Here is the first of likely several posts about the loss of my unknown biological family members and the time, experiences, and conversations we could have had… if we had only known of each other in time.
Writing this series of posts seems natural and fitting for me to do, because losing my grandma years ago was what gave birth to my main blog over at The Journey Unexpected.
In the last many years of her life, we would talk on the phone literally for hours at a time and often several times a week. We had grown a relationship where we could both tell each other WHATEVER, bounce it off of the other one, get or give advice, and so much more. I had done some journaling before, but from the time we starting having these conversations I didn’t feel the need to anymore. Once we were done, it felt amazingly cathartic and I was ready to move on and take on the world once more. This was the time period when my grandma truly became like a second mom to me. ❤
When Grandma passed away, I no longer had this amazing outlet that I grew to love and appreciate SO much! I then started my blog then named “The Journey” and dedicated it to her.
Now that I am dealing with such an array of emotions with discovering new-to-me relatives, learning about those who I will never meet, and now losing someone who I was SO close to meeting (I believe) and for him to suddenly pass away…. This is a topic I need to explore deeply and I now believe that I need to share here.
I have this “thing” where I truly do not want to have an experience (neither in my past nor present) that I don’t have “something” positive come out of it. That is actually a really tall order for so many of my life experiences, but it’s a must!
For about the last fourteen years, I have been determined that when I am going through a storm, I ask God to show me what I am supposed to learn within this storm. For one thing, it gives me something productive or more positive to focus on and honestly keeps me sane. Sometimes I totally believe that the reason why (or what I am supposed to learn) is how to truly help someone else in the future.
Examples are: When Hubby was SO sick in late 2005 and I almost lost him SOOO many times, I learned how it is to have a spouse so sick and preparing for them to pass on (almost daily for awhile) and leave you alone. I was a relatively young mom of a then 17-year-old daughter and 4 1/2-year-old son. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go through to the end of that, but I have learned a small part about how others feel as they are losing their spouse or have lost them.
Losing my mom at such a young age also has in a way bonded me with others who lose their parents. I know how it can feel. I have now lost three parents, my mother-in-love, all of my grandparents, now a brother, and too many more loved ones. I know loss.
I also know because of this, that nobody can truly “know how YOU feel”. Don’t say that. You might think you know, but you don’t. Everyone and every situation is different. I can only imagine what they are truly going through. Do I understand better than many others? Probably, but I can’t put all who grieve into a tiny little box.
Also when my aunt became a victim of a serial killer and the aftermath of all that, I experienced so many things that others go through way too often. Like I said before, I know that I cannot truly “sum up” what they are feeling, but I most definitely have an idea. I also learned throughout all of these storms and too many more that the best things to “say” at this time are not words at all. It’s being there for them. Let them say what they need to say or just sit together without saying anything. Sometimes that is what is needed most. Being there is the most important “statement”.
I have even looked up online this morning about grieving those you have never met. There really isn’t much out there other than about grieving celebrities. I believe that it’s an important topic, too, because some of them have “helped” us get through some tough times, we can feel like we have gotten to know them, and/or we are inspired by them. But that doesn’t really cover this specific area at all. I know that I am absolutely NOT the only person to have to deal with this type of thing. Hopefully, I can be an encouragement to someone else as I work through this myself. That can be my “why” for this storm. Will I learn even more throughout this? Probably, but for now that is enough.
First off a little background for those of you who don’t know
I knew that my father I was growing up knowing wasn’t my biological father when I accidentally found out when I was 12 years old. I also remembered standing in front of an honestly scary-looking judge when I’m guessing I was about 5 years old and being asked if I wanted Jack to be my father. I couldn’t figure out why I would be asked that until this realization at 12.
I got into a lot of trouble for looking at the back of some pictures in my baby book, seeing I had a different name, and then asking why. I learned to never bring it up again; it was that severe. I kept trying to figure out more, though, from that point on…. secretly. The day my mom suddenly passed away when I was 19 years old and I was a freshman in college was literally the first time I talked to whom I thought was my biological father. It was actually after she had passed away, but I didn’t know that, yet. I had found him through Naval records and such… using all of the information I gathered throughout the years of my secret “investigation”. I started my active search not long into my freshman year of college. I was several hours from home and could do it without being “caught”.
It turns out that he was just the man whom she married about a month and a few days before my birth. They hadn’t even known each other when I was conceived. He told me this by the third and last time that I ever communicated with him, but I didn’t believe him for many years because I looked a lot like him (and I never have felt that I looked like anyone else before). I could also already tell that he was really into lying to me.
Fast forward several years and after my grandma confided in another family member that Donald Schroeder was actually not my biological father… I asked my grandma and she gave me more details about the whole situation.
She told me that my biological father was a man whom my mom suddenly ran off with on a motorcycle and they went to (or at least ended up in) Texas. She said that he had red or reddish hair (seemed to likely be of Irish descent), was 6’7″, road a motorcycle, and she believed (actually stated as a fact) that my mom’s then best friend, Sylvia, introduced them. No name or any other descriptions.
I also learned that my abortion was totally considered. Because of my mom’s then emotional instability (very likely from the combination of her then best friend wrecking my mom’s car and then moving my severely injured mom to the driver’s seat so the friend wouldn’t get into trouble… both were nurses, too… so she definitely knew better than to move someone so severely injured… and then the father of her unborn child leaving her several states away from home and wanting her to get an abortion… and the times she was living in… late 1960s and a soon-to-be unwed mother…), my grandma said my abortion was actually the plan but a doctor totally advised against it because of her emotional instability.
My grandma then told me I should be thankful for her instability. I know Grandma meant well, but just think about how that would make you feel hearing that. I wasn’t supposed to “happen”. Neither of my parents wanted me. And being from a family whom I have always known that abortions were totally out of the question… makes you wonder why if they believe that (which I do, too) then why did they even seriously consider it with me? Was I THAT big of a problem?
If it hadn’t been for this one doctor out of SO many they could have gone to… I wouldn’t even be here. I am thankful for this unknown man, for sure. It just really does a number on an already low self-esteem. Thankfully, my self-esteem has improved greatly, but it’s still a hurt.
Looking back on things, I think this may have been some of why my grandpa had SUCH a love for me. I think I may have even been favored by him a bit much (but no, I wouldn’t trade it for anything), because he was also in somewhat of a pickle growing up (whether in reality or his perception).
His mom passed away when he was tiny and then his only full-sister passed very young. He was then raised as the only step-child of my great-grandma whom had SO many children with their shared father. Whether or not if there was any real distinction, he apparently felt “different”.
He knew I did, too, and wanted to be the one who showed me totally unconditional love. Do I have him up on a pedestal? Probably, because I think of him as perfection here on earth, but I won’t take him down from there, either. ❤ Yes, I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was totally as close as you can get in my eyes. He honestly was my most stable and consistent person in my young life. He was also the main positive male figure in my upbringing… no question! That is totally why I also named my son who goes by “Buddy” on here after one of his given names (not saying which name, though…lol).
Anyway, when my biological father heard that my mom was pregnant, he left her in a motel in Texas and that was it. She had to get her own way home. I now totally believe that he told her to get an abortion and figured it happened. I have now learned of his major habit of reading birth, death, etc announcements all the time…. and of his time of reconciling and making things right his last year of life. If he had any doubt that I had not been aborted, I am sure that he would have at least told someone at that time. That was the way he was operating that last year while dying of stomach cancer. Also, by the time of my birth (in the same area he was in and they were both from) my mom had just previously gotten married and her name was changed. My birth announcement had a totally different surname now.
I finally found Sylvia a few years ago through Facebook and called her. She denied ever introducing my mom to anyone at all and even acted like they were never really close, but I totally know better.
I also learned this last month that a close friend of my mom’s when I was growing up heard basically the same brief facts and encouraged my mom to at least write down the details for me for when I grew up, because I was going to want to know. My mom said that she did, but she didn’t.
Between the last time I saw my continually (from that point on) hidden baby book during Christmas vacation 1986 (that I found SO often throughout the years to explore more) and when my mom passed away in March 1987, she had put back most of the ripped photo from the time I asked her and then put my baby book in a spot extremely easy to find. Because of this and SO many other reasons, I totally believe that she knew she was going to pass away very soon.
I’m sure she never imagined anything like DNA tests to find biological family members back in the late 1980s, so she likely thought that I would be satisfied believing that Donald was my biological father. She also never imagined (apparently) that he would so quickly deny even knowing her in time to make that even possible if I did find him.
My step turned adopted dad, Jack, was also told the same few facts as my grandma told me and her friend learned a couple of years before he passed away.
What I Have Recently Learned About My Biological Father and His Family
I won’t go into too great of detail here of things like who they are and such, but basically I know who he was and a little more about their trip to Texas. If you want to know the surnames from this side, you can now see them on my page ” Our Surnames“.
We are still waiting on one of my half-brothers to take a DNA test, but with all of the details, the fact that I look like people (one person and I look scary similar, especially when we were younger), the fact that an aunt remembers meeting my mom before their trip to Texas, the timing of my conception and the extremely short time he had a motorcycle, and the DNA results with another extremely close relation led me here. By the way, I have three half-brothers and a half-sister (in addition to the half-sister I grew up with). I only have contact so far with my older half-brother who is from a different mother than the other three who are younger than me.
I have talked quite extensively in our short time of knowing about each other with my older half-brother and his wife. We do have several things in common and I feel like we have known each other for at least a decade. I have also talked to one of my aunts a few times on the phone. We laugh alike. ❤ It’s so funny to find things out like this. We also have led very similar lives and find it really easy to talk with each other.
I have also now discovered where I get several physical issues (illnesses, stomach/digestion issues, etc), my dyslexia, my height, small eyes, smile, my look in general, and more from. I have discovered that I also look A LOT like some double (about) fourth cousins on my father’s father side and have been told that I look a lot like my father’s mother. I cannot wait to see pictures that show our resemblance. She is also one that I have already started admiring for her strength in hard times and all. I would have loved to have gotten to meet her, too. I don’t really look like my father (at least in any pictures I have seen of him, which all include facial hair), but my hair was pretty much exactly the same reddish-color as his in my senior picture and ones of him in the 1980s.
Before I got any confirmation about what I discovered “working my DNA matches” and doing the genealogy for those connections that led me down to my closest matches (since they didn’t know how we could be related)… believe me A LOT of work… but it was totally worth it! …. anyway, before that confirmation I had already discovered that whom I believed was my biological father had already passed away.
I somewhat expected that could be the case since he would likely be in at least his 70s today and in a weird way seemed ok with that possibility since it would probably “make it easier”. What if he didn’t want to know me? What if he wasn’t a good guy? All of those questions were now not even an issue. BUT, once I started to get to know about him and especially his last year here on earth… I got deeply saddened by never getting the opportunity to let him know I survived, learning about his and my mom’s time together, or (most importantly) getting to know him.
My biological father passed away on August 7, 2003, and my step/adopted father passed away on October 16, 2003. I reflect on that and sometimes think that it was probably a good thing that I didn’t know that at the time, but that quickly gets over-ridden with the fact that it would have been SO worth it to have known him even if it would have been doubly painful at the time.
Why Is This Such an Important Topic Today?
Last night I found out that my youngest half-brother is suddenly passing away. He is being kept going until they are ready for all the organ donations to happen. He likely has passed by now. I’m honestly afraid to look. I want to get this post finished before I lose it again.
First off, let me say that I am SO proud of him, his wife, and their children for blessing several people with these amazing gifts of precious organs.
Second, why am I such a mess? I haven’t even met this man. Some of you may be thinking, “What does his death really have to do with you anyway?” Actually, it has many things to do with me. Those who have not gone through this may feel dismayed, disbelief, or discouragement about my feelings. But, that’s what they are: my feelings. They are valid and true. I have learned that over the years trying to survive, recover, and thrive regardless of my earlier years.
This is the brother whom some have figured out would probably be the most open of the three remaining siblings to learning about me and potentially getting to know me. Now he is gone. That’s obviously a big part of it. The grieving of what could have been and maybe not a possibility now.
It’s also about such a young man (I believe right around 37) who has suddenly lost his life and leaves a wife and two children; one of which is a young tween girl. I understand too well what it is like to lose a parent at such a young age. She is even younger than I was, so I know her’s is even worse than mine.
I also have seen pictures (about a week ago on Facebook) of him. We look a like (although nowhere near the resemblance of our mutual sister and me) and he seems to have been a wonderful person. I truly wanted to get to know him! I can’t now.
The way I understand it. He was told probably about a week ago that I exist. I don’t know what exactly he was even told nor what his response was. Did he want to get to know me or at least learn about me? Would we have come together as quickly as I have with my older half-brother and his lovely wife? Would I also get along famously with his wife and children? Who knows!
Another biggie for me is that I SO much want to be there for them as they are grieving. That is a genuine piece of me. I thrive on being there, helping, and encouraging others throughout their storms. I can’t do this though, because they don’t even know that I exist.
The way I see it right now is that I am now going to have to be patient once again for time to pass and to let grieving happen. It’s SO hard!
None of us are getting any younger and as we just saw… we have no guarantees of tomorrow. I truly do not want another family member to pass before we can at least know of each other and hopefully get to know each other at least a little bit. The ideal would honestly be to travel to meet them all… really soon.
I have actually looked into it today to see what it would take. I could easily fly from Reno to the Fort Worth airport. Get a rental car and drive to Amarillo. Hopefully, some new-to-me fourth cousins (double) could drive up and meet me on my path. Also would be awesome if my Uncle and Aunt (from my mom’s side) could travel a bit from their home also in Texas to at least have lunch or something. My older brother (actually 2 years and 2 days older than me) and his family live in Amarillo. I could then take a logical, but very beneficial path from there to Carthage, Missouri (where at least one of my new aunts lives)… passing by Claremore, Oklahoma (an important place in my mom’s mom’s line) as well as passing through the town where my biological father’s remains are at his mom’s burial site. I could then travel on up to the Kansas City, Missouri, area where most of my mom’s side still lives and where my remaining new-to-me half-siblings live (as well as my youngest brother’s remaining family). After numerous days of visiting, I could then fly out of Kansas City and home to Reno.
Can I do this? Not at this time. 😦 First of all: finances. Second: who would take care of our dog all that time when Hubby is out of town working (sometimes a couple of days at a time). Third: it would be best if we can see first if my other half-siblings would want to meet me as well. Fourth: Hubby’s work “schedule” would not work very easily for him to come, too, since he works for the railroad and if you know anything about that lifestyle… it makes it really hard. Basically he is on-call 24/7. Even vacations don’t happen exactly when you are expecting. They can be off by one or two days… easily.
My son has already stressed that he would HAVE to go with me and I agree. He is so sensitive and emotional like me, plus he’s very social as well as protective. It would be amazing if someone somewhere just had free airline tickets earned just sitting there waiting for a trip… lol… but no, that is not likely to happen. I don’t know anyone like that. This is my dream trip, though.
So what exactly am I grieving at this time (pertaining to only my half-brother who we have lost…. I’m additionally grieving other people and issues that I will write about in another post)? I am seriously grieving the loss of him as a young person… WAY too young to be gone, husband to his wife, father to his children, brother to at least four people, nephew to my new-to-me aunts and uncle, son to his grieving mother, and friend to evidently SO many!
I’m also grieving the loss of at least 35+ years of not knowing him and neither of us knowing about the other one’s existence. What memories could we have made? What sibling secrets could we have had? Would we have gotten along famously? Or would we have been better off living far apart? We will never know.
I’m grieving additionally for the other “what if’s” and questions. One of the biggest ones being: Did he want to know me or about me?
My Suggestions For You All
1. If you are a parent (or other significant person in someone’s life) who doesn’t know who their biological parent(s) is/are, write it all down. If you cannot give it to them at this time for whatever reason (age, current relationships, whatever), at least leave it in a will or something significant. Hopefully you can give them this gift earlier. They will most likely want to know sometime. For me there has been a hole for over 50 years. It’s now starting to fill up.
2. If you don’t know your biological family and want to, do it fast!
When you find your biological family, don’t overwhelm them, though. Remember: you have known that they or at least one individual exists for a while, they may not have a clue that you exist. You want to find that happy medium of being patient (or at least appearing to be outwardly… inside you will likely be a mess like me), but you don’t want to wait TOO long, either.
Do I wish I would have done this much sooner and/or been a bit more active in letting new family members know about me? Yes totally! But I also don’t want to come off as pushy or insensitive.
It’s really difficult to know what exactly is the “right” pace or next actions. For example: Part of me (the anxious part of me…. the part that doesn’t want to miss out on knowing anyone else) wants to wait a couple of weeks at most and then tell my other half-brother and my half-sister and honestly a while later even tell my late half-brother’s wife. She could talk about him endlessly to me… long after others have stopped truly listening. What I mean by this is that point when others are ready to “move on” and are not as interested in hearing about the raw feelings anymore and all the same stories. It happens. The closest ones are still there actively grieving, but others have moved on. I would love to be there for her! But is all of this reasonable with their current grieving? No! I don’t want to wait too long again, but I also want to be respectful.
As far as the DNA testing for those looking for their biological family: The best case scenario is to do both the Ancestry DNA test and the 23andMe DNA test if you don’t know who your family is. This isn’t just my recommendation. MANY in the know recommend exactly this… that’s where I initially got it and I totally agree.
Some families tend to use one company more and some the other. There is no way to tell before you test. For example: My WILLIAMS side (for my maternal grandpa’s line) is represented quite heavily on 23andMe as well as the CULLENDER and FANCHER DNA relatives of mine from my biological father’s side including who turned out to be my niece (daughter of one of my half-brothers). Ancestry has much more of my PORTER side (for my maternal grandma’s line) as well as the TANNER and McBRIDE families who are related doubly to me on my biological father’s side. Both companies have deals from time to time (especially around family-related holidays)… especially Ancestry.
- Please note that the links to Ancestry and 23andMe on this post are referral links. They do not cost you anymore money to follow, but I get a reward for referring people. Actually, at the time of this posting, the link for 23andMe gives you a 10% off deal for using it! This in no way has changed my honest opinions of these companies. I recommend them from my true testimony of how they worked for me.
Anyway… If you can only do one right now, do the Ancestry one. It’s much easier to find information like family trees on there.
My wish for you all who are looking for your biological family is to find them quickly, relatively easily, and then for many happy reunions.
For those of you who are grieving, I totally sympathize with you. Although I don’t know exactly how you feel, I can imagine and I know that you are truly hurting. Don’t let anyone belittle your feelings. They are yours and true. Prayers and virtual hugs to you all!