To those who have never lived without knowledge of their past and their genetic kin, they will never know the visceral desire that dwells deep under the skin to find one’s biological and ethnic ancestry. It is utterly primal, completely natural, and as important as breathing. For adoptees, particularly those born after World War II and through the 1970s, this knowledge was systematically hidden from them by nearly all U.S. states to promote a radically new idea of kinship. This new model of family, composed of strangers, largely denied the essence of what it means to be a human and to ask, “Who am I?”
I spent 24 years without this knowledge, until I found my blood kin. It took years of looking. This story is unnecessarily sad because my biological grandparents never knew of each other’s existence, and in the case of one set of grandparents, my existence. They lived the last part of their full lives mostly ignorant of this missing story in their family narrative. One set of grandparents passed away without any knowledge they had a grandson–knowledge hidden intentionally from them by their son. Yet, I was alive and for some of the years in a neighboring state not far away. I would have liked to have met them. The others were lucky, and we did meet while they were still alive and well, and we enjoyed the time we had together before they both passed away.
As I look at this old photos, both taken near the same time in the 1940s, I squint and a see some of myself in their faces, in their hair, and in their lean, hard-working bodies. They are Midwestern. They lived complicated, rich lives. They are my kin. And we are forever connected through the ties that binds us, and I carry a quarter of each of their genetic material. I am theirs the they are mine. No state-created system will ever change that, even when it tried for decades, and continues that system today. In the end, blood is truly thicker than water. I know this to be true in my bones.