I’ve been prompted to think about the strong pull of family connection lately, with ever-increasing focus.
Coming back from a short vacation in Ireland in March, I exchanged small pleasantries with a seatmate, a businessman. I told him I used to live in his home town of Dublin for several years, attending graduate school and working in book publishing there. He mentioned that there had been a break of some years between his first starting college and his going on to complete a bachelor’s degree and to earn a master’s. After our sharing that the “traditional” college timeline is not so rigorously scripted anymore, I chanced a personal comment, saying, “Your mother must be so proud.”
After a long pause, he told me, “Well, yes.” And then, “I was adopted twice.”
As it turned out, he had been adopted as an infant by a couple, and when his new father died not long afterward, his new mother gave him up for re-adoption. He was warmly received into a foster home as he awaited the prospect of new parents. About a year later, he was adopted by a childless couple who had been eager to have a family. They went on to adopt a little girl sometime later.
Fast forward many years, the daughter wanted to find her biological parents. She discovered the identity of her birth mother, who, as it turned out, did not want to meet her daughter. The businessman did not feel the same need to delve into the past, saying he has had a very happy life with the parents who raised him.
They thought, however, that he might want to research his parentage someday, suggesting that it might be easier sooner rather than later. His own family agreed and started to find the trail back to his birth.
What they discovered: not his birth father but the name, profession and even a picture of his birth mother; some communications that suggested she had been reluctant to place him up for adoption; and the location of her grave, as she had died about 20 years earlier.
There is an annual tradition in Ireland called “Cemetery Sunday,” when people visit family graves and a local clergyman offers a blessing.
Having discovered his birth mother’s identity, the businessman and his family paid a visit to her grave on Cemetery Sunday. He told me that as he was standing there, an elderly woman approached him, saying, “You’re her son, you look just like her.” I cried at his telling of it.
The second prompt was when Brookfield resident Jan Howard, who writes a regular blog for our newspapers called “Mirrored Images,” shared her story in her most recent entry, “The Never-Ending Story.” (Visit our homepage, and it is just a click away.)
As she starts her story, “I have always loved history, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone that I eventually became interested in a different type of history than that taught in school. It is the history of my family.
“Someone once said that only a genealogist regards a step back as progress. It seems as though I was always interested in knowing more about my family. I always wanted to know the “who and they why” of family dynamics. Mostly, I wanted to know about my birth father, who had left my mother and me when I was only 2 years old.”
The third prompt was equally unexpected. When I was recently interviewing Nicholas Ortiz, the valedictorian of New Milford High School’s Class of 2011, I was surprised to learn that he planned to take a year off (a gap year) before heading to Harvard, to major in cognitive neuropsychology.
“I’m interested in human experience and the brain—how the mind interacts,” he said. “I do like to identify myself and why I do things. From my childhood I have had questions about why people do things.”
Unlike the above, Nicholas has had no reason to wonder about his parents. He lives with his in New Milford. But one of the main goals he has set for himself in the upcoming year is “to find long-lost family.” He plans to go to Puerto Rico to find any members of his distant family (his paternal grandparents were born there; his mother’s family is of Italian descent). (You can read more about him, too, online—in our archives.)