The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

How a sibling came to be found

 


So I met my sister last week.

Well, not in person. We visited via email and phone and got to know each other a bit. Neither of us knew the other existed until last week. It only took a few decades to discover an entirely new family member. Granted, she wasn’t really new, strictly speaking. But it feels like she was just born as a fully grown woman who came from the same mother as I, only many years later.

I always knew I had more siblings than the one I know; that’s my sister Judy. Six years older than I, she remembers at least one other brother. And some time ago, we found out that another sister, Minerva, claimed our mother’s body when she died.

In case you’re starting to feel like you need a flow chart to follow this, here’s a nutshell summary, as far as I know it. My sister Judy and I were born in Miami to a mother who apparently was incapable of caring for her children, and she was a prolific producer of them, from what we can gather. Judy didn’t know of me until she came home from school one day and found a one-year-old baby playing on the floor. “Who’s that?” she asked. “That’s your brother,” our mother responded casually. “He’s just back from the people who were watching him.”

Sometime during the Eisenhower administration, our mother drove us both to a home in Georgia and dropped us off. We never saw her again. I was four years old.

While living in the hellhole we were deposited in, the woman of the household one day hurled me face-first into the edge of a stove. Awash in tears and blood, I stumbled onto the front porch. Shocked neighbors called the police. We were placed in an orphanage.

Three years later I was adopted by a family from New Hampshire, where they returned with me. Judy was left in the orphanage; she stayed there until she was 18, whereupon she was summarily discharged literally into the streets. Thankfully, she was rescued by a woman who later adopted her and put her through nursing school. Years later when I was in the Army, Judy was able to track me down; long story for another day. After 13 years apart, we reunited and have remained close ever since.

End of story, pretty much. Mystery siblings were vague possibilities, human equivalents of imaginary numbers. But some years ago and with the help of a friend dedicated to helping adoptees find their birth families, I did find my mother’s death certificate, the one that showed that her daughter Minerva claimed the body. It gave her name, last occupation, and last known residence. She was a cashier in a restaurant. She lived in Overtown, a dubious section of Miami. I stood at the spot where her house had once stood; by then it was a lot as empty as my identity. I now knew my birth surname—Marzeles—and I had it legally added to my name, keeping my adopted family name in the middle.

Then a few weeks ago I’m chatting with someone from the new physical therapy unit at Klickitat Valley Health who says she recently had her DNA tested for genealogy at Ancestry.com. What? Really? You can do that online now? So I ordered my kit, spat into a bottle, and sent it back. The results came back last week. No super surprises—the bulk of my DNA traces back to central Spain, with a healthy dose of Native American blood. But Ancestry.com also had a place that listed likely family members. Two names were at the top of the list, both indicated as extremely probable close family. I wrote to both of them. One never responded.

My new sister did.

Turns out Candy—that’s her name now—was born in Miami a little over a year after I was born. Catholic Charities took her in hand, and she was adopted when she was four to a Florida family. Candy was born blue-eyed and blonde, which didn’t seem likely for an Hispanic child, though I was to learn that Puerto Ricans can come in all the skin and eye flavors. Her adopted parents told her that her birth parents had died. For practical purposes they might as well have, though our mother still lived within a few miles of Candy’s new home. And that was all she knew.

The first emails went back and forth. Hey, I see you seem to be a very close family match. I was born in Miami. Get out, me too! I was handled by Catholic Charities. No way, me too! Okay, I was born in October, so we can’t be siblings if you were born less than nine months after that. Oh my gosh, I was born the following November! And so forth, as details continued to rack up in the This Is Family column.

Then came the first phone call, a few days after realizing we were almost certainly brother and sister. It took us both that time to process this awareness. We talked for a long time. I was immediately struck by how much she sounded like Judy, both in her voice and phrasing. Judy talked with her soon after and also thought she was hearing her own voice.

I’m not going to share further information about her; she’s a very private person and may not even want to be written about. I, of course, am older and wiser. I’ll bring her around. In the meantime, I wanted to share this remarkable occurrence and pronounce that God—much older and wiser—is a Master of joyful surprises.

 

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