December 11, 2006

I can't believe it's been 3 months

I haven't posted in a coon's age. That's really been my fault but explainable. I've been busy working, mostly on my dissertation (Chapter 3 is complete, hooray!) and on my part-time job doing the standardized patient thing.

However, I'm posting today to poll all of you and see what you have to say about this.

In the past four weeks, everything that I knew about my past has been turned upside down. I believe that I mentioned in a previous post that I was adopted. Here's the long convoluted tale.

My family (the ones who adopted me) has long known nothing about my grandfather Marion Julian Hess, and his wife, Norma (Pacheco) Hess. These are my father's parents. My grandmother died in her 30s, and my grandfather died in the 50s. We knew nothing about my grandmother because her sons knew little, and because she died so young. We knew nothing about my grandfather because he didn't talk to his sons much about his life before he came to California, and most records were lost in a house fire in the 50s. At least two of my uncles were interested, but never turned up much. Now, my father is dead, as are all of his brothers save the oldest, and so every so often I would keep the flame alive by typing my grandfather's name into Google or some other genealogical website I would run across.

Recently, this habit turned up some new information. My grandfather and grandmother were entered into Rootsweb. Not only that, there was information I had never seen before about my grandmother, including her mother, father, and a whole host of other information. The information was posted by a woman named Ruth in Bellingham, Washington. I e-mailed her and asked her what her interest was in the Hess family.

We began a correspondence. I learned that my grandmother, Norma (Pacheco) Hess was born in the Santa Cruz area, and was one of five children. Her mother had two previous marriages before having Norma and her siblings by John Pacheco. Ruth also did some more research on my grandfather. We found that Marion Julian Hess left Ohio and turned up in California around 1918, but evidently left a wife and child behind him. This wife and child moved in with my grandfather's father, Andrew Hess. My grandfather's secret son, Julian Hess, lived until 1990 and died in Columbus, Ohio. He was my father's half-brother, and my dad and his brothers probably never knew they had a half-brother in the Midwest.

This was amazing information! In the course of a week, I knew 5000% more about my father's family than I ever knew before.

However, things got more interesting. In the course of our correspondence, I mentioned to Ruth that I had been adopted. She responded that she had helped another adoptee find his birth family, and would be willing to help me if I were interested. I had given this some thought in the past, but had always been reticent due to time and money constraints. I also did not want to bring pain to someone or their family.

However, I did authorize Ruth to look up and find a woman who had kept me in foster care from when I was five months until I was 2 years. This woman, who I knew as "Mama Joyce," had written a couple of letters to my mom shortly after I was adopted. Mama Joyce had been trying to get pregnant for a long time. Eventually, she gave up and decided to take in foster children. I was her first baby, and she became extremely attached to me. She had wanted to adopt me, and considered me her baby, until she unexpectedly became pregnant with her first and only child. Discussions with her husband led to her reluctantly giving me up.

I thought Mama Joyce would have some information on me, and asked Ruth to see if she could find her. I only had her then married name. Ruth ended up tracking down her brother, and through him I made contact for the first time since I was 2 with Mama Joyce, who was overjoyed to talk to me after all these years. For the first time, I can now learn something about what I was like before the age of 2½!

In the course of that conversation, however, something happened that floored me. Mama Joyce revealed to me who my birth mother actually was. She was named Ruby, and when I was born my first and middle names were Michael Wayne (my current name is Michael Louis). I also learned my original last name. We did not discuss much more than that, but I learned that Ruby was from Santa Monica, but gave birth to me in Eureka, a long distance from Santa Monica. She would have been around 40 years old when she gave birth to me. I had heard a rumor before, from my mother, who said that I was born as a result of an affair that my birth mother had. And indeed, the record that Mama Joyce had said "father unknown."

I wrote to Ruth yesterday and told her what I learned. Last night, she e-mailed me with the possibility that my birth mother had died in 1997. However, she had four children who are presumably still alive. The oldest would be about 60 years old right now, and the youngest about 50. If there was an "affair," these would be most likely my half-brothers/sisters, whatever they are. If not, they could be full-blood relatives.

So now I am in a conundrum. Should I attempt to contact them. I don't want to bring pain into anyone's life. If I am the result of an affair, what if they don't know about me? If not an affair, what if my adoption was the result of some other family tragedy that would be too painful to bring up? Is it worth it for me to contact them? Ruth has offered to act as intermediary -- in other words to contact the siblings if she can track them down, discretely inquire if Ruby is indeed their mother, and see where it goes. Should I go that route?

So what do you think? I must admit that suddenly I'm a little frightened of all this. Help me out!


Blogger typingelbow said...

oh, wow, michael! How exciting and scary! I can imagine why you'd be nervous. I think the curiosity would be too much for me to bear, and I'd probably do all that I could to introduce myself. They could always pass on meeting you, if the circumstances were too painful, but at least you could give them the choice. Let us know what you decide to do, hon. Good luck!

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Fritz said...

I'd ask - I can imagine it would be difficult to do so because you're concerned that you might cause pain and/or awkwardness....But, for all you know, they might want to know about it and might want to meet you. Anyway, like EB says, they can always pass if they would rather not meet you. But, for what it's worth, I think it's worth inquiring about.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Mary B. said...

I'm trying to think how I would feel if I were in the same situation. Our mom was adopted when she was a baby and our whole maternal side of the family is a blank. Thinking about what our mom has said over the years, I think that just knowing the full story, the how's and the why's would be a good thing. If your kin don't want to meet, maybe they could at least give you a written history or something like it. I say do what you can to find out more about what brought you into the world. If nothing else, it will make your memoirs that much more interesting. :) Best of luck, Mike.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Pauline Hess said...

I say go for it, brother of mine...
And should they welcome you into the fold... please don't forget your only baby sister.

Remember... I know ALL your secrets and am not above blackmail!

little sis.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

If your curiosity is always going to nag at you in the future over not knowing, then I'd say you should try and contact them, especially if you have such a good intermediary working with you to make things easier for you and them. Typically truth is the best route. You might wind up developing some meaningful relationships with these people. And if not, at least you tried.

10:47 PM  

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