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Secrets, Lies, and Love

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Posted: 6/13/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

I was raised in a biracial family. My adoptive mother was Portuguese, and my adoptive father was white. My mom was 42 when she adopted me, and all she knew about my background was that my birth mother was raped by a black man and she decided to give me up for adoption.

I never thought much about the color of my skin, but it seemed that everyone around me did. People would look at us strangely wherever we went. It was the fifties, and even in the grocery store they would give my mom dirty looks--she was a dark-skinned woman holding a pretty child with curly blond ringlets and olive skin. I can remember in elementary school I used to get in fights all the time. The white girls wouldn't play with me, and the black kids said I wasn't dark enough to be black. I felt like a fish out of water all through my adolescent years. I often wondered what my birth parents looked like, and began to dream of being reunited with them one day. By the time I reached early adulthood, I had learned to make true friends who were both black and white.

I did well in high school and was accepted to Boston College to study accounting. I received several scholarships and grants available to minority students. Unfortunately during my freshman year I became extremely ill with what we now know is Ileitis or colitis. At that time the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, but I would collapse on campus from extreme abdominal pain caused by the disease. I was hospitalized for over a month and one day my mother called me and demanded to know what was really happening. She thought that I was just like my mother and was actually having an abortion, which would have contradicted everything she had tried to ingrain in me throughout my childhood. In that moment I understood why she had always been so harsh and cold--deep down she was worried I would turn out to be just like my birth mother, or worse, my birth father.

A few years later I met and married my husband Chet, who served in the navy for many years. We have been happily married for over 26 years and we have 3 sons and 4 grandchildren. I got that same look in the grocery store when my first son was born with bright blue eyes. Everyone questioned his paternity since they didn't think it was possible for a half-black woman and a Creole man to produce a blue-eyed baby. I always told my son to tell people he got his blue eyes from his mom and Jesus, and to leave it at that. But deep down I wondered about my heritage and dreamed about finding my birth mother.

I spoke with Linda at SQA for the first time last November. I knew it was time to move forward and finally find the answers to my questions, good or bad. Julie Jones solved my case in less than a week. I was amazed at how efficient she was, but shocked at the answers she found.

My birth mother Charlotte is in her sixties and in an assisted living facility in Georgia. She had a troubled childhood, and was one of 4 children. When she was 15 she got pregnant, not as a product of rape, but from a consensual relationship with my birth father. Her parents got a divorce, and her mother decided to keep her two sons and give the custody of her two daughters up to the state. Charlotte was placed in foster care, and then into an unwed mothers home where she was forced to give me up for adoption. Her father died soon after that, and from the trauma of being abandoned, losing her boyfriend, her baby, and her father all at once, she had a mental breakdown and was placed in an asylum. To this day she remains a ward of the state. She never married, never had other children, and never lived what I would consider a normal life.

Right after Julie gave me the news, I took a road trip with a girlfriend of mine and we went to see my mother. We spent 4 days with her, taking trips, spending time together, and asking questions. One moment she has the mental capacity of a child, and another moment she seems almost normal. I asked her about my birth father many times during that trip and since, and she insists that she was not raped, and that my birth father was not black. She says he wasn't as white as she was, but that he was not black. In fact, my original birth certificate says he was white, and since my skin is only olive, I am assuming that he was Italian or something.

Imagine, I am 51 years old and I have considered myself black my entire life, only to find out that I am not actually biracial! All the prejudice I endured, the scholarships I received, and the cultural heritage I adopted--it was all a mistake, perpetuated by someone in the adoption agency who rewrote my story and influenced the way I have been perceived by myself and others for five decades.

Finally I know that my son's bright blue eyes come from my mother. Sometimes they are a little glazed and blurred by age, but they reflect the love she feels for me and her hopes for our future. We talk on the phone frequently and I call the nursing home to check on her from time to time. I am so grateful to Julie and SQA for giving me the answers I needed. I also found out that my mother shares my health problems, and I am grateful for the medical information she has provided. Just to be positive that she is indeed my birth mother, I went to Walgreens and bought a DNA test. When the results came back it was 99.9% positive that she is my mother.

The only part of the puzzle that is still missing is my birth father. At first I was excited because she told me his name, but then I realized it is very similar to the name of the doctor who delivered me, so I think she may be confused about his identity. I hope that I will be able to find him some day because I would like to know if I have any siblings. My mother's sister, who is deceased, did have two children, one of whom is my cousin Edward. Edward and I were also reunited, and he is the one who helped me understand Charlotte's childhood and the circumstances that led to her mental state. Even though my search did not turn out anything like I expected, I am still glad I found my mother. For better or worse, she is the woman who gave birth to me, and I am grateful to have her in my life.

(Written by Mica Burton on Tina's behalf.)

Client ID#227542
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