I can’t call you “Mom” because that title only belongs to the woman that adopted and raised me. I could call you Edna but that doesn’t seem special enough, while bio-mom is too scientific, like something out of a Frankenstein movie. Birth Mother is probably appropriate, but we hardly even know each other. You spent nine months carrying me around, with mixed feelings about my existence. Then, I came into the world and we were together only long enough for you to give me the name Jerry Lee.
For over 30 years of my life, I never even knew your name. A friend gave me a piece of paper with Edna Faye Bannister written on it and an address that turned out to of the Suemma Coleman Adoption Home on Illinois Street in Indianapolis. Strangely coincidental, it was directly across the street from my office. I wasn’t even supposed to have this extremely confidential information, but it aroused a sense of curiosity. Up to that point, I never even thought of you, although I always knew that I was adopted. Out of love and respect for the couple that accepted me into their home, I moved it to the back of my mind. At one point for Mother’s Day, I visited the hospital where I was born and got a copy of my birth records. Included was a footprint from when I was born, and I gave it to my Mom with a card and appreciative note. This was one of the few times that we ever really discussed our adoptive relationship.
Once my parents passed away, this curiosity rushed to the forefront. I knew that I could never replace my love for them, but there were certain pieces of my life that were missing. I knew that the birth father was a Marine but little more. In one of the few conversations with my dad about adoption, he admitted that he too was aware of this detail, and found it haunting when I would play the Marines’ Hymn over-and-over on the piano. Mysteriously, this was long before I knew of any Marine connection in my life. I eventually got more details from the adoption agency about the two people that gave me life.
Slowly but surely, I began to put the pieces together, but the biggest breakthrough was from a distant genetic match who sent Edna’s birth records and a 1940 census report, identifying her family as having lived in Shelbyville, Indiana. This was after I had submitted to DNA tests on both Ancestry and 23andMe. The results connected me with thousands of missing ancestors, including close cousins and even a half-sister whose father was the same Marine. The circumstances of my birth began to unfold, and I began to meet members of this new family of Banisters.
This morning one of these cousins sent me a picture of my birth mother, Edna, on her 87th birthday. I don’t know if she’s in assisted living or stays with a family member? I was just glad to see that she’s healthy, especially in these times of deadly respiratory threats. Her birthday will likely be spent in safe isolation with few hugs. She at least got a kiss from the puppy in the picture. Sadly, another year of life has gone by without us making contact. She apparently prefers to keep me a secret, even though I’ve made attempts to contact her and her children. We’re running out of precious time.
I was part of a miserable time in her life. She had to give up her senior year of high school and be hidden away from an embarrassing pregnancy. Her family undoubtedly made her give me up for adoption and she may have had some regrets or guilt. To make matters worse, her lover went off to the Marines, probably unaware of my existence, and married someone else. It was surely a lonely, sad summer – something she still wants to forget, especially on her birthday.
This daily blog is the only chance for me to send Birthday wishes. I hope she’s happy and healthy, and surrounded by family once this ugly Coronavirus passes. I’ve been advised to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while frequently scrubbing my hands in an effort to destroy any harmful germs. Today, in honor of the occasion, I’ll sing to Edna. Should I ever get a chance to talk to her, I would tell her that I have no animosity for the path my life has taken. I’m 69 years old with three grandchildren, and living a comfortable retirement life. I have a great marriage, and a successful career, appreciating the joys of my labor while relishing all the memories. It’s unfortunate that she had to sacrifice so much of her young adulthood in the process. Have a happy and healthy 87th Birthday my dear Edna.