Over the weekend, my husband’s 90-year-old aunt passed. She was not in good health, but she was a wonderful person and will be missed. Her family grieves for her, losing her presence, and others grieve for things unsaid.
By unsaid, I mean the times someone was unkind and needed to apologize but didn’t, times to say I love you but didn’t, opportunities to ask and talk but did not talk. What do I mean? With the death of this woman a great deal of family history went with her. Whether an adoptee or a parent of an adopted child, information is king. Who were the family members? What did they do for a living? Where did they live? And so on. The answers are no longer available for the aunt’s family.
In addition to my adopted family, I’ve been tracing my birth family and have learned a great deal about both groups. My maternal birth family can be traced to about 1600, and my paternal side to only 1845. My adoptive families can be traced back to 1075, and there are a number of characters, including Thomas Jefferson, slave owners, and Revolutionary War patriots, in the tree. Without internet resources, this would be an exhausting search with years needed to make the progress to-date.
When I returned to college as an adult, one assignment was to talk to an older woman about her life. I planned to meet with a local politician or a corporate climber but was turned down by both. They had no time for some strange woman who wanted to pry. So I settled on my mom. I was not happy, but it was the best thing that ever happened. I learned about my mom’s life as a child of a young widow struggling to run the family farm. Life for the family changed when women got the right to vote. My grandma was one of only a handful of women in the farming community without a husband to “tell” her how to vote. Politicians headed to the farm to influence my grandma’s vote. I also learned that the Klan was active in targeting religious choice in 1920s Indiana. My mom later became a nanny with the family that her cousin worked for in the city. This was a big change, a small town country girl moving to the city and taking care of children of one of the most influential families in manufacturing history. I knew about this, but I didn’t know they took her to their vacations homes and she was able to travel and see some of her dream locales.
This assignment is one of my most prized possessions. It is kept in the safety deposit box for my kids to read someday. Not only did I learn about my mom’s adventures, but this information would have been lost if we had not talked.
Talk about it! As an adoptive parent, provide your kids with some family history. Not only will they learn about their family, but there will be a new respect for the elders. For the birth family, it is a personal choice. If you want more info than the adoption file contains, check online. If you choose not to share, keep any additional family information that you received at adoption for future reference. Many adoptive parents ask a lot of questions about health, but family information is also important. This info may be needed someday.