I am adopted.
Even today I am not legally allowed to know of the person who gave birth to me. The records are now unsealed only because I mailed my birthmother’s death certificate to the state of Indiana. I am thankful someone recorded my birth on an old typewriter. Thank goodness there was a paper trail. From the tiny crumbs of bread that were sprinkled in my path I was fortunate enough to find the person whose womb I was created. Unfortunately, she had already died thirteen years before.
Without DNA evidence and the internet, it was a long search that began when I was 17 and ended when I was 36. I am not complaining because I discovered amazing people, places, and adventures along the way. I found what I was seeking.
Now this new chapter leaves me with a missing sister. The Great Search begins again. But there is something odd about this search. You see, I was told that I was stillborn. No one in my family searched for me because they assumed I did not exist. Deborah Kay, however, was a child who everyone in the family played with. They commented she was a beautiful baby with chubby cheeks and was perfect in every way.
Every two weeks my birthmother made trips to her hometown of Coatesville from Indianapolis. Babies give joy. I’m sure it was an exciting moment when Betty arrived with Deborah Kay.
But on a few of those trips Betty did not have Deborah, saying she was at the babysitter. When was the last trip Betty made to Coatesville with Deborah Kay?- nobody knows. The only picture the family gave me was the one on this group page. It is dated June 1956. She was six months old.
There is something else that is odd. There are no crumbs. There is no paper trail. And the strangest thing, no one seemed to care. I know if my daughter disappeared I would search the four corners of the earth. I would search forever.
Unless, however, I knew I would never find her.
I’m sure my birthmother had a challenging life. She was only sixteen when she first married. Most of her relationships were filled with abuse and alcoholism. But I believe the only person that can live our lives is ourselves. For the most part, we are all responsible for everything we say or do. Our lives are determined by our choices.
Did the following happen?
Betty got married to Carl Price and had Mike. Betty then had a relationship with Robert Charon and divorced Carl. Betty gets pregnant with Charon and has Deborah Kay. Betty begins a relationship with Blaine Reed. They keep Deborah while Mike stays at his grandmother’s house. Betty begins a relationship with Kenny Snyder. Since Deborah is not Kenny’s child he may have encouraged her to put Deborah for adoption. Betty knows Robert Charon was from Massachusetts and she goes there to look him up. Did she take Deborah with her? We do not know if she found him, but it is that part of the country she may have met my Syrian-Jewish father.
Betty returns to Coatesville. Is Deborah with her? Now Betty finds out she is pregnant with a third child, me.
We all know people who always seem to make the wrong choices, who mingle with the wrong crowd, who avoid the advice of those who love us. That appears to be the legend of my birthmother, Betty.
I can understand a concerned grandmother who felt she had given all the love and support she could give. Having a daughter that was immoral does not mean the mother is immoral also. It also doesn’t mean the teacher did not teach the virtues of life. It may mean that the student simply did not learn the virtues of life.
It is perfectly plausible that grandmother used “tough love” and demanded a question for Betty – If she could not even take care of herself, how could she take care of three kids? I can almost hear it, “Get rid of these kids and get your life together!”
So here I am, alive and well. I was stillborn, but now I have been resurrected. But there are no clues for my sister, and I am beginning to feel that she was a foundling. Perhaps Betty took her far away. To New York? To Massachusetts? If she dropped her off at a local church surely that would have made news in the newspapers of 1955. Or, God forbid, was Deborah the victim of a drunken rage that happened so frequently in Betty’s life?
When I asked my grandmother what happened to Deborah Kay in 1994 she put her head down and answered, “I do not know.” Those were her only four words. There was no other commentary.
Time passes. We live. We die. For those who know me, I never give up. I now sit at a crossroad of uncovering a tragic and embarrassing truth and at the same time losing the acceptance of my relatives from that tiny town in Central Indiana. Or, I can find the truth that every caring sibling deserves to know. I’ve been through this before, and my adoptive parents never stopped loving me for searching for my origins.
My decision is firm. Together, with the support of this group, we are going to find out what happened to my chubby-cheeked sister.