Today's thoughts

Category: DIARY OF AN ADOPTEE (Page 1 of 17)

As an adopted child, my thoughts and research.

Diary of an Adoptee: Never Knew #2163

I sent a note to my half-sister telling her how often  we referred to her humorous quip after checking on our condition during hurricane Ian. When I told her we were in Alaska, she responded with: “Boy, you really know how to evacuate!!!” She must have been on my mind this morning as I composed this poem about the newly found sibling relationship with her and four sisters.  The brother died years ago in a car accident and the mother was not aware until 65-years later that her soon to be husband, now deceased, had fathered a child – me. Surprise! In all fairness, he probably didn’t know either. An Ancestry DNA test confirmed the bond and I’ve slowly gotten to know the family, starting with the “favorite.” Since our initial meetings, one of the sisters has sadly passed, and I got to meet “Fav’s” son, Gabe, who’s wife apparently initiated the test as a gift for his mother.

I Never Knew

I Never knew of you,
Didn’t have a clue.
But glad we finally met,
Now that I do.

If it weren’t for Gabe,
I might never have found.
My five secret sisters,
Scattered all around.

To meet you all,
My ultimate quest.
But “Fav’s” become,
The one I know best.

We were a match,
On the Ancestry test.
It was like opening,
A treasure chest.

Even Cecil,
Would be surprised.
Of this bond,
That he devised.

At the heart of the matter,
Is your mother so strong.
She’s lost three loves,
Then, I come along.

You’ve all stuck together,
As Bannister’s should.
In the eight-sided cabin,
Made of Scipio wood.

I’ll never be your favorite,
To your brother I concede.
But you can have another,
Should you feel the need.

Our twisted family tree,
With its hidden roots.
As I continue to search,
For yet revealed shoots.

This man I never met
Is in our hearts today.
He’s clearly in our eyes,
And in our DNA.

Copyright 2022 johnstonwrites.com

 

 

 

Diary of an Adoptee: Multiverse #2123

As an adopted child, I often wonder what life would be like being raised by a different father? In my case, it would have been two extremes. My adopted father was a successful financial executive with an 8 to 5 desk job, who frequently traveled to Switzerland, Italy, and France, as I recall. He worked for Miles Laboratories, manufacturers of Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins, among other popular products, at their Elkhart, Indiana headquarters. My mother, also a Indiana University graduate, where they met, stayed home to care for me and my 3-years younger adopted sister. 

By contrast, my bio-dad, who was described as “gregarious,” held a factory job since graduating from high school and worked nights, the shift he preferred. He would proudly punch Clock #1 at Cummins Engine in Columbus, Indiana, an honor he was given upon returning from Korea. His wife was kept busy at home raising six children in tiny Scipio, Indiana. 

If there truly is a multiverse, as posed in science fiction stories, I can sometimes envision myself living life under these two different circumstances. Maybe more, if you consider that bio-dad probably never knew that I existed and obviously didn’t marry bio-mom. She was the youngest of a large farm family that secreted her to an adoption home to give birth to me. The other possibility in this multiverse is being raised by a single mother in times when this was rare and unacceptable. Fortunately, for me, they chose the adoption route.

I did grow up a Hoosier, living in northern Indiana as opposed to southern. I ended up in a city of about 40,000, at a school with over 1,000 in my high school graduating class, and in neighborhoods with sidewalks. I joke about this because my wife and I looked at a home once near Lebanon, Indiana. My concern was that there were “no sidewalks”- apparently a bit too “country” for my tastes. None of this would have been the case with the rural lifestyle in my multiverse options. 

I could have been the oldest of seven children in bio-dad’s household, if his wife to be had been understanding of my circumstances. She was certainly shocked when I showed up in her life as a result of a DNA test, matching one of her daughters. Fortunately, I was conceived over a year before they married in October of 1951, so he was not disloyal to her.  I also could have been the oldest of five children conceived by my bio-mom, Edna Faye Banister, through two different men, either of which could have been a step-dad to me. Or, my very  presence in Edna’s young life might have discouraged any further relationships on her part, as I fantasize about the multiverse of possibilities. 

Regardless, I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with my half-sister when my wife and I visited Tuscaloosa on our recent road trip. She gave me some background on what it was like to be raised by the man that contributed to half of my DNA. I also met her son who found my facial expressions to mimic those of his grandfather, a.k.a. Cecil Ralph Banister. 

Working a night shift, Cecil was rarely home, unless asleep, and spent most of his time outdoors and shirtless with a dark tan. He was an exceptional athlete who stood out at 6’2″ tall in high school basketball and excelled at shuffleboard and golf in his later years. He played industrial league sports with Cummins and was extremely competitive.  As an example, he taught his grandson to play chess and then proceeded to beat him 285 consecutive times, counting each one, before the poor kid finally beat him.

Grandpa would take him on long nature walks while teaching him to speak Pig Latin. His only son, besides me, died in a motorcycle accident at age 16. Words like “country,” “outdoors,” and “nature” don’t seem to be in my vocabulary.  I do enjoy sports but was never much more than an average participant, while my adopted father was short and left-handed, so fundamentals were not easy for him to teach me. At least, I was fast!

Cecil was a professional shuffleboard player, he would win prizes, including liquor bottles that he rarely touched. He once sat all the kids down at the table and had them sample the booze, hoping to discourage them from drinking because of the unpleasant taste. I don’t think it worked!

My adopted father had a bad temper but he was mild-mannered. He never hit me. Cecil, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate to slap the girls and used switches on all the kids. He was not violent with his wife, sticking to hands-on discipline around the house. I only got in one fight in my life and was certainly never encouraged to use my fists. Wrestling practice was as close to combat as I ever got. 

Cecil could be a controversial figure. He painted a swastika on his shuffleboard stick and golf balls to identify them as his. It caused a stir in various competitions where he participated. Why not just his initials CRB?

Guns and hunting have never been a part of my life. I could have never fended for myself or protected my family. Cecil was a hunter and owned a gun. He sadly shot himself with it through the eye at age 79. The pain was apparently more than he could stand after surviving the war, by-pass surgery, and the health issues associated with lymphoma. 

My adopted father, Burt, bought a sailboat, the closest he ever came to commuting with nature, with the exception of his well-kept lawn and petunias. After the war, he promised himself never to spend another night in a tent. The one time we went camping together, he stayed by the fire all night. Cecil thrived on being outside and hand-built an octagonal cabin on his Creekside, Scipio property with mirrors so he had a 360-degree view of the land and creatures around him. Burt, on the other hand, never owned a tool box. We just used my mom’s!

One of Cecil’s daughters gave me a spoon engraved with USMC on the handle. It was obviously something he took from the Marine’s Mess Hall and is now the only possession of his that I now own. I also have a few pictures, newspaper clippings, and an obituary. I have lots of pictures of the only man I ever called “dad” and all of his “years of service” pins from Miles. The only thing the two of them had in common was a “love” for IU basketball and Bobby Knight, something that I also shared. 

 

 

 

Diary of an Adoptee: Biology of Family #2096

The Fantasticks were not fantastic. It’s the second straight local theatre performance that we’ve left at intermission. It also seems as if my computer is working against me, considering the loss of my entire post this morning, a couple of power shut-downs, and content freezing. I may have a virus – maybe my machine caught Pink Eye? I’m growing more and more impatient with trying to keep this site updated with fresh content. I just renewed the johnstonwrites.com site for two more years but I’m running out of things to write about. Poetry ideas have been few and far between. Maybe this 3,000 mile drive will be inspirational or at least get me out of a rut. 

We leave in four more days with the first stop being Schnauzerville to drop off Tally before spending the night in Panama City. Tally will be away from us for her longest stint ever, but she will be with her puppy friends. I’m sure she’ll miss the dog park and hanging out with us by the dinner table. She probably will not get the quantity or variety of treats that we feed her. Definitely, Tally will miss sitting in my chair most of all. I’ll probably miss sitting there myself.

I did find a couple more Ban(n)ister DNA cousins this past week. They’ve been ceremoniously added to the Jerry Banister Family Tree in Ancestry. Two of the stops on this upcoming trip will be with DNA relatives – one on my birth mother’s side and the other on my bio-dad’s. I’m still trying to find clues as to my existence. I pulled out The Adopted Family book during the course of a sleepless night. It’s allegedly the book that the adoption agency gave to my parents to help them deal with the adjustment of having me in their home. It suggests that I was “special” because I was carefully selected rather than born into their family. It conveniently ignores the fact that there is no natural connection. I’m still trying to sort out the biology of family. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Searching #2033

I got up about a half-hour earlier this morning after yesterday’s bout with the Florida heat. I nearly collapsed on my run after the first couple miles with little shade or breeze and took the walk of shame the last half-mile back home. It was much more tolerable today with the sun not so high in the sky, and I easily jogged the distance. In the time change, I stole a little extra time under the covers and am now just starting to adjust to the change. It also gives me a little extra time to swim and write before my now 4-year old granddaughter soon arrives. 

I spent some time in Ban(n)ister World yesterday, adding a few more names to the Jerry Bannister Family Tree on Ancestry. There was a whole nest of Texas/New Mexico descendants that I tried to sort out, including the author of the William Lawrence Banister 1833-1898 Facebook site. There are several personal DNA links on this side of the family. I was probably inspired by the Harlan Coben book, The Match, that uses some creative ways to search for missing relatives. Genealogical sites often try to protect identity by hiding the details of the living while focusing on obituaries. When you couple this with DNA donors that provide false information about themselves and their whereabouts, it adds to the many mysteries in building a family tree. 

People die with their secrets, as will eventually be the case with my unsolved mystery of life. (See Post #2032). I continue to work with the DNA puzzle of the Ban(n)ister family, knowing that any answers probably won’t change my life. It’s simply a strong curiosity that drives me to search for answers. Perhaps, it’s my animal instincts that have given me a taste of my own blood, something that was missing from my years of living with an adopted family. Even our own dog Tally seems to be attracted to other dogs of the same schnauzer breed. Surely, this is what I’m searching for!

Diary of an Adoptee: Gone but not Forgotten #2032

Thanksgiving 1950 was on November 23rd. Cecil Ralph Banister was 19 1/2 years old, while Edna Faye Banister was two years younger. They went to the same North Vernon, Indiana high school but Cecil had graduated the year before. He was working at Cummins Engine in Columbus where he would retire in 1985 after 35-years of service. Military leave took him to Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California and to Korea as a Marine. Cecil married Marilyn Jean Foist on October 8, 1951. Edna, on the other hand, never finished high school after giving birth to me on August 27, 1951. He most likely never knew.

Edna is still alive but unresponsive while, Cecil sadly passed eleven years ago on this day. DNA solidly connects me to him as the biological father and adoption records to her as the birth mother. She was recently acknowledged for her 89th birthday on Facebook by her daughter, but I must be blocked by the son because there are no recent posts. Up until now, it’s been the only source of photos of her, even though it often felt like stalking.  I honestly don’t know if she’s still in good health or if dementia has taken away any memories of me. Nonetheless, I have no current information on her whereabouts or condition. She’s the only person left that could possibly tell me how the two of them got together. It’s an intriguing saga of the bastard child that is the frequent subject of Hollywood dramas. 

I’m speculating that it was a family get together for Thanksgiving that resulted in my birth nine months later. It might have been just the two of them hooking up for a date during the holiday break from school and work? They were distant cousins in a small town with limited dating prospects, so the fact that they were related never really mattered when it came to the attraction. He was older and getting ready to go into the Marines so that was certainly part of the appeal. She was the youngest daughter of a railroad crossing guard who also did some farming. Edna also had seven older siblings so she also could have snuck away undetected for this fateful rendezvous with an older cousin. I probably will never know the true story but it’s fun to use my imagination. After all, without this night or more together, I would not exist. Rest in Peace – Cecil – you are gone but not forgotten!

Diary of an Adoptee: Pro-LIfe #2025

I like to joke that I have “multiple mothers” as we celebrate Mother’s Day every year. After all, it took more than one woman to raise me, along with Mother Marriott to watch over me when I travel the world. I’m not a religious man, so Mother Marriott takes the place of Mother Superior. Silliness aside, I give all the credit to my adopted parents who rescued me from the Suemma Coleman agency. I also know the identity and whereabouts of my now 89-year old birth mother. Sadly, she does not acknowledge my existence even though she made it possible over seventy years ago. 

Being a teenage mother is difficult in any era, especially in the early 1950s when unwed pregnancies were shunned. I can only imagine the shame that was imposed on my birth mother by her family, friends, and society, forced to give me up to strangers whether her decision or not. They undoubtedly tried to hide her condition and took her far from home to give birth. I would guess that there were times when she tried to figure out a way to keep me as part of her life, and moments when she hated me. Since abortion was not a safe option for her back then,  I was probably better off raised by the loving couple that I’ve always proudly called  “Mom and Dad.” I could never blame her for trying to erase all the memories from her mind. 

Mother’s Day for me is a time for reflection and appreciation, as I try to make sense of my life. I no longer have a mother to honor on this day. I hate to call it indiscretion that gave me life. I prefer to think of her as being naïve and caught in a moment of passion. The birth father was about four years older and preparing to enter the service. I’m sure that neither of them thought about the consequences, but she had to live with the “mistake,” while he probably never knew that a child was on the way. She got little support and undoubtedly lots of criticism. I’m simple grateful that there was a special couple that wanted a baby when they couldn’t have one. As a result, I became a treasured part of their family when I could have been a burden to a teenage girl. 

Because of me, my birth mother’s life drastically changed. From what I’ve been able to uncover, she had to quit high school, get a factory job, and struggle with doubts of desirability and prospects for future relationships. She was a tainted woman, harboring a secret for the rest of her life. I made my best efforts to let her know how grateful I was for life and what I’ve done with that time on Earth. I’ve made serious misjudgments just as she has, and it’s sad that we never got to know each other. She might even be proud. 

Abortion was never a legal option for her as Roe vs. Wade didn’t happen until 1973, Consequently, I can’t give her or her family credit for preserving my life in the womb and allowing for my adoption. They never had a choice, as women have today. Adoption is always the best option with a healthy child and mother, but it comes with emotional and physical hardship. Those that have gone through it, like my birth mother, are strong, selfless individuals who preserve lives and enable others to raise families. Depending on the circumstances, all women should have a choice when it comes to their bodies, so it’s hard to belief that the 45-year law is now being seriously  reconsidered. I’m so thankful for life on this Mother’s Day, especially since it was such a hardship on my birth mother. I have life, but I’m not necessarily Pro-Life. 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Leap Forward #2000

The year 2000 was special–even though it wasn’t the start of the 21st century–because it was a leap year. This according to Scientific American. “Julius Caesar devised the leap year to correct for the fact that the earth circles the sun in 352.24219 days. Because this is not a whole number, the months of the year would slowly fall out of sync with the seasons. A fairly precise correction to the Gregorian calendar debuted in 1582, and stated that a century year will only be a leap year if it is evenly divisible by 400–which is true for Y2K.” Mathematic or astronomical nonsense aside, “the official calendar millennium did not start until the year 2001. We, therefore, celebrated it twice, although my wife to be severely cut her fingers making dinner, so we spent New Year’s Eve 2000 in a hospital waiting room. In 2001, we were making plans for our wedding. 

This morning I marked day 4,850 of “The Streak.” I’m now lucky to break a 15-minute mile, as I slowly chug along, far from “leaping,” on our neighborhood streets. Wind has been a factor these past few days, but it’s been fortunately at my back after the half-way point of my 5k daily journey. It’s also my birth mother’s 89th birthday, but she sadly doesn’t acknowledge my existence, although my wife insists that she hasn’t forgotten. I hope to see some Facebook posts to assure me that she’s all right. It’s been a year since I’ve seen any pictures usually posted by my two living half-siblings on her side, who also have not responded to my letters. Today always brings out the Jerry Lee Banister side of me, as was recorded on my birth certificate. The birth father’s family has been more than welcoming.

Tomorrow is National Siblings Day, so I have eleven  people to remember. First, is my sister that I grew up with that was also adopted. In addition, there were six Banister children from my birth father, with five girls are still alive. The son died in an accident as a teenager, so I’m the only living male on that side of the family. I’ve met four of the now women, plus their mother, and frequently stay in touch with one. I will visit her again in July. My birth mother had four children after me. Two have passed, so technically I now have seven partial siblings still alive to honor on this annual occasion. I regularly maintain a Ban(n)ister Family Tree on Ancestry that ties together all the members of my adopted and DNA families, as I continue to search for genetic connections.

2024 is the next leap year, having seen five go by since the year 2000, and ran on three February 29ths since my streak started in 2009. In my mind, the only distinguishing factor is that extra day in February. Otherwise, there are 365 days every year, with one additional running day every four years. I just hope I can continue to Leap Forward for many years to come. 

 

Diary of an Adoptee: Dozens of Cousins #1993

I spend a lot of time on Ancestry.com and other DNA sites hoping to find answerers about being a lovable bastard. I’ve built a family tree of nearly 40,000 ancestors, most of whom have unfortunately taken their earthly knowledge to the grave. My initial hope was to find physically-like relatives, thinking this would somehow satisfy my curiosity. I have found and spoken with several understanding half-sisters and now have photographs of my birth father that passed eleven years ago. I am happy to report that there is a common resemblance. The bio-mother and her family remain unresponsive after claims that all this scientific, hospital, and adoption agency evidence that I have is incorrect. Apparently, my birth never happened, so may childhood fantasies of being born to a Queen may still be true. In my poem that I wrote today, this too is an example of poetic license, along with another reference to heaven above:

Dozens of Cousins

We all have a mother,
But I have had two.
One that gave birth,
Another I well knew.

My family adopted,
Without D-N-A..
While others genetic,
Strangers to this day.

Aunts and Uncles,
There were dozens.
And my family tree,
Shows plenty of cousins.

All were related,
But some through genes.
No, not denim,
By scientific means.

I grew up not knowing,
The difference between.
And once fantasized,
I was born to a Queen.

I got plenty of love,
And everything I wanted.
But something was missing,
And so I hunted.

I needed to see,
Physical resemblance.
Thinking that life,
Would then make sense.

But the bio mom,
Now claims who?
And her lover,
Had no clue.

There are pictures,
And siblings, too.
But they won’t replace,
The relatives I knew.

Cousins I grew up with,
And parents full of love.
A sister that I lived with,
And grandparents now above.

Familiarity is everything,
Genes don’t mean a thing.
I’m grateful for my life,
But it started as a fling.

Copyright 2022 johnstonwrites.com 

 

Diary of an Adoptee: I Know You’re Glad To See Me #1943

The year 1943 was all about war. My dad was twenty-two years old and serving our country. This week would have marked his 101st birthday, with my mom technically just 13 hours behind. I would be adopted into their family nearly eight years later, carrying on the family name of Johnston. My son is the last of that surname, with his son taking on the last name of Jordon alongside two Johnston sisters. They all live about 15 minutes away from my new Florida home. 

My youngest grandchild, Nora, age three, gave me a hug before dinner last night and said, “I know you’re glad to see me!” It was so cute! We all got together as a family for the first time this year, following exposure to Covid, although I have done some babysitting on my own. Nora’s older sister Maddux will soon be thirteen, and not nearly as excited to see me. She grew up thousands of miles from me, so Nora is my first chance to be a true grandfather – part of her life on a consistent basis. The oldest grandchild is Gavyn, having just turned fifteen. He was sending back pictures from Indiana of his first romp in the snow. It was his birthday present from my ex-wife that included an airplane trip on his own. They are all growing up so fast. 

We dined at Olive Garden last night after first agreeing to celebrate Gavyn’s birthday at Dave & Buster’s. However, with his detour to Fort Wayne, we decided to go without him, deciding on Pincher’s. Then, my son’s work schedule changed, so we picked The Twisted Fork, closer to his workplace. Upon arrival, we discovered that there was a long wait due to traffic from a nearby carnival and we all rerouted to Carrabba’s. We initially agreed to wait an hour for our table but grew quickly impatient and switched finally to the less busy Olive Garden. It’s always complicated when the seven of us try to get together. 

My son agreed to help us hang some overhead lights and fans next week since we haven’t heard back from the electrician we called. My wife wants to get them installed because her sister and husband arrive soon for a visit. Our neighbor is also expecting my son to help connect some TVs she just purchased from him, so he’s highly in demand. Nora will likely be his assistant, knowing that once again I’ll be glad to see her!

Retirement is not without Hassles: How Sweet It Is! #1932

I’ll start my writing this morning, as has been the current tradition, with a historical tidbit from the year corresponding with the number of this post, “Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Pres. Herbert Hoover. The 1932 election was the first held during the Great Depression, and it represented a dramatic shift in the political alignment of the country.” In another 20 posts from now, I will have been born and soon these tidbits will be personal memories. I’m feeling a bit melancholy today with cool temperatures, gray skies, and the chance of rain. A post by one of my high school classmates yesterday is the real reason. Nearly two hundred names of deceased members of the Class of 1969 were listed. For most people, my wife included, this alarming number is much greater than the size of her entire graduating class. I added Grant Balkema and Bob Grove to the list, as other losses of life were added as the day went on. One-fifth of my fellow high school students are gone, some of which I never knew other than a picture in the annual. 

It made me think of life as a lottery, some of us luckier than others. I was fortunate in several related lotteries including adoption and the Viet Nam War. Some of these classmates lost their lives fighting for our country, while I could have ended up at any any other high school if it weren’t for the loving people that made me part of their family and raised me in Elkhart, Indiana. I might not have had a life at all if abortion had been an option. I’m certainly thankful for all I have today.

While I was contemplating life and death, the sweet smell of baked goods led me to the kitchen. My wife’s new neighborhood friend was teaching her how to make Nazook. It’s often spelled nazuk or  nazouk, Armenian Նազուկ, Persian نازوک), an Armenian pastry made from flour, butter, sugar, sour cream, yeast, vanilla extract and eggs, with a filling often made with nuts, and especially walnuts. Nazook is sometimes referred to as gata. After a few bites, my depression went away, even though my waistline was probably starting to swell. How sweet it is!

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