Adoption, Connection, Faith, Family, Generations, History, Hope, Monday Mornings, Parents, Relationships, Spirituality

My Old Kentucky Home

(Disclaimer – I do not speak for all adopted folks. I need to make that clear from the start. The process of adoption was much different in 1958 than it is today. I don’t ever recall hearing about “open” adoptions with other adopted people my age. Everything was “closed” – court records, original birth certificates, anything that might indicate who the birth parents were. Adopted kids had little to no information to go on when it came to the birth parents.)

Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash

I recently wrote about finding my birth mother after sixty-three years. I haven’t named locations, names, or siblings out of respect for family privacy. No one ever knew of her first pregnancy, and I waited to share the details until she said it was okay for me to do so. That changed a week ago. She had lunch with some of my siblings on Friday. She wanted them to know about me.

I was on the tractor Friday morning and just happened to idle down so I could talk to one of Opal’s volunteers. I heard the phone rang. It was a Kentucky number with no ID. I thought it might be my insurance company since they’re in Kentucky, so I answered. “This is Greg. May I help you?”

“Hello, this is your sister Dana. Mom told us about you, and we can’t wait to meet you” (I now have two sisters named Dana). An explosion of joy burst in my gut. We’ve spoken, texted, and messaged several times since.

I found out I have two brothers and three sisters. My youngest brother, Danny, sent me a message Saturday morning telling me how excited he was to have an older brother and to come be part of my family in Kentucky.

I’ve learned so many things that overlap my birth and adopted families. In fact, it’s almost a little eerie when I think about it. My sister and her husband farmed until her husband couldn’t anymore. My other sister, Becky, writes for the local paper and has the old family farm place.

I won’t take up your time, gentle reader, with all the stories and conversations that have taken place in the last couple of days. It’s been a lot for me to process and I’m not sure I could anyway. My wife, Margaret, and I were sitting out on the front porch last night enjoying a quiet summer evening. She told me how happy she was for me. I feel a bit of guilt though. She would love to see the child she had to give up for adoption so many years ago.

Like my own mother, she thought that would never happen. I recently purchased a DNA test for her so maybe, just maybe…

Margaret asked me how I feel about this blessing. I had to pause. I fell silent for a couple of minutes. Finally, I had to admit that I was at a complete loss for words. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s as though my life finally came together. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place, and life makes sense.

I could never have asked for a better family than my adopted parents and sister. I loved my parents (both are gone now) more than I can say. My sister, Dana, is and will always be my sister. I was so grateful when my birth mother asked if I had a good life. The answer was an emphatic yes. Far more than I deserve I can assure you.

My parents may have let me know how special I was to them, but the rest of the world doesn’t usually think so. I once asked my maternal grandmother why she treated my cousins so much better than me. She promptly, with bitterness in her voice, informed me that they were blood, and I was not.

(Aside – I found out in my adult years that Mom had once told her that our family would no longer attend family functions if I wasn’t accepted as their son. Thanks Mom!)

I always thought being adopted was special so most of my peers knew it. I remember having an argument with another kid back in elementary school. I don’t recall why we were arguing but the words “at least my mother wanted me” haunted me for years. Kids say the cruelest things…

I began to make up stories about where I came from. Imagination is the answer to not knowing. I could be whoever you wanted me to be. Fear of rejection or abandonment led to a chameleon approach to living and the addiction and co-dependency that often accompanied it. It took recovery and a loving God many years to deconstruct the lies I told to and about myself. But that’s another story…

Words fall short of explaining the emotions going on. This search could’ve gone in an entirely different direction – one leading to the fear I’ve spent so long overcoming. I’m more comfortable with facts and actions than I am words and feelings. So, I’ll be leaving for Kentucky in the next couple of weeks. The journey continues…

Photo by Joshua Michaels on Unsplash
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She is My Mother…

It was a typical hot July morning last Wednesday at the farm. The heat and humidity was already oppressive and it was only nine AM. I’d just set up the pump and started the irrigation going. I drove down to the section I’d be irrigating and got out to move the hoses, muttering all the while about the sweat that had already soaked my t-shirt. It was going to be triple digits that day. “Summer’s finally here!”, I exclaimed and started down the walkway between sections. That’s when the phone rang.

Normally, I won’t answer a number from out of state and with no identification. However, my insurance is in the same area code as the one on my screen. “This is Greg. May I help you?”

“Hello. This is ******. I received your letter. I am your birth mother”. (I’ll explain the ****** in a moment.)

I had to take a second to let it sink in. “Wow. Thank you for calling me”. Words left. Her voice. I heard her voice. I heard my mother’s voice. Sixty-two years of wondering. Sixty-two years of not knowing and dreaming about where I come from stopped with those words, “I am your birth mother”.

“I want you to know I’ve often thought about you, especially in August (my birthday month). I’ve hoped and prayed you’ve had a loving family and a good life.” Her voice was sweet and soothing, chasing away the doubt I often felt about being wanted.

Tears filled my eyes. My face flushed. Emotions went wild. She cared. She thought about me. I had no idea how much it meant to me.

I regained my composure and told her how blessed I was to have been adopted by two loving parents who wanted me so desperately. They told me I was adopted, that my birth mother loved me enough to give them a wonderful son. From the earliest I can remember, they read The Chosen Baby, a popular book among adoptive parents back then, to remind me how special I was to them. I couldn’t have asked for better parents. I hoped she understood what a priceless gift she had given me.

We talked for over an hour. She told me she had looked me up on the internet. People run so many scams on older folks I can’t rightly blame her. She must’ve seen an old newspaper article which quoted my mom about my gardening experience. It turns out I inherited some of my birth mother’s DNA for gardening as well. She’s no longer to work outside due to her health and she misses it dearly.

I asked about my birth father. She confirmed what I’d figured out through DNA Detectives, the folks that started me on this journey. I suppose I have a half-sister in Southeast Texas.

I asked if her family knows about me – that a child was given up for adoption. She told me that no one has ever known except one of her sisters. The pregnancy was hushed and never spoken of again. She was sixteen, Catholic, and it was a different time. Such things were best left secret. Add her father (my grandfather) to the equation and it all makes sense. He was an alcoholic. She never wished to upset him. I understand completely. That’s for the best in an alcoholic home. Apparently, addiction and alcoholic DNA skip a generation, but that’s another story…

She raised a family of her own. I have half brothers and sisters, but time and circumstances prohibit me from contacting. If things were different…

For this reason, my birth mom shall remain nameless for now. I’m careful to omit any details that might reveal who or where she is. It’s out of respect for this sweet woman who gave me life. I tried to have no expectations when I began this search. It could have gone in directions I’d rather not go. My letter could have gone unanswered or worse, I could’ve heard “please don’t ever contact me again”. Like my friend Edgar always tells me: “Pray for the best and prepare for the worst…”. My prayers have been lovingly answered.

Now I know. I wasn’t discarded or placed for adoption because I wasn’t loved. I was given a chance at a wonderful life by sweet, probably scared, sixteen-year-old girl because that’s just how it was sixty-plus years ago.

This might not make sense in today’s culture or to someone who isn’t adopted. What does it matter if anyone knows about it? For one thing, it was a closed adoption. Neither party knew little, if anything, of each other. That’s the way the system kept it. It was 1958. There were few open adoptions in post-WWII America and even fewer in 1950s Texas. Besides, adoption agencies often painted a pretty, but blatantly false and misleading, picture of the biological parents so the baby would be more appealing to the new family.

I had a Zoom meeting getting ready to start so I had to get off the phone. I had to ask, “May I call you?”.

“Of course, please call”. Her voice cracked just a bit and I heard, “May I call you, too?”

My heart leapt out of my chest. She wants to call me! “Yes, yes, of course. Please call me anytime”.

She softly said, “I love you”.

I managed to blurt out, “I love you, too” before I hung up the phone. The tears flowed freely. “I love you, too…”

I immediately called my wife. “You’ll never guess who I talked to for the last hour. My mother.”

“Wow”. She said all she could say was wow. I get it.

I’ve had some time to think about my next steps. In fact, I’ve thought of little else. I’ve started a list of questions. I also want her to know how blessed my life is and I have her to thank for it all. After all, she put the ball in motion…

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash
Community, Culture, Down On the Farm, Faith, Food Justice, Generations, Gratitude, History, Juneteenth, Monday Mornings, Neighbors, Non-Profits, Nutrition, Opal's Farm, Prayer, Relationships, Revival, Service Organizations, Service to Others, Social Justice, Spirituality, Spring, Tarrant Regional Water District, Unity Unlimited, Inc., Urban Farming, What Can I Do

It Happens Next Saturday!

Opal’s Farm is finally drying out after our first week without the heavy Spring rains. We might even get to use our new pump so graciously installed by our fantastic friends at the Tarrant regional Water District.

The tomatoes are loving the week of sunshine. Various shades of red are beginning to appear in the humungous green bushes. The vegetables have enjoyed the long, cool drink of Spring and face the summer heat with renewed strength.

The crowd at Cowtown Farmer’s Market is growing as well. Each week brings more shoppers for the fresh, locally grown food. There’s something special (and even more tasty and nutritious!) about locally grown produce. We look forward to market days!

That being said…

Opal’s Farm will not be at Cowtown Farmer’s Market this coming Saturday, June 19th. It’s Juneteenth, y’all! We’ll be walking with Ms. Opal for two-and-a-half miles, from Evans Plaza to the Tarrant County Courthouse. Afterwards, we’ll be set up at Panther Island Pavilion for the Juneteenth festivities, including live music, great vendors, and fireworks to celebrate freedom. Go to www.juneteenthftw.com to see the complete schedule and times. Come celebrate with Ms. Opal Lee and the good times marking freedom for us all…

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It’s already May!

It’s difficult to believe it’s already May. April flew by in a scurry of activity. What’s even harder to believe is that all the Spring planting is complete except for the okra that goes in next week. Opal’s volunteers stepped it up and made early Spring a huge success!

April showers showed up just in time to give all the veggies a huge growth spurt. We closed out the month moving into “abnormally dry” as opposed to “moderate drought” status that started the month. The official rainfall total was four-and-a-half inches, but we over five inches at Opal’s Farm. The last few days of rain made access and work onerous but also allowed us some time to catch-up on some things we’ve put off due to Spring planting (like this blog…).

On April 24th, we had a group from my son Adrian’s church, The House Fort Worth, come down to the farm. They have regular “Love Your City” workdays and provide volunteers for projects all around Fort Worth. They did an amazing job getting furrows mulched and ready for the coming summer heat! Thanks to each one who came and Pastor Mark Ortiz for getting us on the list!

The House Fort Worth volunteers!

Our National Resource Conservation representative for urban farms, Mr. Michael Higgins put us in touch with two exciting new endeavors for Opal’s Farm. The first one is with Bashira Chowdurry, a native Houstonian working at Auburn University. Bashira is helping us develop new produce such as Bottle Gourd and Bitter Melon, which are staples in South Asian food. The seeds she sent are growing in our test beds. We’re trying them out to see how they work in North Texas. If all goes well, we’ll be able to grow produce for our South Asian community here in Tarrant County.

The second new project is with new immigrants from East Africa. We eagerly gave a third of an acre plot to Sylvia, Christian, and Gerard, new urban farmers here at Opal’s. They have been hard at work preparing beds and getting Spring planting in. It’s exciting to see the passion of our new farmers. My heart jumped a bit when Sylvia said it reminded her of home! We hope to be a part of making them successful as they meet the needs of the East African community and all our neighbors in Fort Worth.

This Spring has brought new volunteers to Opal’s Farm. We’re so happy to share this journey with other people who want to help us address food insecurity and food apartheid here in Fort Worth. Food brings people together. No one should have to be food insecure or denied access to healthy, fresh produce. No one should have to go without the sense of community that we have at the farm. Visit our website www.unityunlimited.org and sign up for your time to farm with us.

If you don’t have time to volunteer right now, please help us with your financial support. Every dollar you contribute goes to helping your neighbors get access to nutritious fresh produce!

P.S. Cowtown Farmers Market is getting busier with all the Spring crops coming in. The varieties of fresh, local produce may sell out so come early every Saturday so you don’t miss out!

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The Urgency of Now

When is it time Lord?

For Your will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

When is it time Lord?

For us to be one as You and Your Son are one.

When is it time Lord?

To believe the Red Letters in Your book and act like it.

We said it was time when a young lady stayed in her bus seat because she was tired.

That your will could be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

We said it was time when thousands gathered on a hot August day to share a dream,

That we could be one as You and Your Son are one.

We said it was time over and over and over again,

But we still don’t believe the Red Letters in Your book.

The Red Letters are just too idealistic, too unreal,

No one can do that,

Why, you’d have to be a white Jesus.

‘Cause it’s just too hard to believe,

A brown-skinned Palestinian Jew…

If we really believed them, we’d be cut to the very core of our being…

Our sin would be laid bare,

And we might have to change,

And who in the world wants to do that.

“Ignorance is bliss”, so goes the old saying.

And we’re a blissful lot.

We hide behind our stained-glass windows,

and under our steeples,

and talk about how God loves us all,

except He loves some more than others.

You can tell by the color of their skin…

(as if blessings are determined by color)

We all worship You, Father, but “they” need to worship over there,

Maybe it’s just so white folks won’t have to look at themselves.

I don’t know Abba.

I don’t even pretend to understand anymore.

It’s our prayer that…

Pictures of a white man on a black man’s neck have opened our eyes,

Screams of “I can’t breathe” have opened our ears.

We can’t be blind.

We can’t be deaf.

But some of us still choose to be…

I know the time is coming.

when Your will is done on Earth as it is in heaven.

I know the time is coming,

when we will be one as You and the Son are one.

I know the time is coming,

When the words of Your Son shine as bright as the sun in our lives

When people will know of Your love by our love.

When men are “no longer judged by the color of their skin,

But the content of their character”.

I know the time is coming,

it’s long overdue.

To be silent is to be complicit.

It hurts too much to be quiet.

The time is now Father.

My time is now.

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com