I was born in 1955 at Rochester General Hospital (then called Northside) and have known since birth that I came to my parents through a closed adoption via Hillside Children’s Center.
My life was great. My parents went on to adopt a son and have two biological children of their own and we grew up in Greece, a suburb of Rochester. Occasionally, I would wonder about my birth parents but never investigated for several reasons. First, it was a closed adoption, ensuring the birth parents anonymity. Second, in the pre-internet era, I would have had to hire an expensive detective and three, I didn’t want to interfere with anyone’s life; thinking, perhaps ignorance IS bliss.
I even made up an explanation for my situation. I told myself that I was probably conceived in the back of a ’54 Chevy on prom night. Bio-mom would have gone to a relative far away, had the baby, given it up for adoption and returned home. A few years later, she would have married a man who assumed she was a virgin. I wasn’t interested in messing up her story. Totally fictitious, but I was happy with it.
As with everyone, when at a doctor’s office, I am asked ‘do you have a family history of _____’ which of course, I don’t know, so when I had a small heart attack, I decided it might be time to dig into that history a bit.
23andMe is a DNA testing company which advertises on television so I spit in the tube and eagerly awaited notice of any genetic health markers. Luckily, I have none, but imagine my surprise when I found a page that says another woman is registered with them and is a 25% genetic match to me, which likely makes her my biological niece!
On the evening of March 30, I sent Jackie Cochrane a text message introducing myself and asking if she would be willing to talk to me about our possible connection. She replied with her telephone number and I immediately called. For two hours we drew diagrams of family trees and ran through possible connections and ended with the decision that she is NOT my niece, but my HALF-SISTER! Her mother and mine are the same woman, Alice Katherine “Kay” Richards Nunes! (1931-1994) Jackie called her sister Jill Nunes Madden, told her my story and they ran through the same possibilities coming to the same conclusion that I have TWO sisters. (There is a third sister, the youngest, but she isn’t interested).
On Saturday, we group chatted all day and exchanged photos on line. They couldn’t stop saying how much I look like their (our) mom. Jill looks like her dad but I picked Jackie out of a group shot because she looks like I did when I was younger. On Sunday, I dug up my court adoption papers, expecting to be identified as Baby Doe, but see that they identify me as Sandra Jean RICHARDS (Kay’s maiden name).
That’s THREE proofs of identity - DNA, my looks and my name. There is no denying our relationship.
By Tuesday, we couldn’t wait to meet, so we gathered at Jackie’s house in Naples for lunch. They welcomed me warmly and couldn’t stop staring. Jill says I am the same age our mom was when she died, but with me sitting at the table with them it is like she was still there.
After talking to all of their living relatives and neighbors and friends, everyone agrees about several things - I am absolutely Kay’s daughter, she took the secret of me to her grave and she must have had a very good reason for placing me for adoption because she was a wonderful mother/aunt/friend/woman/person.
My sisters and I gotten together many times in the three months since we met and we text/chat nearly every day. On several occasions, they have slipped and called me ‘mom’. Who knew that after 60 + years, letting the cat out of the bag could be so much fun!