NOTE: This new series — “What About Mark?” — is inspired by a series I used on a previous blog — “101 Things You Didn’t Know About Me.” That, in turn, came about from a lesson I taught during my first year or so in Thailand and was basically a list of tidbits about myself that I don’t normally share. The earlier series was in list form. This one will give additional details and remain more or less chronological.
#1. BIRTH (Part 1): I was adopted.
I was first told that I was adopted when I was about ten years old. The way I remember it, my mother was driving my sister and I home from our school in the Nashville, Tennessee, suburb of Hermitage. I don’t recall what we were talking about at the time but by the time we’d reached home, she’d given me the news. It didn’t bother me at the time nor did I ever really think about it. They were the only family I’d known to that point and I had no desire to discover anything else about those “who came before.”
Here are the few facts that I know:
- I was born in December 1965 in Dallas, Texas. The certified birth certificate I once had stated December 3 as the date, 7:30 a.m. as the time, and Parkland Memorial as the hospital. All of these details were added post-adoption and may not be entirely accurate. I may have been born as late as the end of that month. Due to the confusion over my actual birth date, I “adopted” December 5 as my celebratory birthday a few years ago. This is a national holiday in Thailand as it is also the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej.
- My adoption was handled by Hope Cottage, the oldest non-profit adoption agency in Dallas and highly regarded. I believe I was adopted about two or three weeks following my birth. Along with the few papers I once had, there was a receipt dated some time in January 1966.
- As listed on the Hope Cottage documents, my biological (birth-) parents were Roman Catholic and requested that I be raised in the Catholic Church, which I was to a certain degree. I also recall a statement in the adoption papers indicating that either my birth mother or father, perhaps both, were of Spanish extraction. I think it actually listed “Mexico” as a place of birth but I think it’s doubtful that either was Hispanic. I am definitely Caucasian.
For most of my life, I rarely thought about my being adopted. I’ve only known one set of parents and they certainly always treated me as a full-fledged member of the family. When I thought of family history, it is the genealogy of the Jochims and the Chapmans that I endeavored to research. I was never really interested in discovering who my birth-parents were or where they came from.
However, as I move into “older age”, I am becoming increasingly more curious. I’m worried that it may be too late to find the answers to certain questions, particularly as my mother passed away more than a decade ago. One question that I never thought to ask until just now (as I write this, in fact) was: “Why?” You see, my mother gave birth to a little girl — my sister Marilyn Elizabeth — when I was but a year-and-a-half old.
I believe I would like to know at least a bit of my birth-family’s genealogy. Where did they come from? When did they arrive in the Western Hemisphere? These are the same questions I’ve always wanted to know about my adoptive family. Even those answers have proved elusive other than the barest of information: my father’s father was German but born in Russia and arrived in America sometime in the 1920’s. I never learned much about Mom’s side but it may not be too late for that as her sister and brothers are still around.
I’m a bit apprehensive about delving into my adoptive past; I know that my dad and sister would be supportive if I did so but I’m not sure if I’m prepared for the answers such a search would bring.
I believe, however, my strongest argument against looking into the records is simply the difficulty involved. It’s a long process even when I can physically visit the agencies involved. Trying to obtain the information from the State of Texas, etc. while I reside in Thailand seems a near impossibility. I cannot even obtain a new copy of my birth certificate without a state-issued driver’s license (a U.S. passport doesn’t work as a form of ID in this case!) unless I actually show up in person.
Should I even try?