The Forbidden Questions
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Holding it Together

Holding it Together

Dear Dad,

I wish I could still look at you through a child’s innocent eyes and remember the fond memories we once shared. You filled a special place in my heart starting with the second we met, and I never wanted to lose you.

I finally got the courage to speak the truth but apparently you weren’t listening.

I was afraid that if I wasn’t loyal or trusting enough, the dad who meant the world to me would walk out of my life, too.

Love, JoAnne

*Below describes what I have managed to piece together in regard to my many questions that I had begged my father to answer.

The doctor who delivered me:

The rural mining doctor had just moved with his family a short time before my conception to the big city where I was born. Why was I discharged from the hospital late in the evening to this doctor? He stated in our brief phone conversation that he took several babies home for Catholic Charities.

My adoptive mother and father wouldn’t even tell me who named me JoAnne, but then, I learned ironically that the doctor’s wife’s nickname was Jo and his daughter’s name is Ann. The doctor’s daughter, Ann, 16 years old at the time of my birth stated, “My sister and I don’t remember dad ever bringing any babies home from the hospital.”

Catholic Charities:

The Director of Catholic Charities at the time of my birth was adamant that the doctor who delivered me absolutely did not take any babies home for their agency. Besides, as she pointed out, there is still an incomplete adoption application on file that strangely mom and my first adoptive father didn’t come back and finish filling out if they wanted to be considered for a newborn. I would have to obtain a court order if I wanted to know who they used as their “impressive” references.

My pediatrician from birth to the age of 7:

The pediatrician was listed on my hospital birth records. This doctor was emphatic with me that he had absolutely nothing to do with my adoption; he knew my first adoptive father had a serious drinking problem. Couldn’t one assume that my first adoptive father had alcohol issues at the time of my birth? Less than six years later my adoptive parents went through a bitter divorce due to his alcoholism and domestic violence.

The judge who signed the court documents:

Was my first adoptive father’s alcoholism the reason why the judge signed waivers for the state not to check the home for me and my non-biological brother (only two months apart in age) Was it just pure luck that both of our birth families were supposed to each be related to someone in our adoptive family?

Who was pulling the wool over the judge’s and the doctor’s eyes, or did the truth not matter to them either?

It appeared one of my adoptive parents was personal friends with someone in the judge’s or the doctor’s family. Perhaps it was a “payback” for one of them owing my first adoptive father (house painter) or mom who worked as an RN in neonatal, saving newborn’s lives in the hospital where she always said I had been born, but was not.

My natural mother:

My natural mother was married with three older children when I was conceived from an affair. Many of her relatives have stated they weren’t even aware that she was pregnant with me. She didn’t drive, but someone took her over 145-miles away to give birth to me. My half-siblings said that they remember the doctor with their father being a miner; they lived in close proximity to where he had practiced medicine for many years.

My first adoptive father:

After my adoptive mother’s remarriage; we moved around a lot to different cities as a new family. I wasn’t even a military brat; my father was a medical doctor. It always seemed liked my parents were running away from something. I remember back as a teenager, dad saying out of the blue that we never needed your other father’s money. At that time, my parents had three Mercedes sitting in our driveway, none of which I was allowed to drive. Of course, I didn’t say anything, but what I was thinking to myself was I could have shared his sentiments exactly. The last time I had seen my first adoptive father was as a little girl on a very dark scary night, when the police were taking him away. Did mom make him pay dearly until the day he died for being an alcoholic? Never once did she ask us what we needed from him as his children.

My stepfather:

What was I supposed to take away from his only explanation that the “judge and the doctor were in cahoots with each other”?

The Courts:

My sketchy adoption records were mysteriously hidden in my non-biological brother’s file, both with different court case numbers, coincidentally, sealed around the same time my adoptive mother married a well-to-do medical doctor. When I petitioned the judge to open up my adoption records, he also gave me my non-biological brother’s private information in his file that identified the name of his natural mother, etc.

My father had shared with my husband that he had hired a private investigator to see if my adoption was legal. Of course, dad didn’t explain why this would have been necessary in the first place. Upon mentioning his statement to the courts, the clerks balked at his ludicrous insinuation. No one off the street would have been able to have access to their confidential records concerning any adoption.

Social Security:

After I was married, the Social Security Administration sent me a letter stating that they needed some clarification concerning my recent name change. Apparently, the agency did not have me listed under the maiden name that I had provided. At that time, I was clueless. I did not know that I had only assumed my adoptive mother’s second husband’s last name and that he had not adopted me as a young girl as he had told me. My mother conveniently said she would take care of the problem with Social Security.

When I went to get my driver’s license as a teenager, I needed a copy of my birth certificate, which I didn’t have. At that time, it was the first and last mention that my birth certificate was lost, and that mom had tried to contact the doctor who delivered me. She said he was deceased, which I know now was just a continuation of her lies. The doctor was very much alive and my birth certificate was still sitting on file in Vital Statistics, where it had always been since I was born. So, I had carried around with me until my wallet was stolen some kind of affidavit stating my last name was Bell (my doctor dad’s last name).

It’s not clear from the Social Security Administration looking at their old records what my adoptive mother was trying to do with my first adoptive father’s social security death benefits. The benefits were supposed to be left to his children, while attending school until the age of 22. My oldest brother, who was my adoptive mother and my first adoptive father’s only biological child, was too old to be receiving those benefits. However, it appears my adoptive mother was again not being totally forthright. The agency told me that they have never sent checks to a P.O Box or addressed to only an initial for the first name in the past. My oldest brother and I share the same first letter in our first names. Knowing my adoptive mother’s ulterior motives, if there had been any way possible, she would have wanted to make sure her blood child received his biological father’s benefits, even if it meant deceiving the system. She wouldn’t have wanted me to have them even though I was attending college at that time.

My Birth Certificate:

After years of searching on my own, I was finally able to locate my only birth certificate. My birth certificate was not lost or missing. It still lists me as my natural mother’s child with no first name. At first, one might think that it was just a simple error, perhaps my original birth certificate had never been replaced with the amended one naming my adoptive parents as my mother and father. But if that were the case, the problem could have been rectified.

The office of Vital Statistics in the state where I was born checked to see if there was an amended birth certificate for me under four different last names, including my biological father’s last name that was not listed in my adoption paperwork. My two brothers (adopted and bio son) were both listed in some records as my adoptive mother’s only children.

I will never know for sure why my father waited until I was 31 years old to make an attempt to adopt me, but I assume it had to do with his other adopted daughter, who needed a father as much as I did. Looking back, I wonder what I needed from a father figure—to be led to believe that I was his only daughter or to have a loving relationship built on years of honesty and mutual respect. I could have shared him.

No matter how painful it has been to accept the truth, I do think I know why he never could adopt me. It meant one of a number of players in my less-than-above board adoption at birth was going to have to come clean by revealing the full-story. Obviously, I wasn’t important enough to “my parents” to straighten out my birth certificate issues in the courts that still listed me by a last name that I had never gone by since the day I was born. I can’t imagine that you can just randomly request a copy of a birth certificate that you can’t prove is your child. And how under false pretenses could they have fixed my birth certificate if they did get it?

As I am sure you can understand I’ve been torn on so many different levels. At times, I still feel a deep sense of betrayal and disappointment in my father. Looking back, I do see now that I had him cornered and very angry. His choice was just to continue with all their lies and secrets, orchestrated for the most part by my adoptive mother.

If he were still alive there are some questions more important than others to me that continue to tug at my heart, “Daddy, you wouldn’t have shared with me the name of my birth mother with your blessings to search for her, had you already known that in fact she had been deceased for many years? Was it one more piece of relevant information that mom kind of forgot to mention to you? Or, did you learn this when you hired that so-called private investigator to research if my adoption was legal or not?” And it was no coincidence that my adoption records were mysteriously sealed with my non-biological brother’s file around the same time you married mom and my birth mother had passed away.

But regardless of how painful my adoption journey has played out over the years, I have no doubt he loved his other daughter. My oldest brother said that he had even written a book about his first family, but mom wouldn’t let him publish it. And supposedly, his last words before he passed away were about those children.

I believe and always will that we have the power to turn the wrongs into right. No one wins in such cruel games. Thank you for all your love, kindness, and encouragement as I have shared where my tears have come from. Tomorrow will be my last blog post in telling my story…just in time for my father’s granddaughter’s birthday. Please come help me celebrate “my gift” that has helped me to finally find healing and closure.

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  • Very nice presentation of the facts and experiences of such a difficult journey.

  • So many lie and falsehoods. It’s a testament to your spirit that you turned out so grounded and loving. I’m really impressed that you not only found out so much about your truth, but that you have kept at it for so long.

    Thank you for sharing your story this past month.

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  1. Well written! Thanks for sharing I really connected with this one. Peace and Love!
  2. So sad, what a terrible experience. and I know it was only one of many for you. Love you friend!!!
  3. This fills me with sadness: “No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them.” What a tragedy that your mother was not able to accept love from you. My guess is that deep down, she didn’t feel lovable, and she had to cover that shameful fact up with a bunch of br…
  4. It’s insane that these findings were made but nothing was done about it. All these years later, you are still waiting for the wrongs to be righted.
  5. I love you❤