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Friday, November 07, 2008

My Other Birthday

I originally wrote this a few years ago on the anniversary of my "other birthday."

The Gift

If you were to ask me what the greatest gift I'd ever been given, the answer would be easy. If you take away the BIG ONES (life itself and salvation), the greatest gift I've ever been given is my family- my parents, if you want to get specific. Most people are just stuck with the family they were born into. Not so in my case.

My biological parents were young and in love (or as in love as you can be at 18). When she found out she was pregnant, he was all set to "do the right thing" (this was a couple of years before Roe v. Wade, and it wasn't an ethical option for them, anyway). They told his parents, then she told her parents. Her parents decided that "doing the right thing" was not an option, and they shipped her off to live with her aunt in Illinois until "it was over." (If I sound bitter toward her parents, I guess I am, a little. Not because they didn't want me to be a part of their family - I like mine just fine, thank you very much. I just hate what they put their daughter through... she has psychological scars that I'm not sure she'll ever recover from.) So, against the young man's wishes, she moved to Illinois and stayed with her aunt and uncle until it was time to give birth.

At the same time, a young couple in Illinois was trying to adopt a baby. They had been married the year before, and because of medical problems, she couldn't have "her own" children. Pregnancy would have probably killed her and the baby. And, because of her medical problems, they started the adoption process right away, knowing how long it might take, and knowing that there was no way of knowing how long she would have before she would become too ill to adopt. They were "next in line" for a baby... but when he was born, he had a few problems and was "temporarily unavailable for adoption." Still in the front of the line, they waited.

Late in the afternoon on November 3, 1969, they got the call. "How would you feel about a baby girl?" "Great!" They called their families to spread the news- there was a new member of the family. The grocery store where his mom worked announced over the PA "June... Dick just called... it's a girl! You have a granddaughter!" Four days later, they took me home. I might have been born on Nov. 3rd, but I became "me" on the 7th. Until that day, I was "Infant Dependent Lamb." On that day I became Elizabeth Ann Jordan, daughter of Dick and Lin.

All said, I had the best of both worlds. I had biological parents who were willing to raise me, but who were also willing to let me go to be raised by others more able. From them I got my dark hair, my fair skin, my freckles, my hyper-extending elbows and my high blood pressure (uh... thanks, Jim... I think). And I had another family, who loved me before they even knew me. From them, I got my love for tradition, my need for close family ties (growing up, the farthest any cousin lived from me was 30 minutes), the roots of my faith in God, the basis of my political leanings, and my taste for licorice. Not a bad combo.

So, 35 years have passed since they brought me home. A lot has happened- Mom had a kidney transplant and had a baby- Steph is no more and no less a daughter to them than me. I grew up in what seems today to be an atypical family- my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived within 30 minutes of each other, and we didn't have a divorce in the family until I was in college. I moved to Oklahoma to go to college, then got married and moved all over the place (but I still miss my family every day, even though it's been 17 years since I moved away- I get back as often as I can and talk to my parents almost every day.) I had twins. I found both of my biological parents ( stories for another day). But still, every once in a while, I'm struck by just how blessed I truly am.

One of my grandfathers once told me that I was their Gift from God. That might be true, but I will always believe that they were my Gift from God.

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