On St. Patrick’s Day everyone wishes they were Irish and some say that on this day everyone is.
An Irish wish from the heart of a friend:
“May good fortune be yours, may your joys never end.”
There’s a little bit of Irish in everyone. According to my DNA, I’m 18% Irish, 10% Scottish, 20% Germanic, and 52% English, but 100% Hoosier. My birthfather’s father had red hair and was named Arlie, while my adoption records describe his son Cecil Banister to be of Irish descent. However, I question the accuracy of this information as reported by a scared teenager, my birthmother.
For years, all that I knew about my heritage was a few paragraphs that made up the Social and Medical Background Information that I was provided with by the agency. The father was listed as “alleged,” although we both had dark eyes and wavy hair, characteristic of the Irish. This document was the very first step in satisfying a curiosity about where I came from. For about thirty years, I thought I was Irish until a DNA test proved otherwise. It shows my Ban(n)ister roots to be in England, so I should probably be drinking green tea rather than green beer today.
None of the Ban(n)ister family genealogical researchers can establish a documented link beyond Laborn Banister (1801-1885) of Indiana. However, I’m showing DNA connections through Col. John Bannister (1749-1815 of Virginia) and his wife Elizabeth Willis Banister (1754-1832) from Hampshire, England. John’s father William (1707-1779) was also from Hampshire. The earliest Ban(n)ister in this line is John (1650-1692) from Gloucestershire – less than 280 miles from Dublin. This is as close to my Irish wish as I get, as the Jerry Banister Family Tree has yet to span the Celtic Sea.
My parents, who both passed seven years ago, were born one day apart one hundred years ago. Although they are no longer physically here to celebrate, they will always be in my heart and part of my life. If there is a heaven, they would certainly both be there now, given their compassion for and generosity to others. To me, they are saints who made my success in life possible. They could not have children of their own, so they adopted both me and my younger sister to share their lives.
I was brought into their family in October of 1951, two months after I was born. They both lived to be 93, dying just months apart in 2014. They were my caretakers for nearly 63 years, but my dad sadly couldn’t recognize me the last few while my mom was overburdened during this difficult time with his needs. Dementia took its toll on both of them, although only his mind was affected. He went into assisted living while she remained at home. I was too far away to be of much help, so my sister took on the responsibilities for their care. I should have been there for them, as they were always there for me.
There were a lot of “should-haves” that I managed to ignore, consumed in my remarriage and career. Distance was always my excuse, but they raised me to be independent. I caused a lot of anguish in their lives, especially in my college years. I have my share of regrets, as I think back to living under their roof and the difficult transition into adulthood. They did not deserve the grief that I put them through, but as I’ve learned, this is part of being a loving and forgiving parent.
I can’t imagine being part of a better family or be given greater opportunities. I drew life’s winning lottery ticket, when the alternatives could have been abortion, foster care, or mismatched adoption. Here I am now leading a comfortable retirement life with grandchildren of my own thanks primarily to them. Happy 100 Mom and Dad with all my love – let them eat angel cake!
Fourteen years ago, when my parents were both still alive, the family gathered at a neighborhood park and planted two small trees, including a red maple and a ginkgo. Appropriately, the ginkgo was one of my dad’s favorites, plus he grew up on Maple Street. My sister and I were both adopted by them and had families of our own when the ceremonial planting took place. Since that time the maple has been replaced several times, but the gingko continues to survive. It turns a golden color this time of year. At it’s base, we buried a time capsule that included this poem:
The Family Tree
May it grow tall,
Roots big and strong.
Branches of love,
Sprout many years long.
Shade in the summer,
Color each fall.
New leaves come spring,
For enjoyment by all.
Where birds will nest,
And squirrels will play.
This truly is,
A magical day.
Only we know it’s special,
For you Mom and Dad.
For all you have given us,
For the good lives we’ve had.
We stand here together,
With the love we all share.
And planting this Ginkgo,
Is a family affair.
The root of our being,
Your marriage has sewn.
From your guidance and love,
Our families have grown.
October 28, 2006
Ginkgo Tree planted especially for Burt
And Cathy Johnston
Copyright 2006 johnstonwrites.com
I spoke with my sister yesterday and reminded her of the time capsule and the anniversary of the planting. Her kids were there when we added the contents, but neither of us can remember what was included. She doesn’t live too far from the park, so I’m hoping she can get her kids together and dig it up, maybe add more things before replacing it in its rightful spot. Our parents, Burt and Cathy, both died in 2014, eight years after the tree was planted. There’s a photo that I will dig out for next year’s anniversary.
I’ve since discovered the identity of my birth parents, so I spend a lot of time with my Ancestry family tree, searching for clues about my existence and genetic ties. However, it’s not nearly as meaningful as this living monument to the people that loved and raised me. I honor them today with this memory of our lives together. Miss you, Mom and Dad!
Today is September 11th. I think we all know what that means. It was an unforgettable day of horror, as the Twin Towers, that many of us New York City tourists once stood upon, crashed to the ground. There were of course other atrocities committed in conjunction with this act of terrorism. It goes without saying that many lives were lost and most of our lives were changed.
I remember that day 19 years ago like it was just yesterday, but I recently discovered from adoption records that September 11th was also the day I was separated from my birth mother 69 years ago. Naturally, I don’t remember any of the circumstances, but it was a day that had a profound influence on my life. The decision was made to move in different directions. Probably with good reason, she could not raise me as her own, and it became the adoption agency’s responsibility to find me a home. It turned out to have a happy ending for me.
About a month later, I had found the two people I will forever call “Mom and Dad.” They raised me as their own and gave me all the tools of life to succeed. On September 17th, six years ago, I lost my Mom, and a month later my Dad died. My birth mother, on the other hand, had four more kids that she raised after our separation. Two of them apparently died in the prime of their lives to a deadly disease. The other two were from different fathers, while their mother and my “bio-mom” is now 87. There has been no acknowledgement from any of them regarding my existence. I’m surprised they aren’t responsive or curious, but I’m not angry. Separation is to be respected.
I’ve recently been reunited and in regular contact with a half-sister on my birth father’s side. This came about through DNA testing. It’s slowly becoming a close relationship, and makes me wonder if I should try harder to connect with my birth mother’s kids? In all, I’ve had ten half-siblings through my birth parents, but three have sadly died. I’ve met four of my bio-father’s offspring and will probably meet the fifth once we move to Florida. The one I stay in touch with, including a recent lunch, has become the clear “favorite.” However, I also have an adopted sister that I grew up with that might be offended if I start to determine any favorites.
On a card I received for my recent birthday, it notes, “Here’s to Your Awesome Existence.” It is indeed awesome to consider how far I’ve come in these past 70 years of life. I’ve lost family and I’ve found new ones. Separation gave me opportunity, and I hope to continue to take advantage of the circumstances. I’d just like to say, “thanks for giving me life in the first place.”
The Coast-to-Coast adventure is gradually coming to an end. We’ve entered the third time zone and finally in the home stretch with only ten state licence plates yet to find. There have been limited issues, as we settle into Mother Marriott’s arms tonight. We’ve now covered the gambit of Marriott properties from Ritz-Carlton to Fairfield Inn & Suites. We did have a near-casualty, trying to dodge a semi’s shredded tire that left only a few removable black rubber marks on the newly restored Lexus sports-car body. Also, some disturbing news from both my son and my wife’s daughter ended the day.
A bottle of wine soothed my nerves. We started with an 18-pack, while most went along as gifts. Two Oregon wines went to my half/bio/from another mother-sister. I’m not sure which is the preferred term? Nonetheless, we shared some “throwed rolls” yesterday and talked about the man we have in common. I will never meet him, while she grew up with him. Apparently, he was a pretty tough father that raised five girls and a boy. His favorite saying was, “you can’t win with kids.” He was selfish, competitive, and ultimately took his own life. I would now describe him as the polar opposite of the man I got to call “dad” – the man who adopted me. They both did have explosive tempers, but I would choose the life I’ve led over what could have been.
My half-sister was raised in a small Indiana town, not too far from John Cougar Mellencamp’s Seymour. She remembered picking beans & blackberries in the family’s massive garden, playing croquet in the yard, billiards in the basement, and sitting down to meals for eight. Her dad was quite the games-man; good at just about any sport, including semi-pro shuffleboard in retirement. He built a nine-sided cabin next door to their home that eventually served as their residence and loved to hunt.
If he had married my birth mother instead of his wife of 60-years, this half-sister would not exist, and I would have lived a rural life of sports, hunting, and manly trades, instead of my country club upbringing. My father didn’t own any tools, couldn’t teach me sports because he was left-handed, and despised the outdoors, especially after living in a tent during the war. He did encourage me to enjoy sports, get an education, and work with my mind, not my hands. If circumstances had been different, I would be a completely different person.
I’m appreciative of the life I do live, especially now that I’m comfortably retired. I owe it all to my adopted parents, who raised me as their own and provided the resources for success. I’m also grateful for this man I never met who gave me life and for his family that is beginning to accept me as their brother. My half-sisters lost their only brother at an early age in a motorcycle accident. Although, I will never come close to replacing him, I was struck by a comment a friend made as we were eating our Lambert’s lunch yesterday: “I wish I could find a brother that I never knew I had.”