Some years ago, I found a painful story my estranged adopted brother had posted online back in 1997. Below I included the part that had to do with the two of us only assuming our doctor dad’s last name. My adult adoption was supposed to have taken place over 26 years ago, almost twice the number of years from when he wrote about his own frustrations. Whatever cruel games our parents were playing, it was just a matter of time that all the lies and secrets would backfire and catch up with the two of us. I just happened to fair better than he did. It still makes me sad to think that my adopted brother and I are so close in age (only 2 months apart,) but for years, we have struggled alone with mutual feelings of being betrayed and confused. Tragically, he is truly broken; I can’t put all the pieces back together.
I know now that my adopted brother hadn’t been their threat.
Why I have two last names
At the age of 5, my mother decided to divorce her husband by the last name of Starr. She remarried a doctor by the last name of Bell. The children that were a product of the first marriage assumed the last name Bell. When I was being processed to enter the military, a security check was performed on me. They became very concerned that there was no official record of me listed by the last name of Bell. It was then discovered that I had been (legally) living under the assumed name. The doctor Bell never processed any paperwork to legally adopt the children he had custody of. To enter the military service I was required to obtain an affidavit indicating that I had actually been living under the alias of Bell for thirteen years. This didn’t present too much of a problem until I filed for divorce from my first wife in 1978. Again, the fact that I had been living under an assumed name came into play. I had to submit paperwork documenting that in fact my last name was Bell. It was at this time, suggested by my lawyer, that I started signing all documents with both last names.
When I learned my father had passed away, I couldn’t find his obituary anywhere. Even my long-time friends who helped in the search were baffled by what we discovered. At the age of 92 years old, my father had been born and raised in California and spent the majority of his long life and impressive career living there. Finally, we located his “hidden” obituary in a different state where he had not died, a place where my father had only lived with our mother. I am sure it would be no surprise that neither my adopted brother, myself, or the children from his other family were listed as ever part of his life. However, my older brother, my adoptive mother’s only bio child from her first marriage to my adoptive father was named as his “golden” child. And the court records do show that he was officially adopted by our stepfather around the same time mine wasn’t completed.
I kept thinking about what my lawyer friends have said over the years, “JoAnne, nothing makes any sense; you don’t have to be adopted by anyone to be left their inheritance, especially with a trust.”
After my father’s first wife’s death, was the $300,000 left as a trust estate for the care of their daughter, who suffers from serious mental illness, only the first installment of more to come later? I realize that is a lot of money, especially for that time period, but not now for an administrator to make sure an insane relative is receiving the best treatment and maintenance possible for their on-going mental health issues. Shame on both of my parents. It’s hard for me to say this out loud, “but obviously both of them, not just my adoptive mother were greedy, selfish and conniving.” For heaven’s sakes, my parents who owned during different times in their lives a convalescent home, an oil refinery, a winery, a race horse, and many more investments that I am sure would make me look clueless. Did some of their deception that hurt a lot of innocent children have to do with my resentful adoptive mother demanding my father find a way to renege on any future obligations to his other daughter?
Not being left any of his inheritance was never important to me.