“This baby is chosen, she is wanted, she is cherished, she grows in your hearts, she is the missing piece, she is loved, she is adopted.”
“In adoption, a child is not given up. A birth mother gives another mother a part of her heart that was always missing.” Terra Cooper
“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Lilo and Stitch
“I suffer from short term memory loss. It runs in my family… at least I think it does. Where ARE they?”
Dory – Finding Nemo
When last we left 61-year-old me, I was staring, slack-jawed, at my adoption papers. I had always known they existed… never imagined actually reading them.
And yet, here they were.
It was fantastic because I recognized the last name. I knew that name. Now, I should clarify that I didn’t know the name because I was acquainted with the woman. I knew the last name because I knew the last name.
As I stood there, staring at the paper, I saw the name, “Orbison.” And, yes, the VERY first freakin’ thing I said was, “I’m an ORBISON!”
*The mind boggles*
“I wonder if I’m related to Roy?!”
At least I had my priorities straight.
This set off a search for my biological mother, Letitia Orbison. I learned that she had passed in the mid-1990s. While I felt a tinge of sadness to know that I could never meet her, I wasn’t surprised. I had no reason to believe that she had pursued finding me and I never felt it was my place to hunt her down and re-enter her life. Many don’t understand my position, but it always made sense to me. My belief is, and had always been, that I was very carefully placed with an excellent adoption agency. This seemed to me a deliberate and loving act by my biological mother (and likely her family.)
It made perfect sense that I would have been placed with an agency in Evanston, Illinois, roughly 80+ miles from Rockford, where I learned that Letitia was from.
Never one to let things go, I tried in vain to connect Letitia to Roy.
Again… priorities… but I could only find that he had played a couple of concerts there, and that there seemed to be a few other Orbisons in Rockford.
I don’t give up easily.
I found a few older Orbisons, from Rockford, and started to assemble what I surmised might be some of my family. Then, the trail went a little cold. I wasn’t on Ancestry, or any of the other DNA groups at the time, and I hadn’t pulled the trigger on contacting the adoption agency to make a formal inquiry. Not sure why not but I hadn’t, so I went back to being a spoiled rotten adopted only child, who now knew the name of her bio-mom. For now, that would have to be enough.
Fast forward to May, 2020, when many interesting things were happening (or not happening) in the world. My friend, and the manager of the store I own, Diana Moody, is an intrepid detective… has been since I’ve known her. Once she has a little bit of information, the whole story will come out before she’s finished.
The message from her began with, “I had insomnia last night and researched your birth mother.”
“Wanna know what I found?”
(She was going to tell me anyway, so resistance was futile.)
It all came out in word salad and ended with, “You have brothers and sisters… and I found them on Facebook.”
*Another very long pause*
She asked me how I felt about that and, honestly, I didn’t really have feelings. I think Diana was expecting me to be overwhelmed by the news but the only thought that came to me was, “Well, THAT’S pretty cool!”
She asked if I was ok?
Did I want to know more?
So, she shared names and links to their profiles.
The Siblings (I have siblings!!)
My brother, Steven Young, is only about a year and a half my junior.
Next is Ray Young, then Tina Young, followed by Jeannie McPeake and the youngest, Xan Carriglitto.
Naturally, I was mostly focused on looking for family resemblance. A lifetime as an adopted only child leaves one wondering whom one might resemble.
Photo: My siblings: Ray, Xan, Jeannie, Tina and Steve
Honestly, I had never considered that I would have the opportunity to compare my looks to anyone else’s but… here were pictures. Five of them. I also had a photo of my biological mother, Letitia, with her husband Allan and the children.
Photo: My mother Letitia Orbison Young Photo: Me, Judy Masters
As I scrutinized the photos, Diana shared that she had discovered all of this information on Ancestry, because Xan’s daughter, Ashley, and my sister, Tina, had started a family tree. That’s where Diana had found Letitia and tracked her children. Now… to contact or not?
I learned that it’s not uncommon for a “third party” to reach out with an initial inquiry. As Diana had connected with Ashley, they were the logical parties to kick this off. I consented and in a matter of hours, Diana and Ash had chatted and Xan was involved. During that brief interlude, I had determined that I did, indeed, look like Letitia except that I am a full head taller than she was, and that Steven and Ray look most like me.
|Photo: My niece, Ashley (Xan's daughter) with her husband, Rob.||Photo: Diana, the relentlessly persistent genealogist (my good friend and store manager)|
Xan was the first to open communications and she was eloquent, level and fair. Obviously, she and her brothers and sisters had every right to confirm my lineage, so she very diplomatically asked if she could see something that linked me to her mother, Letitia Orbison.
I was at one house and Rick, my husband, was headed to our other house where the papers were kept. I messaged him that I needed my adoption papers and he produced them quickly, sending me a picture that I forwarded to Xan. It was now in her hands to communicate the information as she saw fit.
I was patient. More patient than Diana. Also, by now, my lifelong BFF, Lisa, had been notified, as had my friend and personal assistant, Shayla. All were anxious to hear how the siblings were going to react to this news-bomb.
Xan contacted me and asked if she and Steven could have a conference call in a day or two, which we all promptly arranged. This was not a Zoom. We were just going with voices… baby steps. I was less concerned about others’ reactions than my friends were. Lisa, who has always been a fierce protector, wanted to make sure I was ok. She knew, as did Diana, Shayla and Rick, that these “hey-hello-I-am-your-sister” surprises were not always well-received. I told everyone that I was fine with whatever happened.
I don’t think even one of them believed me.
I was absolutely not surprised by any of this. I always knew there was a possibility that I had brothers and/or sisters. I knew I was adopted and I understood, very clearly, that if I happened, then others probably happened, also.
Rick was more surprised than I was. When I asked him why this was such news to him, he just explained that he never thought about my biological mom having another child. In his brain, he just figured I was an “oopsy” baby and that she had decided to nope out of further procreating… leaving me as sole progeny. He has since recovered from this delusion.
The call with Xan and Steven was lovely. Xan’s first words to me were, “Did you have a good life?”
I almost cried. That one question told me everything I needed to know about her priorities. She and Steve spent the next hour asking and answering questions. There was no way to cover 65 years in one phone call, but I DID learn a most important piece of information….
… I am, indeed, related to Roy Orbison! The earth moved, the heavens opened, and the angels sang. I AM related to Roy Orbison. Pretty Woman, Traveling Wilburys, Only the Lonely, Candy Man… Roy Orbison. I can type that without giggling like a first grader now.
In the course of the call, I learned that he was a cousin to Letitia, and that the siblings had all gone to a concert of his (except Xan, who was apparently grounded) when he was in Rockford.
Diana, diligent researcher that she is, traced Roy’s lineage and learned that my brothers and sisters and I are first cousins twice removed… related by great grandfathers who were brothers. But I digress (and giggled a little… well poop! I thought I had that under control.)
Photo: Xan and her husband Tony
Following the call with Xan and Steve, we decided that a Zoom was the next step, once they had contacted the rest of the family (presumably to notify them that I was neither inarticulate nor a psychopath.)
A call was set and I invited Diana, who had certainly earned her seat for that show; Lisa, who had weathered every single storm of life with me; Lisa’s husband, Mike, who “gave me away” when Rick and I got married in Las Vegas (and has been a wonderful friend to me most of my life); Shayla, who handles every aspect of my home and schedule; and my still-perplexed husband, Rick.
Seeing and hearing my brothers and sisters on the Zoom was wonderful. The simple fact that all five of them were engaged in the process and handling what must have been shocking news was impressive. We had a couple other laptops in the living room, so my posse could see the participants. Xan’s daughter, Ashley, was also on the call, which was really nice for Diana, since those two had put this together and were feeling VERY accomplished (as well they should.)
My brothers and sisters… my FAMILY… are somewhat spread across the country, but Ray, Tina and Jeannie are in the Midwest, so I will be able to meet them soon. Rick and I were planning to see Ray and Tina, but Rick’s nephew died in a car accident, and COVID restrictions were making travel tough, anyway, so we are looking into this year. It will happen very soon. I have no doubt.
In December, we had a family (I LOVE typing that) Christmas Zoom, in which I learned some personal information about each of them. We swapped “stories” and I look forward to more of those. I’m not sure they can top the one about Ray holding Xan upside down over the pig pen and mama hog grabbed her hair… something like that. They were sharing information at a fairly rapid pace and I should have taken notes.
When they asked if I had any Christmas stories, I was at a loss because any trauma I might have experienced as an only child would have been self-inflicted. I shared about the Christmas Eve that my mom had to lock me in my bedroom for a couple of hours, because I kept getting up and running downstairs to see if Santa had been there yet. Apparently, this was unacceptable because my dad was building a bicycle and wasn’t going to have it finished by morning unless I could be restrained. Every time he heard my footfalls on the stairs, he threw an afghan over the bike and crawled under the dining room table until Mom got me back upstairs.
Mom tried bedtime stories, stuffed animals and some Dr. Spock, but, ultimately, the skeleton key she kept in her nightstand was put to use in case I woke up and tried to go downstairs again. I did but the door was locked and by the time I found two bobby pins to pick the lock (yes, that’s right, I was a seven-year-old lock-picker), Santa had arrived.
The Zoom call was a wonderful way to welcome Christmas, and I look forward to many more calls and in-person meetings. As I write this, Jeannie, Tina, Steve and Xan have all been communicating with me and sending pictures that I can share.
Photo: Jeannie Photo: Steve and Tina (taken just a few hours ago.)
Photo: My brother, Ray
I have shared what Xan’s first words were to me, so I asked Jeannie and Tina if they would mind sharing their first thoughts.
Jeannie said, “Shock, excitement and a little disappointed we didn’t know of you sooner. All the years we’ve missed.”
Tina shared, “Initially, it was a little surreal in a good way. Then, I wanted to make sure it was true. After we got past that, I was excited to find out I had another sibling and couldn’t wait to meet you. I’m still anxiously waiting to meet you in person.”
To add to the excitement, Diana got busy looking for my bio-dad. She has it narrowed down but we can’t get confirmation. However, I DO have another sister. DNA doesn’t lie and she and I match to a same parent, which we know isn’t our mother. That will be part three, I suppose!
2021 will bring me closer to meeting my biological family. It can’t help but be a good year. We can’t make up for past years, but we can make the most of what we have. I think my dad would get a kick out of this.