Are you familiar with that television show Who Do You Think You Are? I am fascinated by that show – watching individuals dig through their family history to learn not only about themselves, but who their entire family is, where they came from and what they did with their lives. Some of the stories are sad while other are simply remarkable.
I believe I’m drawn to this show and others like it because I’m adopted and I have always wanted to know more about who I am and where I come from. It’s not that I don’t want to be associated with the family that adopted me it’s just that there has always been this space in my heart that yearns for the connections to family that others I know have.
For example, I lived for 12 years in South Carolina where everyone and their dogs are related to one another in some form or fashion. Moving into a new town meant an onslaught of questions about my family – who they are, where they come from, what they do. If you’ve ever lived in a small town or the South, you know how this goes. The questions are something like this:
” Are you kin to Harry who works over ta the hardware store?”
“My Aunt Melba has a niece who looks just like you. Are you kin to her husband, Burt?”
Or the worst: “You ain’t kin to that family up yonder that’s been in such a heap of trouble, are ya?”
I know you can hear the drawl just by reading those words and though the phrases may be slightly exaggerated, I can guarantee I heard versions of these questions nearly every time I met someone new. It always amazed me that these people I was met could not only tell me about the people they knew with my same last name, but they knew how all of these people were connected to their own family and had been for generations past.
This is what I longed for – to find that thread that connected me back through the long string of family as far back as the history was known. I wanted to see pictures of great grandparents and know the funny stories they all told around the Thanksgiving table every year.
At the age of 31 I decided to try to rectify this. I petitioned the courts to open my adoption records and had an intermediary locate my birth mother. It was an amazing feeling speaking to this woman for the first time and getting a sense of who this person was that gave birth to me.
Funny thing was that despite meeting her and actually having a relationship with her for more than a decade before she passed, I never really felt that thread from herself to me and down the line. While I have been told that I look like her when she was younger and I have met a couple of her brothers, the more she shared with me, the less I actually felt I knew.
I know that sounds odd, but she was the type of person who would shade the truth to be what she thought you wanted it to be rather than what it actually was. In all the years I knew her, I am not sure that I actually ever met the real person hidden behind the stories.
I also never found out who my birth father was. She refused to tell me. Perhaps she didn’t know or perhaps she was embarrassed. It’s hard to say, but her unwillingness to share anything about him was – and is – difficult.
Not one to be deterred by a roadblock, I decided to take a different tack and for Christmas this year, I asked for one of those DNA tests to determine my genetic heritage. I only recently had the results returned to me.
Just as an aside, it turns out, I’m 39% Scandinavian.
I’m not blonde, blue eyed or tall. I’m relatively short (5’3), dark eyed and dark haired. NOTHING about me looks like what I picture when I think of Scandinavia – and certainly this is not what my birth mother told me I was.
Well, maybe that’s the 23% Irish blood or the other miscellaneous contributors to my DNA.
But I digress.
After digesting this new information and poking around on ancestry.com to find connections to other people with similar DNA markings and maybe finding new family to connect with, it dawned on me.I was actually going about this all wrong.I mean, sure it would be great to have the same kind of history a lot of people have, but the reality is that just as many people don’t have that history and many don’t have it for far more challenging reasons that me. And another thing. I already know who my kin are – and who they “ain’t”.
My “kin” are not the people from whose sperm and egg I was created any more than those people in South Carolina with my same last name were my kin.
My “kin” are the people in my life that God has placed there for a reason. These people include the family who adopted me, the family that came to me after the adoption, my friends, my past spouses (yes, plural – let’s not get into that here) and the members of my church family that have taken me under their wing and made me a member of their home. Thanks to all of these people, I have cousins that spread across this country, I have nephews and even grandchildren who I can happily call my kin.
But here’s the most important part. That thread that I have been trying so desperately to connect down doesn’t connect to an earthly line of people for me or for anybody else. That line is connected to GOD.
Bottom line is I have a Father that placed me here on this planet at this time with these people for a reason. And because of this, my “kin” is more interconnected than even the most stereotypical backwoods, hillbilly family in the swamps of the South. I am connected to every individual on this planet present, past and future because every one of them are connected to the One who created them. So while I may not be able to go to some big ol’ family reunion to hear Aunt Bertha tell the same story for the 100th time or have pictures that show generations of people that all like like me lined up together, what I have is far more personal and far more important.
I am connected spiritually to those directly in my life and those indirectly in it and my job as a member of this family is to make sure that I let each and every one that I come into contact with know that they are loved, they are important and they are connected to something bigger than they could ever hope for.
So next time you are wondering who your kin is remember – one of them is ME!