will be the only time you ever hear me refer to her as a step anything) and finishing up the remaining time I had for active duty Air Force Guard. In 2001, after my son was born, we decided we wanted to raise our family in a house and not an apartment. I didn’t want just any house, I wanted a house we could grow into, grow old in, and not need to move any more, as I was tired of all the moving over the years being in the Air force, I was done moving. I spent the next 18 months designing our new house. My wife thought I was the obvious choice as the architect since that is what I have a degree in. So I did it, between working for my SF as a concrete contractor I spent the hours needed creating our dream home. Once we were happy with the design I submitted it to a Texas state licensed architect for the “stamp of approval” I needed to move forward. I found 10.4 acres in a large lot subdivision that we really fell in love with. For the next 18 months we watched our dream come true.

After we got moved in I announced I needed to make a trip to New Mexico to gather my belongings out of a storage unit there. So, my oldest daughter and I loaded up a trailer and made the road trip. It wasn’t much, mostly boxes full of records, pictures, and different things I had collected while I was in the Air Force bouncing around the world. When we got back home I went to unpack the boxes and noticed the one that had all of my adoption research in it. Not wanting to stop, I had my daughter just put the box in the master bedroom closet for later. After about a month of organizing I was at the computer paying some bills, checking the weather, and just when I was getting done my wife comes in and announces “we need to talk” with tears rolling down her face. (Fuck! What did I do?) I knew I have done nothing so that couldn’t be it, so what was it. I noticed in her hand a letter that I had written so many years before and she asked me when I was going to tell her. Tell her? I thought she knew I was adopted, I really thought this had come up in conversation before. It had, but my quest for information was never talked about. To tell you the truth the box was put in my closet to protect it from humidity damage, I had no intention of going through it because in my opinion the quest was dead and I had given up. I explained to her I had no interest in talking about it but she was free to read all of it if she wanted to.

A few days later I was piddling around in the garage putting some shelves up when my wife comes out to let me know I had a phone call. Weird because I didn’t even hear the phone ring which was mere feet from where I was working. My wife holds her hand over the mouth piece as she whispers that she loves me in my ear. After I said hello there was an extremely long dramatic pause, so I said hello again. This time a woman said hello back to me. She went on to explain that my wife contacted her the day before and asked if her and I could talk. Okay, lets talk. She informed me of who she was, she explained to me that she was my biological mother (BM). I was at a loss for words. She told me she would tell me anything I wanted to know. She said we are older now so it was time for the truth to be told. Okay. She gave me a name and claimed it to be the biological father’s name but never kept up with him after I was born so that is all she knew. She then needed to go, this was too emotional for her, so we hung up. I was dumbstruck to say the least. Seems my wife is pretty sneaky. She told me she had “friends” who knew what to do with the information I had and in less than 24 hours had a name and a current phone number. Really? Really.

We found a number for the name she gave me and gave it a call. The plot thickened because the person she had me call was my BF’s good friend from back in the day. He put his name as the father and so forth to protect his friend’s marriage. This lie came between them a few years later and the friendship was severed, so he didn’t see the harm in giving me his name, the real name this time and he even had the phone number. After hanging up with him I called the number and asked to speak with the named person I was given and I was informed at that time by the man on the other end that he has been deceased since 1996. The man I was talking to was my BF’s wife’s new husband. He gave me the name and phone number of their oldest son if I wanted to talk with him because he might have more information. When I called him I got the answering machine. I left a message for him to call me and my information. When he returned the call we spoke for many hours because I knew things that nobody outside of their immediate family should even know. We were able to fill in each others blank spaces so to say. I offered up a DNA test to prove who I was and I was told that it wasn’t necessary he knew that I had to be genuine. The puzzle was indeed coming together for me and I basically unraveled everything he had ever known to be true. A few days later, his mother called me, she said she felt obligated since her husband had died before I could “confront” him in person. Yea, him being dead really did throw a wrench in it all for me.

I kept in telephone contact with my BF’s side of the family for a couple of years before it came time to go to my oldest daughter’s graduation in Rapid City South Dakota. She decided to go live with her mom, who guilted her into believing that her life was just too damn lonely without her. Since we were going to South Dakota for her graduation I had the bright idea that this would be the perfect time to meet my biological family as well as visit my AF’s grave that I have not seen since the day I buried him. I also contacted my BM and told her I was willing to drive to northern Idaho to meet her while we were on our trip. She declined as well as asking me not to contact her or her two other sons ever again. I have honored her request. I visited my AF’s grave, which was hard, it was emotional, and left me drained. The following day I visited my BF’s grave. This was hard as well but something I felt I needed to do. Why? I felt he needed to “see” me and “hear” my voice, I needed him to hear me and see me. I met all of his children, 4 sons and 4 daughters, and a whole slough of grandbabies, nieces, and nephews who had zero idea who this strange man was that was at their grandma’s house. The accepted me, it was like I had been on a long trip or lived far away and was finally returning home. Was it bizarre? Absolutely bizarre. by the time these 3 days were over my brain was mush, I felt like the wash cloth that gets crumpled up and left to dry in the corner of the shower, I was just done. But I had a graduation to go to, I had to get back on the road to drive five hours away to get to the next town for my oldest daughter’s graduation.

I talked with my daughter quite a bit about what has been happening. It involved her as well because the people I just met were here “people” biologically as well. I don’t think she was prepared for these talks but I know she walked away feeling better because now she had a few more answers that I could never give her before. The graduation was awesome, we were so happy for her because we know what an accomplishment it is to graduate. We spent the next few days with my daughter, doing different things, just her and I, it had been a long time since we got to just sit and shoot the shit together. The day came that it was time to head home, it was time to head back to Texas. I was out of energy, I was drained, and borderline torn if I needed to extend my trip so I could go to Idaho. Then, after a heated debate with myself, we drove back to Texas.

To this day I am close to my father (SF). He is close with all of my children. Until just weeks ago my 17 y/o daughter and my 12 y/o son didn’t know he was my step father. I had to explain so much to say so little. My son is looking forward to the trip to South Dakota to visit with people and to see the grave which bears the name of his grandfather which he has never met but was named after. It should be an interesting trip. My whole family will be involved this time in meeting all the biologicals, I’m told it will be a family reunion of sorts. I hope my wife and kids are up for the journey which is ahead of us. I will let y’all know if I was up to it when we get back. Until then, I guess this story is on pause. It’s not over, but it’s over for right now. I wonder what other people do when they try to explain their own family tree(s) to their kids. I bet allot of people are glad their roots aren’t so complicated.

Family trees and how we related with adoption

Originally posted 13 December 2011

I have a fairly complex family tree. I have tried to put it down on paper for my children as well as my self, but a traditional style family tree format is just not the right tool. When you leave here confused all I can say is shake it off and welcome to my world. Before I begin this little saga, lets give a little background history of me first. I am adopted. I have known this fact forever, it was never hidden from me nor was it spoke about in a shameful manner. My parents were very open on this subject to me and my older sister, also adopted. I spent my life up to my early 20’s content with not knowing anything about anything other than my own family. I always had to fudge a little when filling out medical forms about family medical history, I was healthy so why the hell not. Let me tell you what changed all of that. In October 1990 my daughter was born. Again, we, my now ex-wife and I were given questionnaires about medical history. I became overwhelmed with guilt because my side was basically blank except for information about me. I didn’t know what I had passed on to her genetically. How could I know? With that, I promised my hours old daughter that I would embark on the journey I said I would never take and find my biological parents. I never wanted to, my family was all I needed. I looked at it very simple, very black and white, they put me up for adoption, they made that choice, they washed their hands of it all.This trek to gather needed information was a bit challenging in the beginning, partly because I lived in Japan and partly because my mother had zero information and my father was deceased (these being my adopted parents). On top of all of that, my adoption records were sealed permanently. Well, nothing is permanent, except death, and that can’t be fixed. After a few years I got my adoption records unsealed. Many thanks to all the clerks and judges who made it happen, because all of it was done through international mail. To my surprise, there was very little useful information. The pages were blacked out like you see in the movies where all the pertinent information is censored out and you are left with gibberish and crap. The background “story” was an interesting read, years later I found out almost every detail was fiction. The useful information was I had my biological mothers full name, social security number, and last known address in 1968. Everything else was fiction. I did find out why it was supposed to be sealed for life, because she was a minor (16 to be exact) and the adoption was treated as an unwanted child due to rape. I spent many years believing what I had read. During the course of life I had become divorced and remarried in 2000. I hadn’t given any adoption any further thought for some time, for good reasons, because I decided to bury my past, well, somebody’s past, and continue to live my life. But, and this is a big but, after I re-married, we were unpacking, me in a room, my wife in another. Then all of a sudden she comes out balling and whimpering. What the hell? She had found my buried box and read everything I had. Oops, did I forget to mention I was adopted? Of course not, but it was a very short and simple conversation when we were dating. Talk about opening old wounds, because she wanted to talk about it all with me. Why? I think she watched to many stories on tv. Now, this gets real interesting from this point forward.

A few weeks later I get a phone call. I worked graveyard shift so my wife came in to wake me. It was a call from my biological mother. I would have liked to see the freaking look on my face. After I hang up I find out that my wife has been busy on the internet and had been taking some stabs in the dark hunting for information, behind my back. I had told her back when that it was all settled and done for me. Wrong. We got some limited information from her, basic stuff really, some I already knew. Over the course of the next several years, due to lack of time or lack of interest, or both, I would delve into the information, hit dead ends, stop, start again, until finally I got frustrated, especially when I discovered, by accident, that my biological mother was lieing to me this whole time. Angry, I phoned her and asked what kind of games she thought she was playing. She was trying to protect her family who knew absolutely nothing about me and she wanted to keep it that way. Fine, fuck you, I wont ever contact you ever again, have a nice life. Apparently she had a clearing of thought and mind, maybe a little guilt, who knows, but she called me out of the blue a few weeks later to lay it all down for me. Reasoning? We are all adults now so we must let the chips fall the way they will. I was given the real name of my biological father and she explained how everything was bunk to protect him and his family. So, you probably gathered, it wasn’t a rape.

Now, now the story gets good. She was their babysitter. Gasp. What? Really? Anyway, they had a thing that was going nowhere because he was married and had kids and she was 16 and so on and so forth, you get the jist. But wait……….. she gets pregnant, oops. Which leads us right back to the beginning. Now, I think I know it all. Wrong. Way way wrong. I did find the phone number for whom I was very confident was my biological father and a few of his sons. So, one day, after staring at this freaking number for about 6 months, I got a wild hair on my ass and just called. Probably one of the most screwed up phone calls I have ever been a part of. A man answered the phone. I asked if I could talk to bleep bleep and the man said that would be a doozey of a trick because bleep bleep was deceased. The only thing going thru my head was sooooonnnnnnn offffff aaaaaaa biiiiiiiittttttccccchhhhh. So, I asked if these names were his sons and were these still good numbers, he said yes, and we hung up. Now, this is 2008 when this conversation took place, my biological father died in 1996. I called one of the sons, no answer, had to leave a message. It was a strange message, I explained who I was and that I would like to speak with to see if he was who I was looking for, left my cell phone number. A few hours later, I get his call. I couldn’t speak, I was afraid, so my wife spoke first. It is his son she explains, so I spoke with him. I gave him the details I knew and he confined them. He also filled in a few of the empty places for me. He said he needed some time to absorb all of this new information. As he explained to me that no-one ever knew and his dad died with the secret intact. I found out a few days later that the person I spoke to the first time was my deceased biological father’s wife’s new husband. The second person I called, the son, broke the news to his mother as gently as he could I guess. How do you start that conversation? Sooooo, I got this call from Texas today…..

Since all of this started, I have managed to meet all the children on my biological fathers side and spoke to the two boys on my biological mothers side. Let me see if I can work this out so everyone might understand. I have 2 step sisters (both younger), I have 6 half sisters (1 younger and 5 older), I have 7 half brothers (2 younger and 5 older) and 1 adopted sister (older). So, now I will explain how it all comes together. My parents adopted my older sister and I at birth. My parents divorced and both remarried, each having a daughter. My biological mother had 2 sons after me and the rest belong to my biological father. The only person I have not met or spoke to is my biological father because he has long been deceased by the time I got around to digging.

So, I challenge someone to make me a family tree. Don’t forget my two daughters, one grand daughter and my wife. I can’t pay anything to anyone, just do it for fun and see what a fine mess it creates. We can get to all the aunts and uncles and so forth later, it isn’t really needed for this demonstration. This tale gets easier to tell when writing it all down. Usually I get very choked up and have a hard time finishing. Its dramatic to me, starts out with joy, moves to saneness and disappointment, joy, anger, let down, excitement, and then I can relax before I go finish sending out all my Christmas cards. That used to be a simple task, quick too. Anyway, thanks for listening and hope someone got something out of my real life tale.