So a lot’s happened on the family front since last week…
I spent about two and a half hours on the phone with my uncle Friday night, followed by a good four hours with my aunt on Saturday and another hour(ish) on Sunday. Mostly we were catching up with each other on what’s happened in the last thirty-four or so years, and each other’s families and children. I can’t remember what day or hour into conversation that my aunt and I talked about my biological father and where to go with all that.. but she wanted to let me know that he was going to be in PHX over Thanksgiving, thinking it might be more comfortable for me, if he and I were to meet, if it were on my turf, so to speak. She’s a smart lady, my auntie.
So I asked the question that had been on my mind since the first contact. Since she had asked if it was OK with me to tell him she’d found me, should I assume that this is information he wants to know? He wasn’t the one to come looking for me, and he hadn’t had any more children, so I couldn’t help wondering if this was something he’d welcome. So my aunt and I had a pretty candid discussion, and she admitted that he’s not one who deals well with emotion, and tends to withdraw from any kind of intense emotional situations. Based on the things I mentioned already and just kinda putting together this and that from various conversations, I’d already gotten that impression. My aunt had suggested telling him and giving him my number and letting him take the next step. I told her I was OK with her telling him that she’d gotten in touch with me, but asked her to leave it at that. If he asked about or expressed an interest in contacting me, she could give him my number, but I didn’t want him to feel at all pressured by any expectations, hers or mine, real or perceived.I have a dad, and he’s awesome. I’d like to get to know [bio dad], but I don’t want anything that he can’t give freely.
Sunday I got a voice mail from my aunt, to let me know she’d spoken with [bio dad]. She was pretty excited, because she’d expected kind of a non-reaction at first, but that he’d been very interested, asked a lot of questions, and seemed almost excited. She said she thought he’d call, but wasn’t sure when. I was thinking in my mind, that he’d probably call the following weekend. I know it took me from Tuesday to Friday night to really get to a point where I could wrap my head around everything to string two sentences together and have anything resembling an intelligent conversation.
But [bio dad] surprised us both, and called me the next evening. He was visibly audibly nervous and clearly way out of his comfort zone. He introduced himself by name and I said hello… he asked how I was, I asked how he was, and he laughed shakily and said,
It made the conversation a lot easier for me, that’s for sure. Shoot, I was just incredibly nervous. But I understood how he must have felt.
He told me right up front at the beginning of the conversation that he’s not real good with people or emotions, and if he said or did anything that I felt crossed the line or upset me to please let him know. I told him that was fair, and not to worry… I’m not one who’s known for holding back her feelings. If you make me mad, there will be no doubt in your mind.
We had a nice conversation, though there was a real awkward moment when he asked me if my children were mulatto, and I had to explain that was a socially acceptable term about a hundred years ago, but today most people consider it a racial slur. He took that pretty well, didn’t get defensive and go for a derail, reworded his question, and then told me that a couple of the other grandkids in the family are multiracial. I got the feeling he was trying to make a connection with me somehow. It was a little misguided, but not ill intentioned, and I don’t think I’ve ever had the “that thing you said was racist” conversation go so well.
He brought up that he would be in PHX for the holiday, and asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee, and I told him I’d really like that. So in addition to that reunion, my uncle Joe and his wife Debbie are driving up on Saturday to have breakfast with us and spend some time together. Two weeks after that, coincidentally my birthday weekend, my aunt Joyce will be in town and we’ll be getting together for dinner.
So I’m about to turn 18 for the second time (this means I’m almost 36), so I really didn’t see this message coming:
Looking for my niece!
Joyce – November 17 at 7:38pm
I am looking for my niece her name is Cynthia Sheela Whitmore, birthdate is [the month & year of my birth] her mothers name is Caryn. Please let me know if you are her?
And I was like… wow. Don’t think there’s much chance of there being another Cyndi Whitmore out there born the same month & year as I, with a middle name of Sheelah and a mother by the name of Caryn (yeah, the unique spellings are a long tradition in my family).
Cyndi – November 17 at 7:52pm
that’s all me! How old are you? I used to have some pictures, and I think you may have been in one of them… I’m having a hard time placing my age or any of the names from the pictures but Joyce seems familiar
Sent via Facebook Mobile
Joyce – November 18 at 8:41am
I was 12 when you were born. You and your mom lived with us until you were about six months old and I only saw one other time very briefly after that, so if you have a picture it would have been when you were a small infant. I am so excited to find you. Would it be alright if I let [bio dad] know?
And another wow. Up until that point, I literally hadn’t known whether he was still alive. And knowing only what my mother had told me, I didn’t feel ready for that step. I thought it over throughout the day, and responded later that evening while I was waiting for volleyball tryouts to get started, asking if she would mind not saying anything quite yet, explaining I’d like it if she and I could talk first, so I could ask a few questions. She graciously agreed, and the conversation continued…
Joyce – November 18 at 6:40pm
[snipped]I know you don’t remember me, but, I do remember you and you have always been in my thoughts and have a special place in my heart.
Cyndi – November 18 at 6:55pm
More details when I’m not on a crackberry but I’ve always felt a connection with you (err, your picture).. Does [bio dad] have other children? Where does he live? Where do you live?
Sent via Facebook Mobile
I learned that my biological father does not have any other biological children and that he is still living in northern AZ… and that in addition to this aunt living in Massecheusettes, I have an aunt in Phoenix, cousins in Scottsdale, two uncles in the Flagstaff area and one in Tucson.
Later that evening, I was able to chat with my aunt for about an hour. I confided that even though I hadn’t ever felt like I was missing a father, I’d wondered about [bio dad] and about siblings & extended family… and that some small part of me had hoped that someone would have wanted me enough to find me, and that if they did, they’d be proud of what they found.
oh you have no idea, when I just told [an uncle] earlier, he was shocked and so happy. He barely could wait for me to send you the friend request fast enough, he said he’s been praying to find you for years.
I got a message on Facebook shortly after I’d accepted the friend request from my Uncle Joe. He thinks it’s fantastic that Joyce found me, said he and his wife would love to meet me, gave me his phone number, saying if I could call, that would be great.
So this isn’t something that usually comes up unless some brave soul tries to navigate my family tree, but I am (legally) adopted… sort of. The adoption itself was legal, so that’s not the sort of part. The adoption papers, from what I recall, show that both my parents adopted me, but my mother is my biological mother; my legal father is her second husband.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
Now, I’ve learned over the years that anything my mother tells me is more likely than not to be extremely slanted with enough spin to be a tilt-a-whirl ride at the World’s Fair… but this is the story as it was told to me. Read more…
The media are belatedly acknowledging a racial subtext to many anti-Obama protests, thanks to what one scholar calls the ‘drip’ factor.
As anti-Obama protests escalated over the past six months, race largely remained an unspoken subtext in media coverage — “the elephant in the room,” in the words of NBC News’ Mark Murray. But in recent days, many prominent members of the press have begun pointing at the pachyderm.
Tyler came home not last weekend, but theweekend before. The girls missed him, but it was worse for Daija because she is so little and she got all confused. In her mind, the only daddy is her daddy… so when she would ask Tyler where he was and he said he was at his dad’s house… next thing you know she’s asking Ro ‘Do you have my Tyler?’. So we try to clarify which Daddy Tyler is with… then every time she talked to Ro, she asked him, ‘You my daddy?’ Anyway, it was a fun homecoming. When Tyler left, my sister’s old room at the front of the house had become a catch-all storage dump. When he came home, it was painted and decorated with a galaxy theme, and furnished with a futon we’d been storing, the book case that used to store community toys in the hallway, and his rug, table, NASA posters, and other special momentos. Driving home from the airport (around 3:30AM Saturday morning, no less) I asked if he was really tired and he said ‘only a little bit.’ I told him I’d left his birthday present in the spare room and he could go check it out for a minute before he went to bed.The first thing he noticed was the ceiling walls and the furniture…but then he looked down at the rug from his room, and around at his posters and saw the picture of he and his dad and his Buddha… Oh, you just should have seen his little brain clicking. His eyes were just darting around and then he turns to me and breathes… ‘What is this place? Is this MY new room?’ I’m still touching up trim – I’ll send pictures when I’m finished.
Tyler wrote a note this morning:
I’ll miss you while I’m gone.
Boy, when I sit down and list this out, it sounds so… bad. I attributed some of Wild Child’s behavior issues last year to some stress/’instability’ in our family, but felt those were almost secondary issues because he was not having any major behavioral problems at home or church, and that the primary issue was that Wild Child was in a classroom that I did not feel was challenging him, where he was not exactly encouraged to do his personal best, settling instead for ‘good enough’ or ‘about as good’ as everyone else, and with a teacher who, while a very nice person, was clearly out of her league in dealing with a gifted student. It seemed like I was on the right track with that when his behavior improved dramatically with his involvement in the play (something that interested and challenged him). Well, obviously his classroom situation is entirely different now, so his continued behavior problems are causing me to re-examine where the root problems may lie or maybe that was the problem last year but it’s changed. I am realizing that I have, particularly over the last year, slipped into a negative parenting cycle (the drill sergeant, where I constantly reprimand, scold, etc) that is really not conducive to Wild Child’s personality and learning style. Since Thursday I have been consciously working on not using negative discipline methods… I also have a book on order that I’ve heard is fantastic for dealing with children who tend to be intense.
I think I have also made a big, big mistake… comparing his childhood to mine, and when I look at Wild Child I think he has it pretty good… he’s clean, he’s loved, well fed, well clothed, and has plenty of ‘extras’ too. I realized last week that may have been grossly unfair… Wild Child only knows his reality, and when not comparing it to my childhood, I realize that there are several aspects of it that really suck, for lack of a better word, and that some changes that I thought he was embracing and handling fine, maybe are bothering him on a deeper level. I gave him the option of switching to MLK, and he was all for the idea, but this also makes his third school in three years.
And the background: Wild Child’s dad moved to the east coast just under four years ago (a week after my daughter was born) and has developed what I can only describe as ‘uncle daddy syndrome’. He loves Wild Child, but he is just much better suited to be someone’s uncle, than someone’s father. In Dec 01 we lost my grandfather, who Wild Child was very close to, to diabetes induced renal failure where he was removed from life support after several months in the hospital. In June 02, we moved across town and Wild Child was understandably upset about leaving his friends, but seemed to adjust pretty quickly to our new neighborhood where there are actually more playmates. In July 02, my grandmother moved in, which turned out to be a disaster. Also in that month, Ro (my partner) had his 5th surgery since ’99, and it entailed a much longer and more painful recovery than anticipated, as well as a great deal of insomnia and a bout with depression. In April my grandmother moved to live with my mother, and this June it became clear that my mother remains as unstable as ever, and I’ve had to explain to Wild Child we won’t be able to see her anymore (though I have always kept her at arm’s length). Just before school started, I was faced with a conversation with Wild Child where I could no longer gloss over his dad’s unreliability. Wild Child is becoming painfully aware of his dad’s shortcomings. When I discuss these things with Wild Child, you can imagine we have a very mature conversation and I come away feeling like he understands and is fine… but maybe it’s causing some distress that he may not even fully recognize… he rarely brings these things up and when he does, he seems very matter of fact or if he’s upset, after a talk with me, is quickly back to his old self.
And our family also has some unique aspects that have the potential to become stressors. The obvious one is that we are multi racial, which fortunately thus far doesn’t seem to be a problem. We are an interfaith family, and it has raised some issues… Wild Child’s dad is Christian, Ro is Muslim (African, not Nation of Islam), and I am a Unitarian Universalist. The kids attend UU with me as I am the only one who actively practices faith. My path is very strongly earth centered, so our blessings center around natural phenomenon. Wild Child holds a strong affinity for Buddha (mostly I think because my grandfather loved Eastern art and had so many replicas you’d think he was Buddhist instead of Catholic). Last year, a couple kids asked Wild Child at lunch if he believed in God. He said no, because he wasn’t sure which god they meant, and they told him he was going to Hell. About a year before that, he told his cousins he didn’t know why they prayed to Jesus, because he wasn’t real (have NO idea where that came from… I regard Christ as prophet/healer vs. savior, but I do believe he existed and highly respect his work). Saturday night, he found something he was looking for and made a comment and when I asked him to repeat himself because I thought I must have heard him wrong… he said, ‘I asked God to help me, and she did.’ Wild Child’s best friend and family are also Wiccan, so around Halloween Wild Child may be inclined to try and educate someone on the difference between a ‘real’ witch, and a ‘Hollywood’ witch. Obviously, in a strongly Abrahamic society, these kinds of comments turn heads. Normally I would have called or come in for a conference early October about the faith issues, but as long as I’m airing my dirty laundry, I may as well put it on the table now.
And if all this isn’t bad enough… I have more. Wild Child doesn’t know about this yet, because Fossil Boy (his best friend) wants to tell Wild Child but hasn’t yet. Fossil Boy, who is two months younger than Wild Child, was diagnosed in May with cystic fibrosis. Most children are diagnosed and started on treatment at a much younger age, so Fossil Boy has already suffered considerable lung damage. He is fine now, but it is a given that he will eventually be spending a great deal of time in and out of the hospital. Because of this late diagnosis, it is unlikely that he will live into his late 20’s/early 30’s as many CF patients do now. While treatment has pretty much stabilized his lungs, they are only operating at 75% or so, and I think most kids his age have percentages in the 90’s. We’ll be seeing the Lambert’s again in about three weeks for a quiet day and Steph is going to remind Fossil Boy about this… he may be having surgery in October and it would be good for Wild Child to know what’s going on before Fossil Boy’s hospital rounds start.
I *knew* the hazards of assuming that a child’s emotional maturity was above their intellectual maturity, but I seem to have made the mistake of assuming Wild Child was handling all these ups and downs anyway.