Chattanooga

My new sister; NaNa

Ang and NaNa
Ang and NaNa

I have five sisters and two brothers in my immediate family with whom I have shared everything, toys, clothes, germs, love and more. I guess you'd say we had the typical sibling relationships for a large family.

I have always known that I had a birth sister who is three years older than me. The adoption documents my parents were given at the time of my adoption stated that "Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson..." Over the years I have read those words hundreds of times, curious about this girl who shared my genes. As the years passed, and things around me changed, friends came and went, sports seasons flew by, presidents served their terms, high school graduation, college graduation, jobs and marriage, those written words forever stayed the same,

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

I read these words over and over again, year after year, completely forgetting that she wouldn't be three years old anymore as each year passed, and as I changed each year, perhaps she did too. Perhaps she got married, and maybe her last name has changed...

Last July, I met my 6th sister, Carolyn, however she was not 3 years old, she was 29. And people weren't calling her "Carolyn," but instead, "Na-Na." Her last name was no longer Johnson, but rather, Young, and she has two beautiful daughters. The only remaining truth, was her residence in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that had not changed, but the words of how i knew my long lost sister had already been emblazoned in my head.

I wish I knew how she's spent her 29 years, I wish I knew how she got her nickname, I wish I was there the day her last name was changed. I wish I was there when she had her children, and became a mother. I missed out on 29 years, but am so thankful that I can now spend my Sunday evenings getting answers to those questions, during our weekly Skype date.

Though we do not share the same last name, and nor do we share the same worldview or culture, we do share the same genes and thus are bound by blood. Now that our worlds have collided we can begin to learn all about each other. I have learned how to pronounce "NaNa," (NAY-nay) and am beginning to feel more comfortable using her nickname (even though her proper name, Carolyn, seems more natural for me). I understand that our upbringing has been completely different, and that the cultural norms vary greatly for both of us. The meeting and befriending of my birth sisters has been a jumble of emotions, ranging from fear of the unknown (what will she look like? What will she sound like?) to excitement (can't believe that's her!). I've felt the emotional pangs of worry (will she want to get to know me?), and embarrassment (her southern accent is so thick! What is she saying? What does that word mean?) however I have no qualms about my emotions, as there is no script written for how these relationships succeed, so I'll presume our relationship is just where it should be, jumble of emotions and all.

Of the nearly 7 billion people who walk this Earth, there is only one whom I enjoy devoting my Sunday evenings to; my new sister, Na-Na (& her daughters).

Family
Family

The Letter.

My mom sent this beautiful letter to my [new] family in Chattanooga...

Dear Deborah and family,

I’m Angela Tucker’s mom here in Bellingham, Washington and am very excited to be writing this letter. Have thought about this for a long time. Chattanooga had always seemed so far away as our family talked about it over the years but now even though miles apart it feels right next door.  It means a lot to Angela and our entire family to be able to meet you and your family.

I’m guessing that you might be curious how we became Angela’s adoptive family?  The story follows, but first I want to thank you for sharing Angela with us (even though some of you didn’t even know you were).  We thank you Deborah for choosing adoption.   Not only was Angela’s  life changed by being adopted, but our lives were changed as well.  What a blessing this was!  Her cheery personality and her ‘forever’ smile brought much joy to our family.  She was best friends  with our older daughter, Elena, as they grew up.  This was and still is a special friendship.  People joked as Angela turned 2 years old that I should just hook her to my side with velcro as she always followed alongside me wherever I went.  We were never far apart.  Her sports ability—kickball and PE (in elementary school), basketball, track, cross-country and softball in high school and basketball at Western Wash. University—made us all proud.  Music also filled our house—her piano, harmonica, karaoke and singing for no reason or any reason was daily.  She and sister Elena enjoyed numerous piano duets.  Angela’s hearing loss helped educate all of us about both the struggles of wearing hearing aids and the belief that all of life’s opportunities were ahead.  She added a lot to our family, to say the least.

Deborah, when Angela was born, you had asked that she be given opportunities in life to live up to her full potential.  We took this to heart, felt guided by your request and thought about it many times as we raised her.

We began our family in 1974 with the birth of our daughter, Elena, followed by the adoption of Shawna and Steven.  In 1986 we were anxious to adopt again and searched the adoption books of waiting children from different states hoping to find the perfect match.  It didn’t take long before we found Angela in the state of Tennessee book.  She was listed in this book as a ‘hard to place’ child due to her possible physical disabilities.  (She spent the first year with a Chattanooga foster family as her health issues were identified. The adoption agency did not know the cause of her disability.)   We knew she’d fit into our family as soon as we read it.  We notified our adoption worker here in Bellingham who then worked with the adoption worker at Bethany in Chattanooga to make this match happen.

David and I flew to Chattanooga a week or two before her 1st birthday and spent the weekend getting to know her and deciding for sure if she was the one.  (There was never any doubt she was the one!)  We met with a representative from Bethany, was given non-identifying information about your family and the first name of the birthfather.  We spent a couple hours with Angela to get to know her (she slept the entire time!).  Then on Monday, flew with her back to Bellingham.

We continued her physical therapy related to her disability but within 3 months was told by the physical therapist that she had improved enough that she didn’t need it anymore.  She shortly began to walk, run and do all the things expected even though there was still some mild tightness in her legs and arms. Her hearing loss wasn’t identified till she was about 4 years old.

And so this is how Angela became a Burt and a resident of Bellingham (about 75 miles north of Seattle) and Washington state.  As time goes on I’m sure Angela will share photos, stories, memories etc. about growing up as a Burt with all of you.  (Ask her about getting her wisdom teeth out while she was on crutches, the competition she had with a friend to see who could wear shorts to school every day of 5th grade, playing basketball in bare feet in Belize, the ride on the Desperado rollercoaster, Highway 3 in Mexico and of course, our yearly Burt Meatfest.)  And she’ll enjoy hearing from each of you what it was like growing up in Chattanooga.

She has been a joy to our family.   We thank you again for sharing her with us. We look forward to meeting you all next summer.

Simply beautiful. Thanks for writing this mom!

Chattanooga, Tennessee: Here We Come!

Wow! I really apologize for the lack of posts, but developments have been happening a break-neck pace.  My family and I have booked a flight to Chattanooga in a couple of weeks, as it seems that I have located my birth father!!

How did this happen?

Bryan and I were spending some time searching for my birth mother and her side of the family on the internet one night and were just about ready to turn in for the night, when Bryan said "Why don't we just Google my birth father's first name?   We hadn't googled him at all, because I didn't feel that we would get anywhere, since I don't have any other information about him. I don't have his last name or birth date. Nothing. Well, we Googled it, and found out that there are only 5 other people in the country with his name!  We focused in quickly on the one man who lived in Chattanooga Tennessee (where I was born). We found out that he was in his 50's - which would be an appropriate age.  This search also turned up his last name. Alas, we had a first and last name for a man who definitely fit the profile. We googled this information and immediately found a Facebook fan page for a man whose name matched. We clicked on the page and up popped a photo that gave us the chills!  The resemblance was undeniable.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, as I have never seen a picture of anyone that I look like. This was almost too much to bear. We scrolled through the numerous fan photos and grew more and more silent with awe with each click. This was him!! Everything was starting to fit together!!

We started reading the posts and trying to figure out what this "fan page" was for. Someone had created this page for him out of love. It seems that everyone in Chattanooga knows and loves him - he is a positive fixture in the Chattanooga scene. He goes around hand delivering flowers to the locals in the bars, and from what people have written on his page - he seems to be a super respectful guy who doesn't always want money, but he just want's a smile. He had over 2,300 fans on this page, and you could just feel the warmth and love that the city has for this man.

One post said: " YAY! Who doesn't love _(I'm omiting his name for privacy reasons at this time)_____??! He's one of my favorite people ever! So happy to see that he's still brightening people's days and warming their hearts!"

So, after debating what our next move should be, Bryan and I decided to email some of the folks who seemed to know quite a bit about this man (from his fan page). So, we emailed four people. I couldn't believe my eyes when I had two email responses within the hour! For the next two days I spoke with these kind people from Chattanooga, who helped me way more than I imagined. These good Samaritans approached whom I thought to be my birth father the next day, and asked him a couple questions.  They emailed me back with what they found out from him, and they agreed that a connection was undeniable.

No one in my family could believe what was happening. We'd spent over a year searching for the birth mother's side of the family, because we thought that we had more information to go on, but then in less than a week, everything unravels on my birth father side, with whom I only had a first name to go off of.  Sometimes you try to make something work SO hard and for so long, when there's an easier way just over the horizon. Isn't it funny how that works?

So, we have booked a flight for the first weekend in June! My parents, sister, her fiancée, Bryan and I are all going for the weekend.   This is just the trip of the lifetime for me. I have dreamed of this trip for as long as I can remember.

So, that's everything for now! Many more posts to come.