Sunday, November 10, 2013

Divergent Paths

This past week, a very special lady passed away at the young age of 59.  She was the Aunt I never knew I had. Since I cannot be there for her funeral, I will tell the story about how I met her and my Uncle Tim only years ago. But to understand it, I'll have to tell you my father's story.......

During the second age, my father was born from a woman who could not keep her child. Her boyfriend ran away and she was left pregnant.  Society considered this a faux pas back then and everything was quietly handled.  Another couple who could not have children, wanted desperately to become parents.  They went through the adoptive services and found my father.  The couple loved him very much but never spoke in great detail of the adoption.  And it was never an issue for the young man.  But there it remained in the back of his mind for many years.

His biological mother married.  However, the man she met this time around was a keeper. Together they raised a large family with many children. But the adoption was never mentioned.  And it was something the woman lived with for many years.  The guilt and pain of giving up her first child stayed with her for many years. For this is not something men may understand.  I am told when a woman gives birth to her child, it is a bond that lasts forever.

The son and King Tuzigoot from a recent photo shoot on Lake Michigan

On the other side of the state, the son grew up and he, too, had a large family.  Because for him, he needed to fill in a piece that was missing.  He married his high school sweetheart and together they created a family of 8!  At this point, his first born, me, entered the picture.  The young man becomes my Dad.  And we live our lives not knowing about my father's adoption.  It didn't matter because my Grandparents were my Grandparents.  Period.  Nothing would change that fact.  Until my sophomore year of high school.  My mother mentioned to me that my father was adopted.  I was in shock....and not because my father was adopted.  I grew up thinking my parents to be rather boring people unaware that they had lived complicated and exciting lives.  Ignorance was my middle name. I asked my father if he would investigate his past.  And at the time, he told me perhaps down the road.  I mistakenly asked my Grandparents about the adoption once during lunch and I was met with dead silence. It was horribly awkward. I only did this because my parents were very open and transparent about their feelings as were my siblings. In a large family, it's difficult to keep secrets:)

What's better than Christmas and getting my first camera??!!!  My Grandparents:)
My grandparents were born around the beginning of the second age(the early 1900's). When horse carts became cars.  When gravel roads became paved.  When Scarlet fever still took people's lives. When people from the United States Civil War still lived.  World War I, World War II, the Great Depression. It was a hard life and very different than it is now.  Matters such as adoption were kept secret and out of respect, I never asked them again. You may find it funny that I address things as the first, second or third age but it's true.  The First Age were the migrants that arrived on the Wisconsin farmlands from Germany, Sweden, Norway, etc (my great and great great grandparents) learned English as a second language. The 3rd age marks the end of all things wild and innocent.  It was the onset of electronics in the early 80's.  The technological age.  But that write is for another time.

Years would pass.  My Grandfather died and my widowed Grandmother was 90 years old.  My Dad was experiencing some health issues and wanted to know what was going on.  My mother told him that it was time to find the answers.  And Dad began to search for the people responsible for his creation.

 Elsewhere, the also recently widowed and unknown woman from the forested village of Antigo had no more children at home.  They all grew up and married.  She was a grandmother now. Her phone rang and she answered. The lady on the other end asked, "Is this Mrs. Lorraine Duffy?"  The adoption center told her that there was a man wanting to speak with his biological mother. A week later after many tears shed between the mother and her lost son, the entire family met together and the secret was revealed.  A guilt lifted and new beginnings were had.  Enter Karen Duffy....the liaison of the family.  The great communicator.

An entire family reunited. Pops is to the far left
My family was happy for our father.  It was amazing how they all acted the same, talked the same, and even looked the same!!!!  So many new aunts and uncles!  While the news was exciting, it wasn't received well by all.  I still had a Grandmother who didn't know that her son was searching for his biological mother.  So several of us stayed firm that we would never call this new woman Grandmother.

Here I am meeting Lorraine for the first time.  
We really liked her very much but the title "Grandmother" was already taken by two other amazing women.  However, everyone had so much fun and it was like the years of separation did not matter....and Lorraine won the respect and love of a Grandmother.

The special lady who helped reunite two families into one....Karen!  She's on the far right.

But stubborn me.  Stubborn ol' me.  I didn't want to betray my Grandmother's trust or love. I spoke with her every Sunday about gardening and other her amazing recipes for cookies and dressing.  And this is where the Aunt, I never knew I had, stepped in and offered me an olive branch.  My Dad's biological brother Tim and his wife Karen came to Tucson. We had such a great visit that I knew I had to open my mind up to redefining family.

As time would go on, my Dad would lose his mother(my Grandma) and then his biological mother. They would have a few years together before she passed.  When we were home visiting, we always went to visit Karen and Tim.  They became part of the "must visit" stops.  And Facebook allowed us to share pictures and our lives.  Then Karen became sick.  Everytime we came home she would get a little worse.  My brother married and we saw her lose muscle control at his wedding.  The next time she was in a wheelchair.....and then she disappeared off of Facebook.  She no longer could type.  Several days ago, she finally passed from her suffering.  It will be a hard thing for all of our families as she was not only the "hub" or connector of the family communications, but she was also a genuine person with an amazing heart.  Little do we know how much time each of us has been granted in this life.

And spouses:)  Karen is in the striped sweater. Lorraine is in front.
It is for that reason, I'd like to dedicate this post to Karen and her husband Tim for their love and hospitality. While Karen may not physically be here with us, her memory will live on in our hearts.  I'd like to wish her well on that journey we will all have to take. You will be missed dearly by so many people.

The first time we all met


  1. i am sorry for the loss of an instrumental woman you didn't know you had for so long.

  2. Chris, what a lovely tribute to Karen.. I am so glad you all got the chance to meet before they passed on. Thanks for sharing your father's story.

  3. I'm sorry for your loss. What a wonderful gift to find so many people to call family!

  4. I am so very sorry for your loss Chris. Your story was so beautifully written that it brought tears to my eyes! HUGS!!

  5. You honor her with your wonderful story. I am very sorry for your loss.

  6. My sympathies on your loss.
    There is a skeleton in the closet of my mother's family. When I asked if I could tell that story she said yes - but not until everyone involved is dead. Generations away it is hard to understand your or my story as a scandal.

  7. That was a wonderful tribute to Karen. What a delight to discover family you didn't know about, no matter the reasons behind it.

  8. With this heartfelt story and the memories she will live on.

    Antigo, we could be cousins.

  9. It's hard to lose someone you've come to love in a short time, but at least you had that time, and were able to share some special times together.

  10. A really moving post Chris and such a lovely tribute to Karen. So so sorry to hear of your loss but I'm glad you were able to share some time together.

  11. Dziwnie się czasami układają losy Rodziny. Najważniejsze jednak, że dobrze się kończą. Pozdrawiam.
    Oddly sometimes put the fate of the Family. Most importantly, the happy endings. Yours.

  12. Siempre en buena compañía.. Como debe de ser.. Un saludo desde España. .

  13. Lovely tribute to Karen. I'm glad you were able to know her and have those special times together.

  14. She was a very special lady and my thoughts are with her sons, husband and family.

  15. What a fantastic tribute to your Aunt… So glad you got to meet and know her --even for only a short time…

    It's great that your Dad finally met his family, even though I'm sure there were some awkward times…

    Thanks be to God though for the people who took him in and raised him as their own.

    Thanks for the tribute to Karen.

  16. Chris, what a heartfelt story and tribute to a wonderful woman and to life and love in general. I am so glad you met her and so sorry for your loss.

  17. A very touching story. I too am sorry for your loss Chris. However I am glad that you found the family members you did.

  18. What a moving story, my condolences for your loss Chris, but how wonderful to have found a whole new family.

  19. HI Chris Many thanka for sharing such a personal story and finally ebing runtied witha whole family you did not know before. I am sorry for your loss but this tory is a wonderfl tribtue to Karen. Have a great weekend.

  20. Przykro mi, ale Twój nowy post nie jest widoczny dla mnie :(
    I'm sorry, but your new post is not visible to me: (


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