Sunday, January 20, 2019

Have you received your DNA results yet? By Carol Ford



For Christmas this year, I asked the family for DNA testing from Ancestry.ca.  I just received the results this week.  There was very little surprise and nothing exotic about my background—60% England, Wales, North Western Europe; 33 % Ireland and Scotland; 7% Sweden (This last piece was the only reveal.)

At age 50 I found my birth family but my birth parents had both died by that time. I recently wrote a piece about my birth father; a father who was in my life until I was almost five. I think it helps demonstrate the void that can exist when families are severed.

Who is my Father?

Was he a hero leading the brass band; a sad clown seeking crowd approval; or Santa Clause on the last float? A parade of memories are all that I have left.

I was adopted at age five, and my only remaining  information comes from the Children’s Aid documentation, photos, historical data, and conversations with my adoptive and birth family members.

My birth father’s given name, John, dates back seven generations to our United Empire Loyalist roots. John Sr. and his son John Jr. fought with the King’s Rangers on the side of the British in the American Revolution between the years 1775-1783. At the end of that war, the family fled to Canada and received payment from the British in the form of 200 acres in Eastern Ontario. John Jr. served as a sergeant in the War of 1812 out of Kingston, Ontario. On a recent trip to this region I hiked into an old graveyard, pushed back the overgrown grass, and strained to read washed-out grave markers. The names on these old stones had blackened with age.
Did my father ever ponder or reflect on his Canadian heritage?

As I was growing up, my adoptive mother, in a critical and disapproving tone, shared her limited knowledge about my birth father and mother. Her statement was always the same.
“Your father was lazy and couldn’t keep a job.” She said.
Then in a gentler voice she added, “They told me your mother was a tall, attractive woman and she had no choice but to give you up because your father couldn’t provide for the family.”
Was my father a loser and my mother the victim?

At age 50, I received my Non-Identifiable information from the Children’s Aid.  My maternal grandmother said my birth father failed to provide for his family, and that he was the cause of the separation between him and his wife.
I also learned from this document that I was fourteen-months old when my birth parents separated. My mother kept my two-year-old birth brother, and my four-year-old birth sister went to live with our paternal grandparents.  The document also recorded that my father tried, over a three-year period, to place me with two different families, but both families decided not to follow through with an adoption. As a consequence, when I was four, the Ontario court stepped in and made me a Crown Ward.  
Did these efforts mean that my birth father cared about me?

When I met my birth brother and birth sister they had strong and conflicting views of our father.
My birth brother, a man who typically made allowances for just about everyone, became noticeably irritated and angry when I asked about our father. His facial expression showed disgust.
“What father? He wasn’t a father to me. I remember as a kid that he promised to take me to a movie, but he didn’t show up. He was never in my life growing up. However, when my son was born, he wanted to be a grandfather and came over all the time with gifts and toys. I couldn’t get rid of him.”  
My birth brother spew out these words that revealed a deep hurt of abandonment and an open wound.
Was my birth father sorry for his past behaviour?

.According to my birth sister, who was brought up by my birth father’s parents, our father would visit regularly with clothes and gifts. When she spoke of him, I sensed her love and admiration.
 With pride she said, “He was a strong swimmer and jumped in the water on a couple of occasions to save people who were drowning.  He was very well liked and when he died, a large crowd of friends came to his funeral.”
Shortly after I met my birth sister we took a road trip back to our grandparent’s home town. I saw the small grey house where she grew up. The Canadian National Railway train tracks ran through their back yard, and my grandfather and uncle had lifelong jobs working on rail maintenance in this location.
Why didn’t my father get a job like this?

 After my birth sister’s death, her daughter brought me a worn maroon- coloured box  and inside was a bible with an inscription from our father to my birth sister on her twelfth birthday.
Did he ever go to church? Was he thinking of my birth sister’s spiritual wellbeing?

My birth mother’s sister told me that my parents met picking apples. My birth mother was seventeen and my birth father was twenty-three.  My aunt gave me a picture of my birth parents on their wedding day. 
In the photo my father is dressed in a long wool overcoat and a felt hat with a brim. The hat is tipped to one side in a nonchalant manner. There’s a cigarette dangling from his right hand and he wears a detached expression on his face. My mother looks quite chic in her coat and hat. She has a slight smile on her face but they are not holding hands and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of two people in love. I know that she was pregnant with my birth sister. As I study the picture and their facial expressions, I think she must be feeling relieved to have the ‘problem’ solved while he looks more like he is just going through the motions. 
My birth mother’s youngest sister told me on a couple of occasions, “Your mother adored your birth father and she was heartbroken when he left her for another woman.
But, did he adore her?

My birth parents on their wedding day 1939

I will never know this father, and the parade of people and memories has now passed out of sight. I’ll have to be satisfied with the images that remain.

I was blessed with an adoptive father who adored me; I was his blue-eyed, blonde little girl, and I loved him dearly.  My adoptive father also taught me about God and I learned that my heavenly father would never leave me or forsake me. This knowledge is all that really matters.

“... I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty”
2 Corinthians 6:18
Carol Ford - published author, speaker

 Carol combines her background as a corporate trainer and her Christian faith in her writing and speaking. She writes articles for local newspapers, Christian magazines and on-line webinars.  She has two short stories published in the Hot Apple Cider series -  My Mother’s Gift and My Forever Home 1948. She is also a co-author of: As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers.




3 comments:

Peter Black said...

Wow! Quite a story, Carol. Although questions remain that may never be answered this side of heaven, you've certainly learned a lot about your birth parents and family.
It seems that despite variations in results from media research (CBC) into various companies that provide DNA ancestry tests, yours mostly accorded with the background of which you were aware . . . plus, the surprise Swedish connection, of course.
I love the part about your adoptive father's love and positive Christian influence, and also your concluding with confidence in our Heavenly Father's abiding presence. Thank you.~~+~~

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

This brought tears, Carol. I loved the way you used questions to move your personal story along. The warmth between you and your adoptive father is touching.

Carol Ford said...

Thank you Rose and Peter for such positive feedback. I really knew how blessed I was once I found my birth family. All those moves in my early life were, I'm sure, orchestrated by God. I believe he knew that I would have a receptive heart and he has always known me. Ps 139.

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