Posted on

continued from page family couldn’t ….

continued from page 
	family couldn’t ….
A FAMILY COMPLETE AT CHRISTMAS — Gene and Amber pose for first-ever family photos with Chris’ lovely family (L-R: Eli, Luke, Amber, Gene, Chris, Leslie, Jake, Mikah and Grace).
continued from page 
	family couldn’t ….
A FAMILY COMPLETE AT CHRISTMAS — Gene and Amber pose for first-ever family photos with Chris’ lovely family (L-R: Eli, Luke, Amber, Gene, Chris, Leslie, Jake, Mikah and Grace).

continued from page

family couldn’t help, so I gave you up. I never considered aborting you.”

She told us that she only told two people her secret — her mother and her boyfriend (my husband’s birth father). She and her mother talked to the family’s priest, who helped make arrangements in nearby Austin for Margaret to live in a Catholic charities home in the weeks leading up to her due date.

“The nuns there were wonderful and treated me with kindness and love,” she said. “They gave us fictitious names to protect our real identities. I was Naomi Bey.”

Gene — Margaret’s first-born son — was born in secret on a June morning in 1963. And though she knew that the couple adopting her son would change his name, she named him, “Michael Joseph,” a revelation that gave me chills. Since I’ve known my husband, he’s said on many occasions, “I’ve never liked my name. I wish my mother had named me, ‘Michael.’” Gene’s half-sister, Kim, dabbed tears a few times during the video call, but noted that she was thrilled to learn that she has an older brother.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “I can’t believe Mom never told any of us. All this time, we thought she couldn’t keep a secret, but wow, what a secret she has kept from us all these years! We are still in shock.”

Kim introduced us to her husband, Randy, and told us about their two daughters (Rylee and Kamri), their sons-in-law (Dylan and Jules), and their granddaughter (Isla) and grandson (Cal), both just months old.

At the end of the Face-Time session, Gene’s newly found mom and sister said, “We want to know you.”

And just like that, my husband and I became part of another family — his biological family. Though a lot to process, it was, without a doubt, the most beautiful Thanksgiving ever — a true example of love, gratitude, answered prayers, blessings and most of all, family.

In the days that followed that initial video call with Margaret, Kim and Randy, my husband’s phone blew up with more text messages, photos, and greetings from his Texas family.

But nothing prepared him for the text message he got from his mother a few days later.

A HOLLY, JOLLY CHRISTMAS Gene stared at his phone and then looked at me.

“Texas Mom has invited us to attend their family’s Christmas party on December 10th near Houston,” he said, rotating the front of his phone so I could see the image of the invitation. “It’s next Satur-day… I want to go.”

And that’s how it came to pass that Gene and I dropped everything and journeyed to Houston.

“Wow, that’s fast,” a few friends and family members said, voicing a little concern about our sudden travel plans.

“Not really,” I replied. “Gene’s been waiting for this for 59 years. That’s a long time to wait to meet your biological family. He wants to go, and I’m going with him.”

It was quite a homecoming for Gene. They all but rolled out a red carpet for him. They brought out a bottle of champagne, and we toasted the reunion. They had prepared a grand spread of delicious food items for us. After dinner, they presented Gene with three very special gifts from under Margaret’s Christmas tree. First, they gave him an electronic photo frame that they plan to fill with family photos and videos.

Second, his mother gave him a whimsical snow globe replica of Frosty the Snowman. Lights in the snowman’s hat project snowflakes onto the ceiling.

They also gave him glass ornaments that once hung on his grandmother’s Christmas tree.

“Keepsakes from your biological grandmother,” I whispered to my overwhelmed husband.

“I love this so much,” my husband replied, his voice low and cracking a bit.

Before we left that evening, we presented Texas Mom with copies of all of Gene’s school photos from his kindergarten year to the day he graduated from high school — each marking the milestones from childhood to adulthood.

On Friday, we spent the day with his mother and sister looking at old family photos, learning about the family, and getting to know one another.

On Friday evening, we met my husband’s brother, Chris, and his wife in person for the first time — another emotional moment.

“You’re real,” Chris said after their first hug. “You’re real, and you’re here. I have a brother!”

We shared a meal together. We shared stories. We are slowly getting to know these wonderful people, and we like them very much — all of them!

On Saturday, we traveled with his mother, his sister and brother-in-law to Kingwood and attended the family Christmas party at the home of one of Gene’s bubbly first cousins, Kelly. She and her husband, Greg, prepared red beans and rice and gumbo for the crowd. We met Gene’s Uncle Mike and Aunt Phyllis, Uncle Bill and Aunt Cindy, Aunt Judy, and Aunt Claire. We met other cousins, as well. We took photos. We laughed. We had a hoot that day.

“These people are great,” I said to Gene at one point. “They are a lot like our family back in Georgia.”

“They all seem so familiar to me,” he said. “I don’t know why…” “Gene, this is your tribe. You finally found your tribe,” I said. “These are your people.”

Before we left the party, Gene overheard his mother sharing a story with a relative.

“Every year, I drew a heart on June 8th on my calendar, but no one ever asked me what the heart meant,” she said.

“When I heard her say that, I realized she never forgot about me, and that she loved me for all those years,” he told me. “I always wondered. Now I know. My mom never stopped loving me.”

Like the other nights, Gene and I retreated to the hotel and attempted to get some much-needed rest, but we couldn’t calm our minds enough to drift off into a good, solid sleep.

“Will we ever sleep again?” I asked him the following morning. “I’m exhausted.”

On Sunday, we drove to Katy, Texas and visited with Chris and Leslie’s family — another spectacular day. We shared a marvelous meal together and conversation. Chris showed us his milkweed plants and passion vines and talked about the life cycles of Monarch and Gulf Fritillary butterflies. We took family photos in their backyard. Their younger daughter, Grace, gave us an impromptu piano concert that brought tears to our eyes. We popped into a nearby grocery store to say “Hello,” to their youngest son, Eli, who had to work that afternoon.

Every single day spent in Houston was full of firsts and the meaningful moments meant to be cherished and treasured forever. Leaving was hard, but we are already making plans for upcoming visits with family members.

“I think this was the best weekend of my life,” Gene said upon our return to the Peach State. “It was so much better than I ever imagined. I like everyone so much.”

His cup runneth over. Gene’s in a better place than he was before all of this started. It’s changed him forever.

There’s a line from a song by The Chicks that states, “Who do we become, without knowing where we started from?” Thanks to the magic of DNA, my husband’s story is finally being told to him. He has finally seen faces that look like his. He’s finally able to fill in some gaps and understand the biological links and connections that most of us take for granted. And he has experienced a sense of belonging that he says has been missing in his life.

As I write this in mid-December and the world slows down to observe the birth of the Savior born in Bethlehem to a young, unwed peasant girl from Nazareth, I am filled with feelings of deep love, wonder, belief, hope, salvation, and celebration. For my entire life, I’ve been drawn to nativity scenes — depictions of the birth of Jesus — because they not only chronicle the modest setting and circumstances in which Christ was brought into our world, but also because the nativity celebrates a mother’s everlasting love for her child. I’m reminded of Mary’s love of Jesus, and the precious nature of relationships between mothers and their children — inherent, eternal connections. This year, I have witnessed such an enduring love firsthand, and it has cracked my heart wide open.

As I gaze at our multicolor Christmas tree this year and see the glittery presents underneath its branches, I understand that nothing purchased from a store can ever compare to the warm, open-armed, hospitable welcome Gene’s biological family members have extended to him, and to me. They have received us with great love and offered us a seat at their tables, and for that, we are grateful.

May the same joy we have experienced these last few weeks fill your hearts and homes this season. Merry Christmas!

A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER — Gene’s mother and sister gave him three Christmas gifts during his trip to Houston including mirrored glass diamonds that belonged to his maternal grandmother, Rubie. Pictured is Gene placing one of the heirloom ornaments on his Christmas tree in Georgia.

REUNITED — Shown at the Christmas party just outside of Houston, Gene and his mother, Margaret, have texted, spoken on the phone or FaceTimed every day since the first contact just before Thanksgiving.

Recent Death Notices