My Journey -DNA: The Same Yet Different

The first thing I want to say today is in reference to my chosen featured image. This note was given to me by my Mother on the day of my first marriage. I am telling you this to lay to rest the vibe of the last two posts.Yes, I am still wounded but I survived . The spiteful and emotionally charged words can never be unspoken and if I am honest never forgiven either. However in her own way my mother loves me. Sadly she is shrouded by doubt and although I understood her fear, her reaction I never will accept. Not even  a natural child ‘belongs’ to an adult or is guaranteed not to spread their affection wider than their immediate family. She is jealous without reason , almost envious of any success or positivity in my life , yet this is how she is. I see life as a glass overflowing in the main. Even my father with his physically limiting issues and ongoing illness sees life as a glass half full.

Some people are just ‘wired ‘ with negativity and no matter how hard you try you cannot change them. What I do know for sure is that she regrets her outburst but it rears its head almost every time I visit in subtle and not so subtle ways to continue the punishment. Having told her I know this is what she is doing, she was unable to deny it so I guess I have to hold my breath and wait for it to pass. Like a mini tantrum of a toddler. You know it will end but it pisses you off to the core while it goes on. Her issues are for her to address and I just live my life as it suits me and my own. We get along on a level that works pretty much now, partly for the sake of keeping the peace, my daughter and my Dad. How I react to her behaviour is all I have in my control so this I am working on ..its a work in progress !Ha!

However sadly its now a part of me.  I carry those words and that day around with me and it sadly rears up when I least expect it. A song on the radio, a kind word from a good friend, an adoption news article or just a crap day can throw me a curve ball that takes a while to breathe through.

My Advice: Always know that you are free to find your heritage, free to get answers to your questions. This trip is NOT for everyone and I am reminded regularly that it is not a pressing need for some folk. I actually believe that is more a fear of failure than a disinterest but that’s just my take on it. I hope you will pursue your past as I did if this is what you need to make yourself complete. NO-ONE has a right to tell you how to make your life as it needs to be. Your Adopters along with your Birth parent, made choices for you. You had no say. Your rights did not evaporate when they signed on the dotted light. Those agreements were about who would raise and cherish and care for you. Not about how you would conduct your own adult life. The baton was passed to you at 18 (well that was considered the legal age at which I had the right to find my BM. It is important you choose those to support you and know you are doing the right thing for YOU. Its an overused cliche but Be True to Yourself!

Holding Onto Anger1Understanding should not be mistaken for Forgiveness………….But I am doing my best…. 🙂

Anyway, lets press on…

Time went by slowly following my first visit to my BM. We exchanged calls regularly and probably we  text throughout almost every day. We shared thoughts , jokes, history all in those little messages. Most of what I learned about my BM was via those messages. You can imagine my devastation 6 months later when I changed my mobile and all those messages got deleted!? I had a moment of irrational distress thinking it was a huge loss. I soon realised though that most of what we shared by text was the usual mundane ,non-news that made up the day to day. I said to you that my intention was to get to know what made my BM tick and in doing so, what made ME tick in the same way. So we progressed with more photos being exchanged. One in particular I had seen in her little shoe box under the bed. It was of her beside a fountain in Rome. I had in fact stood in the exact same spot to pose when I went there with girlfriends, pregnancy didn’t stop my girls weekends…hell no!

What threw me about this photo was not the coincidence that we had both stood there decades apart. I was thrown by how much she looked like ME in that image. Despite our very different heights , facially and the way she had her hair and the left tilt of her head , it could easily have been me in that photograph. Weird. Guess not so weird if you really think about it.

We arranged my next visit shortly after the last. The summer  of the following  year. This forward planning was to keep up the momentum. She asked me what I would like her to cook for us (Oh yes, Hubby was coming along to meet his biological Mother in Law too) . She gave me a number of options: Goat ( really?), Chicken, Okra, Salad, Roast spuds..Sadly Goat scares me but I suggested do that anyway as I am game to try it (yes really!)….after all isn’t it in my blood to eat goat?;-) ..I suggested also do spicy Chicken so Hubby will eat something! Okra..the fingers of the devil..do not even get me started! Yuck! I told her as such so was hopeful they would be excluded from the menu.

Comfy sheep sittingMy best way to describe my thoughts on Okra: DO NOT eat Okra!! literally slime in disguise as a food source..OMG I was given it once in Trinidad, kind of like a soup and it immediately slid off the spoon. Best description: You know if you ever slipped on seaweed rock pooling as a kid? There you have Okra! Foul stuff and I told my BM  to never ever try to get me to eat it. Plantain is bad enough..In honesty ..I make a shit Jamaican when it comes to food I really do!

One thing about my BM , when she cooks..she really means it! She cooks enough food for the street to enjoy for a week, and they can all smell it cooking too..the traditional use of jerk spices and rubbed herbs on the spuds is something I really should do myself….maybe one day!

Now you have to remember my Caribbean born BM is a traditional woman with a religious nature. In her church the Sabbath was a Saturday so she was breaking this tradition to entertain us rather than going to her Church and fasting. (I’ll say!) This suited us anyway so we booked a hotel near the centre of Manchester so we could mooch on the Sunday . We also planned to take a trip down memory lane for me, my beloved grandparents lived in the next town and many local parks held fond memories for me playing as a child.

The date came around and we took the long trek back up North and this time Sat Nav took us direct to her house. As we neared the house Hubby expressed a concern for himself. ‘I will be the only white face in the area’ I said ‘No you wont , they don’t see colour the way a single black face in our area is singled out’ I said ‘Just don’t wear that white pointy hat! Might give the wrong impression! Ha! Seriously though, as was stereotypical for this area  , he would likely be viewed with a tiny amount of suspicion and only because he might be mistaken as police or a social worker….

So we arrived around 2 hours late, having planned to get there around 1pm. Bloody M5 traffic. Wasn’t much better on the M6 , but we pulled up in front of her little house and she flung open the door. She had been sending texts to me en-route for ETA but sadly many texts flooded my phone hours later. Thanks Vodaphone!. So by the time we rocked up at 3pm she was frantic with visions of motorway pile-ups !?

We were greeted with hugs and the lush smells of Caribbean foods from her compact kitchen at the front of the house. You have NEVER seen so much food come from such a small kitchen. Bowl upon bowl of Plantain, Salads, Spicy hot chicken, Goat curry, Herb encrusted roast potatoes and Okra for her, Eeeeeuuuuwwww NO!!) We chattered merrily over our lunch, after saying Grace (out of respect for her ) and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of nerve relaxing Pinot Grigio. There was also a really lovely homemade fresh pineapple and ginger juice we all agreed was perfect for the time of year. We talked about her garden, the birds who visited it and general chit chat about her most recent weeks. Nothing heavy, nothing heritage based, all very normal. Two guests having lunch with my Birth Mother. What the hell is normal about that!? I still had to pinch myself as its all so surreal. Here we are , enjoying a relaxing lunch and chatting like old friends. Yet I spent 40 plus years not knowing this women. Nearly two years tracing her and I succeeded. And here we are. Having lunch. With VS, My Birth Mother. The woman for whom I owe the life I live now. Come of folks, lets face it, That’s NOT what I would call ‘normal’

Which brings me to DNA. …..

We stuffed ourselves unnecessarily and she tried to push Magnums onto us for afters. My tummy was full to bursting and even Hubby was full (which is saying something) He did rave about her spicy hot chicken. The remainder of which was promptly wrapped in foil and set aside for us to take back to hotel later for a snack! We moved to her little courtyard with mugs of tea and sat there digesting our feast….me in the full sun and him in the shade!

Within a few minutes I wondered where she had vanished to as we spoke quietly, aware we were outdoors with other neighbours also enjoying the seasonal heat. I heard another voice in the house. As I turned to squint at the open patio door my heart nearly stopped. This is when I truly felt I met my DNA . Of course I shared as much DNA as was possible with my Birth Mother but this felt somehow different. For there in that doorway stood MB. My biological sibling and ever so slightly older Birth Brother. To say ‘awkward’ doesn’t go anywhere close to how this felt.

Actually PISSED off was how I felt. How dare she set this up with no warning? How could she think this was OK for either of us to meet without prior arrangement? What was she bloody thinking…? I was stumped. There in front of me was the male version of ME and she didn’t think I might need some preparation for this ..and today too! He was as shocked as I was I think , mainly at how alike we are facially. Photographs seem not to highlight the bits you focus on when looking face to face. So he  looked like me facially but that’s about where it ends. He is taller, no surprise there, had these funky little dreadlock stumps all over his head. Of course he was good looking and his face was chiselled with sparkling eyes and really long eyelashes. Again we share the same eyes.

He was thin, (Hmmm, that’s not like me then eh?!) and wore those little ankle boots with impossibly baggy long shorts. He looked like a streetwise rapper of about 28! How is THAT even possible, he’s older than me. Hubby kindly pointed out later that evening that he had never given birth and probably didn’t have as healthy a supply of chocolate and wine as I did…Hmmm, or a ‘feeder as a husband ‘ I retorted.

Either way he looked good, couldn’t deny it and he was a really nice bloke too. A bit of a B’romance developed between MB and Hubby over the next hour or so. In fact while I was upstairs with my BM looking at more history, he popped up to say he was showing Hubby his beloved kit car out front.

Soon after he left in breezed a pretty teenage girl with hair piled up on her head and suspiciously false lashes…She introduced herself as V’s grand-daughter, and proceeded to quietly discuss her need for money with her Grandmother. Presumably this was a regular thing. I bit my lip. Having already discovered that my BM had her bedroom door locked in her own house I made the judgement that her family thought nothing of helping themselves or taking advantage of her good nature? Felt wrong to me but hey, its her life.

Hubby and I waved hello and glanced at each other. OK then:  DNA encounter number 2. This was my biological niece.  I had seen the photographs of her growing up from small to teen on the walls of this house. It was only then that I saw the resemblance. Shockingly she was the image of an older version of my  own child. Yikes! Now that is a strong gene ..

The niece left , non the wiser that she had in fact introduced herself to her biological aunty.Felt odd seeing this whirlwind of young hormones breezing through the room , knowing she had a child of her own in the care system and yet seemed to be enjoying the benefits or a generous grandmother , not to mention benefit system!

The house fell quiet and i took that opportunity to ask my BM a question. I said ‘So, did Mark know I was here today?’ She replied ‘ I sent a text out to the boys and said if they were hungry today I was cooking!’ What? Ok so two things that would suggest a positive response here…BOYS and HUNGRY..when do the two NOT go together? I have raised two such hungry boys to adulthood so I do know !

I guess I was lucky not to have encountered the half brother today as well just to cause me more anxiety. Wowzers, I was not impressed to be honest and told her it felt awkward . Hubby agreed later that it was a bit underhand and a huge risk. She also said she knew had she warned me I might not have come..! Proof positive that she knew it was a bloody gamble and not exactly up front!  We revisited this conversation some time later but I will leave that for now….

My point here was that I have for much of my adult life and especially since finding my BM been manipulated and coerced until I bow down and say Yes to all manner of requests. Most of which make me uncomfortable. I have been treated this way by my own Mother for years. I decided there and then that I was damned if my BM was going to pull the strings from the other arm in the same way too. NO way. It needed making very clear that when I said NO to something it means NO. My mother believes that I don’t know my own mind and saying NO means Yes , eventually provided its picked at relentlessly like an ingrowing hair on a freshly shaved………..leg! Ha!

So that said I wanted a peaceful day so let it lie ….for now. People make mistakes…but I don’t get how me saying “At this stage and maybe for the foreseeable I can only cope with getting to know you” can be misunderstood. My BM acknowledged that this was my intention, she wasn’t happy about it but certainly understood it. So I was silently pissed off at  her disregard to my wishes. Halo slightly tarnished on that day. 😦

However the evening continued with just the three of us and she suggested a Movie and a drink before we headed back across town to our Hotel on the Quays. I chose Heat, with Melissa McCarthy. Oops! In hindsight this was a big Mistake. I told her it was dead funny, which it is. Told her she would like it. Which she did. Kind of…..Now you know that moment when a sex scene comes on whilst you are watching TV with your  parents? Worse has to be watching with a devout Christian, while a jovial, plump non-professional US Cop rants with every other word being F***.

OMG, it was F*** this, F***that, F*** You, F***Me and I was cringing inside and watching my BM from the corner of my eye. She was cringing inside too but for another reason. Eventually she said  ‘Hmmm, she would be very funny if she didn’t swear so much!’ Clearly she hasn’t witnessed me on a Shiraz fuelled rant then!! The film ended and we bid her farewell with a promise of keeping in touch….

Armed with our packed up Spicy chicken legs we head back to a welcoming hotel bed. I suddenly felt utterly drained and exhausted enough to refuse a glass of wine at the bar! I know, imagine how tired I must have been!Ha! Seriously though this stuff only hits you when you sit back and take stock..

A visit to remember that’s for sure. That trip saw the one and only time I met MB to date which suits me fine (and him I suspect). His disclosure that he had a mate down South who he has always planned to visit freaked me out more than a bit. Imagine him rocking up on my doorstep for a nights kip. No thanks. So not ready for that one.

After a restless nights kip, mainly as we had a street lamp shining all night right into the room like a spot light- we ventured down memory lane.

Hubby drove me to my beloved grandparents house in the next town. I loved this gentle old couple so much. This was where my Mother grew up so it felt fitting to pay it a visit. As we sat out front admiring the new front door , I spotted the same Hydrangea bushes I remembered playing Hide n Seek behind, with my cousins.

Hubby was determined to see more of the area where I played as a child visiting my granny and grandpa.

We moved off past the local church where we sat at Sunday school when Granny took communion. Both she and my Grand-dad rest together in the small graveyard at the back.

Onto the local park where I experienced many grazed knees and  altercations with rough boys with nothing better to do than pick on little girls. The original equipment had long gone but the remains of some of the bolts and fixtures remained, rusted and mangled. It was there that I suddenly had a jolt of recognition. You see my biological half sister was adopted and grew up in this very area. As it was not a big area on the edge of Manchester it is highly likely that this one and only little park was where she played too. Imagine if we had actually played together without knowing who each other was. Sat on adjacent swings or giggled together while we shared the See-Saw? No way of knowing – or even caring back then. That was a strange feeling.

We drove all through the area, onto the Dales for a lovely lunch in a remote Moorland Pub then through Stoke and back down South…

Some time later I addressed the outcome of my visit… I had now come face to face with not just my DNA in the face of my Birth Mother , but also my Biological Brother and his daughter, my biological niece!.Black Sheep BannerTo this day she is blissfully unaware of who I am. My BM said she doesn’t trust her grand-daughter not to cast judgement on her for her past….The way I saw it, she had no right given she was now under 20 with two kids of her own in care! Perhaps the more likely reaction to learning her Grandmothers life-story would be to seek some form of blame for her own experiences? Who knows…?

As I didnt want the issue to become ‘a thing’ I wrote to my BM shortly after this visit asking that she be sure that there were no surprises should I visit her again…her response shocked and upset me

‘MB turning up was as big a surprise to me as it was to you!;-/ Now both me and Hubby had heard her quite clearly explain that she set up the ‘surprise’ meeting knowing had I known in advance I may have swerved the visit.

Hmmm, OK, so that was a definite Lie. Exclamation

Sad that it seems my BM was NOT entirely different in her manipulation of me than my own Mum!?. And this early in the relationship too! So the Halo was beginning to rust on the head of my BM. Not great..Yes I understood entirely how much it would have meant to her but she had to understand that I was NOT ready for this full-on reunion stuff and may never be.

What’s next? I turn up and find 150 distant rellies have flown over from various corners of the world, for a huge party in my honour. Enough Jerk Chicken and Goat Curry to feed all the guests and the 30 strong Steel Band –  all done up in Jamaican National Dress!? …A reggae version of Peters & Lee’s Welcome Home on the bin lids? I can see it now! Cilla Black style? Jeez Noooooooo!!. My worst nightmare! Thank god she had a small house!!

partygoing sheep

Disappointment in a person is a shameful thing and a nagging littleseed of doubt had now been sewn…..Always keep in mind you are strangers and ground rules are there for a reason..mainly for self preservation but also to protect those you love

I was left hoping this was a glitch, but no one likes being lied to and there is was a huge whopper, witnessed by Hubby so there was no doubt in the subtle manipulation.

Maybe it was a lesson learned on both our parts…………

I did mention this trip to my Mother, partly as a test to see how she reacted this time. Her response was almost comical..’Oh’ she said ‘Had I known you could have given us a lift to see my Brother!? Whhaaatt..?? Really? Her brother lives in one of the villages we drove through the second day but can you imagine the irony? After her reaction at me finding my BM she wants to hijack a visit to see her, by cadging a lift up North. There are no words…its laughable…likely she felt she could hardly get all bitter and twisted about this trip , given we made a point of visiting her family home and her parents resting place…… I could report back on changes to the area she grew up in so that’s what I did. Maybe that’s the key. If it involves her personally then I am OK to pursue my past? …Nah, forget that… It is still MY past I am pursuing , NOT HERS and that is why she still has issues. I  think on this occasion she was thrown by the fact I opened up again, albeit AFTER the event to avoid the risk of her kicking off before I went. We actually had a bit of a laugh Googling the specific Church to which my BM belongs and decided Heat was most certainly the very last film she would enjoy. Real Horse hair vest stuff this Church…more of that next time…

Thankfully She didn’t kick off. That’s progress!

Thanks for reading

Much Love

Black Sheep

xxx

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