Dottie, An Angel Among Us

Over four decades ago, Paul and I were house hunting for the first time. No more apartment living for us! We were lucky to find a little house in the Parkside neighborhood of North Buffalo, NY. Paul could walk to work. I was on leave from teaching to care for our infant son. The houses were close together–only a narrow driveway separated us from our neighbors. Dottie had five kids and the youngest, a son, was not much older than our son.

Dottie and I had the type of friendship that supports itself. You’ve probably heard the expression in real estate, “That house has good bones.” Our friendship was like that–solid through years of our children’s busy lives and moves by both of our families.

I recall when we had just walked into the house with our newborn daughter–Dottie’s eldest, Denise, came bounding up our front steps to see the baby. When Emily was two and I was back at work, Dottie often took care of Emily in her house–she would put Emily up on a chair so they could make mac ‘n cheese together. Emily now has two daughters. Dottie and her daughters have sent Emily the cutest outfits and toys. Emily’s youngest is just four months old, so our memories are very fresh.

We always kept in touch with birthday cards and Christmas cards. But Dottie often sent Easter and Thanksgiving cards, too. Since we returned to Western New York from Long Island about three years ago, Dottie and I have taken each other out to lunch a number of times. The last couple of times, Paul kindly chauffeured us and had a chance to reminisce with Dottie. When the kids were little, Dottie and Paul walked them together to the nearby Early Childhood Center.

During our last lunch, I gave Dottie a copy of my memoir. Not only had she met my parents during their visits so many years ago, she knew all about my search for my heritage and my identity from the beginning in May 1983. She held my book to her heart–we were both a little emotional. A month later, during one of our long phone chats, Dottie explained that after reading the first couple of chapters of my memoir about my dad’s post-WWII surgeries, she had to put the book down for a few weeks before she could finish it–Dad’s illness was simply too upsetting.

Two and a half weeks ago, on April 18, Denise wrote to tell me that Dottie died during the night. She went to the hospital only the day before. Cause of death–corona virus. How is this possible? “Denise, I am so sorry and devastated. Certain people are angels on earth, your mother was one of them. I always knew I was blessed to have her friendship and love.” Too soon.

Dottie leaves behind her children, their families, four grandchildren, and many, many friends–the memories of our dear Dottie make us all stronger.

Our granddaughter, Riley Nina,
in her fleece from Dottie. XO

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Who Was I?…Who Am I?

It’s odd to imagine receiving an infant from a foster parent without any background information on the baby. We always got our pets from the Erie County SPCA and they came with medical histories, special needs, perhaps even pedigree documents! An infant can’t yet talk, but s/he does have a medical history, and biological parents and relatives who know their family background. In 1949, in a closed adoption in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, my parents knew almost nothing. A couple of tidbits of information they were given were actually untrue. (Thankfully, adoptive parents today are more informed.)

Here is an excerpt from Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir

“I have a large ring binder with all my documents and notes on my adoption story. My search began in 1983. Ron was 5 and Emily was 3. We visited my parents in Morrisville, Vermont for Easter, which fell on April 3rd that year. I am sure of these details because the first document in my binder is a letter from my dad written on my birthday, April 7, 1983. During our Easter visit, I finally pulled myself together and asked my parents if they knew the name of the agency that handled my adoption. I explained that I felt it was important to get my medical history—for myself and the children.

“This request marked a milestone moment in my life. It was Easter, after all, and for me, it was a new beginning and a new endeavor. My parents responded with compassion and acceptance. I sensed a little unease from my mother―a slight pause. However, Dad took the lead and immediately assured me that they would get the address for me.

“I asked them what information they remembered. Dad described how, when they picked me up at the agency, they were so thrilled to receive me from my foster mother that they never thought to inquire about my birth family.

“Our conversation was going well. Then suddenly, I heard myself ask if they knew my name. I hadn’t planned on asking for my name, and so it was shocking to hear my mother’s quick reply: “Betty Jean.” She had never once mentioned this during the after-dinner chats so many years before.” (I later learned my birthmother named me Betty, not Betty Jean.)

“My parents had given me family names, Eleanor Mary, but called me “Bonnie” because Dad had always wanted a daughter named Bonnie. Dad knew all about his Scottish heritage. I wonder if they had actually wanted to give me a name somewhat similar to Betty. I was almost 8 months old when they took me home, old enough to know my name.”

One piece of information Mom and Dad received was absolutely correct–my birthday! It was confirmed for me when I received my Original Birth Certificate. On the first page of Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, I write about a special birthday tradition: “Mom would wrap nickels in wax paper and hide a few of them in the cake. Such excitement!”

But back to today’s title, Who Was I?…Who Am I? I searched until I had answers. I now have the information my parents should have been given. I know a lot about my biological families today–I’ve even met many of them! With help from search angels, social media, and DNA, I was able to complete my jigsaw puzzle. I now know who I was and who I am!

Our eldest granddaughter celebrated her 13th birthday this week–here is the card I made for her. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Handmade Birthday card

You can find my memoir in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir Each order includes a matching handmade bookmark and free domestic shipping! You can also order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Turning the Tide with DNA!

I was determined to learn the identity of my birth father. I’d started my search over 30 years ago. Finally, I received a breakthrough with a strong paternal DNA match. Chapter 16 in Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, tells the story of the DNA match that changed everything.

“I have made a number of friends through ancestry.com. We try to help each other. One of my friends recommended that I have my DNA tested with 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. She said that I might find matches that didn’t test with AncestryDNA.

“…What a great suggestion! AncestryDNA testing has only been offered in Canada in the last couple of years, and I have more Canadians than Americans in my family tree. I thought about it for a few weeks because the tests are expensive. But eventually, I sent away for both kits, hopeful for new, close matches.

“23andMe showed a second-cousin match, my closest match yet! She and I emailed and shared great-grandparent names, but we have not found closer common ancestors—yet. Interestingly, she has ancestors on both sides of her family with the same last name, as do I—the same name! She is from Marathon, Ontario on Lake Superior—a beautiful area. She told me that the Group of Seven Canadian painters painted many of their scenes from Marathon. My parents and Joan’s family both had paintings by the Group of Seven in their homes.

“Before long, I got my results from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). I was thrilled to see a high match at the top of the list—my first high match outside of my family. His name is Marc, and he lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He didn’t test with AncestryDNA. My ancestry friend was right! Indeed, I needed to dip my toe into each pond, as she suggested!

“I emailed Marc with the FTDNA match, but he did not reply to my email for a couple of weeks. Turns out, it was an old email address he rarely used anymore. He had his DNA tested six years ago and had given up checking it because he never had a close match.

“As I waited and prayed for a response from Marc, I posted a new question to the Facebook closed group, DNA Detectives. I gave the details about our shared DNA from FTDNA and asked how Marc and I were related. The consensus was first cousins on our fathers’ side. There was an outside possibility that we were half-siblings, but more likely, we were paternal first cousins. Very, very exciting!

“Marc got back to me: “Hi Bonnie, WOW, if this is true that would be great! Please call me or I can call you. Thanks again.”

“Marc was adopted in Montreal and raised in Welland, Ontario in a French-speaking family. His English is very good. I was surprised to find out that French was his first language. I was so pleased that we could communicate easily. We talked and laughed for a long time. Marc and I share the belief that we have a right to our biological heritage! We don’t want to intrude on families we do not know or upset anyone. As Marc says, “…we’re looking for our roots and maybe to build a friendship.”

“In February 2017, after testing with AncestryDNA, Marc’s results showed up in my match list! There was his name, right below my daughter’s, first cousin! This was the additional proof we’d hoped for to truly believe we are first cousins. As fellow adoptees, we are in this search together, and close matches mean the world to us.”

To learn the whole story, visit:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir  for autographed books, match-ing bookmarks, and FREE domestic shipping! Also available in the FriesenPress Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online.

Was it Synchronicity?

Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir Chapter 7–from My First Memoir, April 6, 1988

“My birthday was the next day and I was feeling desperate to connect with my birth family. I finally decided to call the Verdun number and ask if I could talk to one of Joan’s sisters. I felt more comfortable with the idea of talking to another woman, and I knew Grandma Williamson wasn’t ready or she would have called Phyllis at the adoption agency.

“I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more nervous. I had a pad ready for note-taking. At the top, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up…” a favorite song by the Orlons in the 1950s. I just prayed they wouldn’t hang up on me.

“I spoke briefly to Grandma Williamson and then Joan’s brother, John, realized that he should get on the phone. I didn’t know they had two phones. Before I knew it, John said, “Hang up the phone,” in a firm voice. My life passed before my eyes and I almost hung up in despair. Then he started talking to me, and I realized that he had the extension and had been speaking to Grandma. As it turned out, John couldn’t have been kinder to me!

“I was still nervous beyond reason, but he was calm and caring. We talked for about twenty-five minutes. I learned a lot about Joan, and John said I could write to him and send pictures of us. That phone call was my first direct contact with my original family since infancy. I had actually talked to someone who knew Joan!

“I know this is silly, but didn’t Joan work for the phone company? That call never appeared on my bill! Oh, how I wanted to see that phone call on my bill. It would be the written proof that I had talked to Joan’s family. I was dying to see it and pay it! I even called the phone company. They had no record of the call. John told me that Joan worked for Northern Electric for thirty-four years. She was a hard worker, well respected, and active in the Northern Electric service organization, the Pioneers Club.”

When something occurs that seems to be more than a coincidence, it can take our breath away. It’s highly personal, but without apparent cause. It is baffling and mystifying. Carl Jung studied this phenomenon and created a term for these meaningful coincidences: synchronicity. I have become more aware of synchronicity during my years searching for my birthparents and families.

It is not surprising that synchronicity is a common topic in adoption stories. My search angels, as well as the Ville Marie adoption caseworkers, have reported to me that they see highly meaningful coincidences frequently in searches and reunions. In July of 1983, I felt stressed and anxious. I felt an urgency to know more about my birthmother. In Toronto, we discovered that she died on July 21, 1983.

Synchronistic and paranormal events share one critical ingredient, and that is love. Even though it is difficult to prove with scientific study, love is what makes a meaningful coincidence meaningful. Is it possible that Joan’s love was with me on that day when I spoke with her brother? I believe it was.

In Carl Jung’s acausal connection, love is the intangible cause. When we lose a loved one, the love is not lost. We continue to love and adore, and we can feel love in return. My mom and Joan both died from breast cancer. This card represents all the love that will be with us forever.

Visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir for autographed and inscribed books, handmade bookmarks, and FREE domestic shipping! Also available in the FriesenPress Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online.

Progress in New York State

On January 15th, just three weeks ago, adult adoptees in New York State were finally, after 83 years, allowed to request a copy of their Original Birth Certificate. Thousands have applied and Facebook groups, both public and private, provide 24/7 support and information to help folks with the application process.

In my memoir, Chapter 9 – Original Birth Certificate, I describe my efforts to get a copy of my OBC. I had no idea what I was doing! In the fall of 1988, after our first trip to Montreal, I decided to try and get my original birth certificate (OBC). My notes indicate that I first called the Montreal Court House. A nasty voice told me my OBC was top secret, that I had a new identity, and referred me back to Ville Marie Social Services. I don’t recall exactly how she knew I was adopted. But I had learned my lesson and tried a craftier strategy with my next attempt.

I kept looking for things that brought my birthmother closer to me. I knew who she was, but I wanted to have proof that she had been pregnant with me and had given birth to me–I craved all tangible connections. My OBC was just that–a single sheet of paper with the name she gave me, my date of birth, and her signature! It was a legal, embossed document that belonged to me! I am thinking a lot these days about my fellow New Yorkers. Whatever the results may be, they now have the right to request a copy of their Original Birth Certificate.

I enjoy making the bookmarks that come with my memoir. It brings back memories of designing and crafting greeting cards when I had my first Etsy shop, Custom Cards By Bonnie. My new Etsy shop, My Adoptee Memoir, has four brand new greeting cards with one of my favorite themes from the book, “there is no one like YOU.” I call them my “identity cards.” The first one has the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon and butterflies. It honors my mom and my birthmother who both died from breast cancer. The next two cards have flower bouquets–one is for Valentine’s Day, the other is a bouquet of Lily of the Valley, my mom’s favorite flower! Each image is hand-stamped and colored with fine-tip markers. The last card has ginkgo leaves from my favorite tree. The leaves are hand-stamped in green. Each listing includes a story under “Item Details.”

My goal is to send a message of support to people touched by adoption and searching for their original identity and family heritage. I also hope to raise awareness in our communities about adoption issues.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir

Happy Valentine’s Day

Is Curiosity Overrated?

Curiosity played a major role in my 35-year search for my original identity. Last year, in my second blog post, I wrote, Was My Curiosity Wrong? I always struggled with conflicting issues: hurting my parents’ feelings and the frustration with closed adoption laws that withheld all identifying information.

I was surprised to see I wrote that post on January 22, 2019! One year ago, I wanted you to know that a book was in the works. Now, I am so pleased to share an excerpt from the Introduction of my memoir–it’s all about curiosity!

“As I left childhood behind, curiosity about my birthparents seeped into my conscience. I felt frustrated for the first time—Why doesn’t my story start at the beginning? But I also felt that, perhaps, I should be fine without the whole story. Maybe I didn’t need to know everything. Maybe curiosity is overrated. I shuddered at the thought of hurting my parents by asking for the name of the adoption agency. After all, they had provided me with love, security, and an education.

Worry and frustration are very personal feelings experienced by many adoptees. We worry about disappointing loved ones. Dad drove me to piano lessons at night in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in the bitter cold and was concerned about keeping my hands warm before my lesson. Mom and I had tea after school and shared a deep bond of love and trust. How could I not believe that searching for my birthparents would upset them? However, we are often frustrated by sealed records that, if they could only be opened, would unveil identifying information and lead us to birth families, medical histories, and our heritage.”

Curiosity is a special interest–often nudging us to new places of discovery and problem solving. For me, curiosity was the gift that kept on giving!

It can never be overrated.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir

1950

Happy New Year!

I am thrilled to tell you that Young Love – An Adoptee’s Memoir is now in print!

In the beginning, I wanted to record and share my search for my birth parents—a search that began in May 1983 and finally ended in March 2018. However, eventually, I realized that my story did not begin in 1983. In fact, it began in the late 1940s, well before my birth, with two young people—caught in young love.

My story continues with my parents and their decision to adopt an infant. I believe that the circumstances of my birth and the details of my childhood bring life to the story that, in the end, reveals my identity and heritage.

Young Love – An Adoptee’s Memoir is available in these places:

Etsy–I opened an Etsy shop to offer personalized sale of both the paperback and hardcover formats. I will autograph each book and add a personal statement if you have one in mind. I will include a handmade bookmark that matches the book!

Free shipping on all domestic orders. Here’s the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir?ref=search_shop_redirect

FriesenPress— My Canadian Publishing Company. No autograph or bookmark.

Paperback, hardcover, and digital formats. Here’s the link:  https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000102459125

Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thank you for your support and encouragement this past year. My first blog post was on January 19, 2019! Our lives are so complex and filled with countless experiences. Whether or not you live with adoption, I hope some small part of my story resonates with you.