I was a secret for 58 years.
Secrets change lives. I was a secret for 58 years. I was adopted. My adoptive parents told me my biological mother had died in childbirth and I had no living relatives. Somehow I never really believed their story. I could feel my biological mother’s presence at times. When I was 30 years old my adoptive father left some papers for me on my desk in Tucson. When I looked at the documents after my parents left to fly back to St. Louis, it was my initial birth certificate and an adoption decree signed by my biological mother. Suddenly I had her name, where she was from and her age! The first secret was exposed, yet I never talked to my adoptive parents about this deception before they died several years later.
Clearly my parents didn’t want to talk about the secret, so I perpetuated it. As I got older I wondered if I had relatives out there somewhere. I also wanted to know about any family health history. About 13 years ago I asked my friend Molly DePrekel if she knew anything about adoption searches in Minnesota where my mother had been living when I was born. She put me in touch with a woman who specialized in searching for birth mothers in Minnesota. She called me while I was teaching an Adventures in Awareness workshop with Barbara Rector at the Hat Ranch in Williams Arizona. She had tracked down my mother and actually called her on the phone under the guise of doing genealogy research. My mother was suspicious about the call, but at least we knew she was alive and married to George Newstrom, living in Omaha, NE.
I was advised to send my mother a short letter and a few pictures telling her a little bit about life and my family. My mother never responded. I sent her a Christmas card a few months later. Still no response. Finally I looked for clues online and found 2 brothers mentioned in a Lutheran church newsletter. I called and spoke with one of the pastors with the understanding that our discussion would stay confidential. He told me that my mother’s husband had Alzheimer’s and had recently moved into an assisted living facility. She was planning on joining him there, too. The pastor said he would pay her a visit and feel her out.
As Memorial Day approached I heard a very strong voice in my head that said over and over “call you brother, call your brother, call your brother Bob.” I was scared and put it off for another day to see if that inner voice was still there. It was, so I somehow summoned the courage to call Bob Newstrom. “I’m adopted and I think we have the same mother”. He asked me a few questions and then agreed it sounded like the same person, Eleanor Maxine Larson. The family was getting together to celebrate Memorial Day and Bob and his wife Nancy were going to pick them up to join the party. Bob and Nancy would call me back after that.
The next day Bob called and said, “I hope you’re sitting down. We now know who your father is and you have 10 full brothers and sisters and one older half sister!” I went from being the younger of 2 children and the only girl to the oldest with 10 full siblings!!! The Pastor had disclosed my phone calls to him to my sister Debby and to Bob, so they did have an inkling that something was up before my initial phone call. My mother was terrified and ashamed that her secret was getting out but finally admitted my existence.
A family reunion was scheduled for later that year in August in Omaha. My daughters Alexa and Jennifer went with me and we stayed with Bob and Nancy for 3 days. The secret was out. Each of my brothers and sisters went to the assisted living center individually to tell mom that she did the right thing by putting me up for adoption and that they all still loved her. Her relief at their acceptance and continued love and support led to an immediate improvement in her high blood pressure and other indicators. Even her nurse commented on how much better she looked.
Still in touch
The power the secret had held over her for 58 years was gone. The family all accepted me and my daughters and we are still in touch today with my large extended family. I even have a brother in Phoenix and one of his sons was running one of Jennifer’s favorite dining choices when in Phoenix for horse shows and clinics. Small world!
There is much more to this story, but that’s for another future blog.