Today's thoughts

Category: DIARY OF AN ADOPTEE (Page 1 of 16)

As an adopted child, my thoughts and research.

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!

Diary of an Adoptee: Faust or Foust #1918

It’s a small world when your neighbor five houses down turns out to be related. His last name is Foust, who in the early 1900s married a Bannister. Sam (James Samuel) Foust and Emma Lulu Bannister tied the knot and had two sons near the turn of the century in Madison County, Indiana. My birth parents were both named Bannister, also from Indiana. The two families had something in common, as we trace their genealogical heritage. Each kept changing the spelling of their last name. Fousts were also Fausts, while Banisters sometimes added an extra “n”. I’m not sure why the additional “n” made a difference, but after the World Wars, the Faust clan apparently changed vowels to disguise their German Heritage on American soil. 

This older generation of Ban(n)isters and Fausts experienced a similar challenge as we do these days. In January of 1918, a pandemic known as the “Spanish flu” (influenza) is first observed in Haskell County, Kansas. It spread across the states much as Covid has in current times, leaving death in its path. Fortunately, Sam lived to be 91 and Lulu 82 – great  longevity in that era. Sam’s father, Joshua, also sired Jesse, who in turn fathered Everett, who engendered  Gregory, my new neighbor. Lulu’s father, Lee  Bannister had a brother, David, spawned Henry, who was my birthmother’s (Edna Faye Banister) grandfather and Charles who was my birthfather’s (Cecil Ralph Banister) grandfather. I am, therefore, the bastard offspring of two Banister brothers’ children and a first cousin of James Samuel Faust (Foust) family 3x removed, if I’m understanding the lineage properly? Greg Foust would be the great-grandnephew of husband of first cousin 3x removed – I’ll just call him neighbor. 

The Foust/Faust fame is in the development of the Gutenberg Press by moneylender Johann Faust. also known as Fust (another variation of the spelling), who provided some of the financing (800 guilders) through his banking connections. “There is also apparently a Faust Castle in upper Austria, a 15th century castle on the Danube which, legend says, was built in a single night for Dr. Faust by the devil. It has been owned by several noble families and has been a hotel since 1966.” I have been warned not to go there because back taxes are still apparently due that, as a descendent, I might be obligated to help pay or risk being imprisoned. Hotel Faust like the Hotel California – I can check in but I can never leave!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Over The Hill #1910

In 1910 war was declared on Germany and the U.S. entered World War 1. Both my grandfathers, William J. Johnston (1918 at age 22) and Ross A. Hancher (1917 at age 22), fought for our country. Thank you both for your service and for being great role models for me in life. We would come together as a family when Ross’ daughter, Catherine, married William’s son, Burton in 1946. I was then adopted five years later, along with my younger sister, added in 1955. I thankfully avoided military service.

I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon for my annual wellness exam. I’ve not been having any major health issues other than the self-imposed stiffness and soreness associated with running every day. My first acupuncture session earlier this week proved relatively ineffective. I have another attempt scheduled for next week, along with a chiropractor appointment. An eye exam is also planned for later this month. With all this attention to my health this month, I’m sure they will find something wrong. I give blood next week and have passed two Covid tests already, so I’ll certainly have my share of New Year poking and prodding. I’ve managed to stay away from alcohol as part of my January resolution, but sweets consumption has actually gotten worse. 

We continue to watch Peaky Blinders on Netflix about British spies and gangs. As far as TV sports, IU won a big basketball game over Ohio State last night, bolstering my fading hopes for an elusive tournament bid come March. Football also signed a promising QB prospect, a transfer from Missouri, so things are looking up in Bloomington. Culturally, we spent yesterday afternoon, Tourist Thursday, at the Venice Art Center following lunch in their café. We also signed up for an Eagles cover band concert here in the community center – After Eagles. Florida is known to be the cover band capital of the world, probably since a majority of the aging population can’t see or hear clearly, so these copycat groups sound better to them than they actually are. We were not pleased with the Journey/Styx act that we saw here a few months ago, so maybe we aren’t as far “over the hill” as some of our Florida peers. 

Diary of an Adoptee: Roof #1875

I added my 800th DNA match to the Jerry Ban(n)ister Family Tree yesterday. That’s 800 people that I was in NO way familiar with until just a few years ago. Now, at least I have something physical in common with my ancestors. I was reminded of this by my chiropractor who asked me just yesterday if my father had similar issues with muscle stiffness and arthritis as I do. I told him I didn’t really experience that because I was adopted and never around him. I do however know that he suffered from lymphoma that is usually identified early with a bump or lump under the skin. 

This is the only tree that I’m working with this holiday season, with now over 37,000 ancestors spread out on it’s many branches. I’ve been experiencing what I call “Ban(n)ister Butt” that happens after hours of sitting at my desk connecting genetic clues that make up my genetic family. Just after Christmas there will be a surge in DNA test results that could mean more solutions to my many puzzles. Genealogy is the only way that dead people speak and are recognized for their important roles in the Tree of Life. Each generation is approximately 25 years long. The numbers grow exponentially as you figure two children, four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and so on. In just ten generations, the average person accumulates over 1,000 descendants. This is how we matter!

I have one son, with three kids that will hopefully remember me some day by exploring their genetic history. It is complicated by divorce, marriage, remarriage, child birth, and  adoption, In the process loved ones are lost through death and often quickly forgotten with time. My son’s youngest daughter never met my parents or their parents let alone my birth parents and their offspring. However, these are all people that will have an influence on her life as she grows older and perhaps has kids of her own. It’s a lot to think about and there is importance in recording this family history. 

Because I was adopted, I never really paid much attention to genetics and was never able to find physical resemblance to my family members. Now, through pictures, I can finally see this relationship that most people take for granted. I look much like the birth father that I never met and through his other children see this phenomenon. It’s a connection that brings families together. People always tried to find that likeness between myself and my birth parents. Fortunately, I picked up many worthy attributes from them as they raised me, but we did not have common features, despite what others thought they saw. I was taller, more muscular, and had darker complexion  than the loving couple that raised me. My sister was also adopted so we shared little physically. We found our connection by living under the same roof. I wonder what that roof would have been like back in 1875.


Retirement is not without Hassles: Just The Facts #1870

I begin today’s post #1870 with a few historical facts relating to the year 1870:

John D. Rockefeller incorporates the Standard Oil Company. It would eventually become the largest oil company in the world before the U.S. Supreme Court declared it an “unreasonable monopoly” under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1911.

The National Weather Service issues its first weather forecast on November 1, 1870. The forecast warns of a windy day in Chicago, IL.

February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave the right to vote to Black men, became law when the required number of states ratified it.

July 15, 1870: Georgia became the last of the Confederate states to return to the Union. 

Franco-German War, also called Franco-Prussian War, (July 19, 1870–May 10, 1871), war in which a coalition of German states led by Prussia defeated France. The war marked the end of French hegemony in continental Europe and resulted in the creation of a unified Germany.

My Great, Great Grandfather Hiram Perry Hancher, on my adopted mother’s side had just turned 18. As did John Wesley Johnston on my father’s side. 

It makes me wonder what John Wesley Johnston was doing in 1937 at age 85 traveling cross-country to  Oregon? In 1870 he lived in Marshall, Indiana and the year before he died in 1937, his residence is listed as Ithaca, New York – 2,800 miles away from where he was buried. Did he follow the Oregon Trail or more likely the train? His older sister Nancy Elizabeth Johnston died in Seattle in 1934, while her older sister Elinor died in Iowa in 1933. His wife, Eliza Johnston, who passed in 1939 must have stayed behind in Indiana. These are mysteries that I will never uncover, but had I know this fact before today, I should have at least visited his grave while I lived in Oregon.


Retirement is not without Hassles: Grandpa J’s #1835

I had a thought this morning that I was not the first to be called  “Grandpa J” in my family. It’s what my three grandkids now call me. I don’t remember distinguishing between my Grandfathers Hancher and Johnston as “Grandpa H” and “Grandpa J” but I also didn’t necessarily use any other terms of endearment. My wife prefers to be called “Nona” instead of Grandma, for example. Her kids called her mother “Grammy.” My grandkids have at least four sets of grandparents, so it’s a challenge to know which ones they are referring to in conversation. It must be more confusing for us than it is for them.

As I think about it, the adults around me growing up called my special male elders “Grandpa Burt,” “Great Grandpa Bill,” and “Great Grandpa Ross. I didn’t necessarily refer to Bill and Ross that way – they were both just “grandpa” to me. However, I never had to contend with multiple marriages. My son also had “Grandpa Phil,” on his mother’s side and “Grandma Cathy,” my mother. In addition, there was Phil’s divorce that resulted in “Grandma Mary,” and his second wife known affectionately as simply “Margie.”

The “Big D” can make a mess of tradition. However, for kids, it means more grandparents and therefore more presents. I can remember celebrating at three different homes on Christmas Day to satisfy my first wife’s separated family. Our son, of course, saw it as perfectly normal, collecting a trunkful of gifts and moving on for more. I think it helped him develop an exceptional memory, trying to keep track of all his loot. My grandson has even more of a challenge, living part-time with one parent each week along with multiple divorces with grandparents and great grandparents. It’s Modern Family for him!

My Grandfather Johnston (the original Grandpa J) was born in 1896 and would have been 125-years old this year. He died two days after my 41st birthday, although I never made that association until just now looking through my genealogy charts. My son was 18 when he lost this great grandfather at age 96. His other great grandfather Hancher died 6 years earlier at age 91. It’s too bad, with me as an adoptee of the Johnston name, that we don’t have this degree of genetic longevity since both of my adopted parents also lived to be 93. Biologically, I’m not really “Grandpa J” at all, but rather “Grandpa B” for Banister. 

Diary of an Adoptee: DNA Matching #1823

I found another first cousin on my birth father’s side yesterday as I was updating my Jerry Banister Ancestry site. Dean W. Rigdon is one of three children born to Opal, Cecil Banister’s older sister. I assume the middle initial stands for Willard, a family name dating back to 1881. In past conversations with my half-sister, I heard that Opal Jean Banister was an oddball and there wasn’t much interaction between the cousins. I sent a note to confirm this but have yet to hear back on if there has been any communication from that side of the family. No one apparently knows where Opal Jean is or if she is even alive. She would be 92 years of age, born in 1929, with various married names including Woods and Soledad. I did a quick search for obituaries but came up empty. 

Dean Rigdon is my third closest DNA match at 1,045 cM. Half-sister, Julie, tops the list at 1,719 cM and her sister Kristi’s daughter, Ashlee, is second at 1,109. Centimorgan or cM is “a unit used to measure genetic linkage. One centimorgan equals a one percent chance that a marker on a chromosome will become separated from a second marker on the same chromosome due to crossing over in a single generation. The centimorgan is named after the American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan.” An additional scientific source indicates that “the total length of all your chromosomes combined is around 7400 cM. Since a person inherits half of their DNA from each parent, you share about 3700 cM with each parent.” 

Susan Colleen Barker Smith is number four on my list of matches with 991 cM. She connects me with my birth mother, Edna Faye Banister, as the daughter of her oldest sister, Helen Banister and husband, Walter Barker. Gabe Burkman is next at 894 cM. He is the son of my half-sister, Julie, that tops the list. I have yet to identify Sue Ramsey that follows him at 654 cM. There are 51,879 other matches on the Ancestry site that range from 1st cousins down to distant relatives like Barbara Ryker at the 6 cM minimum, making her last on my current match list. New connections are added every day as more DNA tests are confirmed. So far, I’ve only managed to link 737 to my tree, as the rest remain unidentified.

This total includes 23andMe matches that are sometimes duplicated as people like myself submit saliva to multiple testing sites. I have 1500 matches on 23andMe that sorts by percentages rather than centimorgans. They both apparently use the same testing lab. My highest percentage match on 23andMe is currently Joyce Gourley at 7.22 percent. This would rank her in my Top 10 if combining the results from both website sources. I share 25% DNA for example with my half-sister and 13% with her son. First cousin, Dean W. Rigdon, that I found yesterday genetically shares 15% with me. Each match that I’m able to accurately trace is then marked with a green DNA symbol on my family tree. Currently that number stands at only 737 out of 35,740 relatives identified on it’s sprawling branches – or about 2%.

Diary of an Adoptee: Mom Remembered #1805

Seven years ago today mom passed away.  I thought she would live forever because like her father she was rarely ill. He was a hardy postman who rose through the ranks to be Postmaster of his hometown. I had to chuckle when my granddaughter’s favorite task was delivering the mail when we took her to see Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I know that when grandpa died unexpectedly, it broke my mom’s heart, thinking that she would have alone time with him at the end. Ultimately, I feel that taking care of my dad and his memory issues eventually wore her down. He lived another few weeks after her funeral, going out of this world together just as they had come in, born a few hours apart. 

We all lose important people in our lives, but it was hard to see her go, leaving my dad all alone in a memory care facility. Sadly, he often didn’t remember her, shocking me on the day she died with news that he was getting married to what was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. Both of my parents were fortunate to live into their nineties with mostly good health. Walkers and wheelchairs eventually became part of their lives, but were able to live independently until the last few years.  I’ve now reached that time of life myself when those close to us suddenly begin to depart, leaving holes in our hearts. It’s important to make each day precious and remember the good times. 

I’m not a religious man, although my mom tried her best to expose me to the “good word” by getting me to church on Sundays. I could never understand why some had to suffer while others were safely protected, or how one belief was seemingly more important than another? We did not discuss religion or politics as a family and they are subjects I still tend to avoid, along with talk of Bobby Knight. My mom was a college graduate, where she met my dad at I.U. Although, as was traditional, she stayed home to raise her adopted children, but somehow found time to start her own small business – The Calico Cottage. She was loving, smart, creative, and active with her church, clubs, and community. I miss her greatly, but carry her memory as if she’s always by my side. 

Diary of an Adoptee: Letter #1735

This is probably as close to stalking as it gets, but a man has to do what a man has to do! I saw another picture of my 88-year old birth mother on Facebook, along with her two great grandchildren. It made me sad that we’ve been unable to reconnect and inspired this letter to her son:

Dear Jerry,

I’m not a car guy but appreciate some of the classics you’ve restored. I have, however, been involved in the racing business. We also have grandchildren and divorce in common.

Over the past five years, I’ve sent several letters to you, Edna, and Janet, without a single response, even though we share the same genetic ties. We even look a little alike. There has been no acknowledgement, not even a “get lost.” We are half-brothers – several DNA tests prove it, regardless of how embarrassing or shameful the circumstances might have been for your mother at age 17.

We have a common friend and relative, Deb, who I have met and shared my documentation. She will vouch for the fact that I’m a decent guy with nothing more than a friendly agenda. I find it hard to believe that you aren’t even curious. You’ve already unfortunately lost two other brothers, while I will be seventy in a few months. Time is short!-ye

 I’m not really looking for anything but a simple hello – even returning the enclosed self-addressed, stamped envelope empty will at least tell me that I’ve done everything possible to make contact. You can also text, e-mail, friend me on Facebook, or call me at any time. We don’t even have to get your mother involved, if that’s a concern. I understand that she denies my existence or claims not to remember. It was a cruel world for single mothers in 1951. I was lucky to find loving parents through adoption.

You’re probably getting ready to retire like I did five years ago, so you may get more interested in genealogy or family history. I also have legitimate DNA connections with Bruce and other cousins that can further confirm our connection.

Please give me a chance to tell my story, at least to you, starting with a simple acknowledgment that you got this letter. It might be interesting for both of us!


Best Regards, Mike


We’ll see what happens!


Retirement is not without Hassles: Gumption #1732

I started my running steak on December 29,2008 – a monumental Monday as it turns out. As a sign of the times, there was an article that I came about this morning regarding an enterprising young skateboarder that was commandeering swimming pools of foreclosed homes and turning them into skate parks. We were on the precipice of economic disaster ourselves after I just lost my TV management job in Decatur Illinois. My wife had just quit hers at the same station, so we moved to Austin, Texas that year for a job opportunity that she was offered. Little did we know that it would take over six years to sell our Decatur home, while I struggled financially. Running was probably my savior from depression!

This coming Monday will be my 653rd consecutive run to start another week – 4,572 days without a single interruption. Some people call me “Forrest Gump. Run, Forrest, Run,” they tease. I do like the word “Gumption,” meaning “initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness.” It has taken all of that to maintain “The Streak” of now over 12.5 years. It keeps me healthy and happy, despite the strain on my body. There are days that have generated blood, sweat, and tears to add some drama to this accomplishment. Today was an uneventful 79 degrees with 89 percent humidity and little shade. It feels good to sit down and write. 

There are many things I contemplate during my daily run. Yesterday would have been my birth father’s 90th birthday. I never met the man but keep the date on my calendar and sent a note to his daughter. We stay in touch after a DNA test put us together. She sent my a nice story about her dad, a man that I have learned a lot about in the past few years, but I’m sure my curiosity will never be satisfied. I resemble him physically but want to know more. The birth mother is still alive but there has been no contact. She’s the only one on earth that knows the whole story of my existence. I guess I just haven’t had enough gumption to get the truth. Maybe I should try harder?


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