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Meaningful Gifts

Meaningful Gifts
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
Meaningful Gifts
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

1) In November 2022, my husband, Gene, found his biological family. Through a DNA test, he first discovered a half brother (Chris), which led him to the identity of the Texas woman who gave birth to him six decades earlier (Margaret, or as we now call her, “Texas Mom”), which led him to another half sibling (Kim), the identity of his biological father (Bill), more half siblings and an army of nieces and nephews. Each new revelation precipitated phone conversations, video calls and texts and eventually trips to Texas to meet these strangers who share my husband’s genetic material.

Early on, Gene’s biological mother explained the circumstances leading to his adoption. She found herself young, unmarried and pregnant in the early sixties and her family didn’t have the financial means to help her raise a child. So she went to a Catholic home for care and agreed to give up her first born child.

“I remember that day. They let me hold you for a while, but they said that your new parents had arrived to take you home, and I had to let you go,” Texas Mom told him back in November. “The nuns took you away.”

Texas Mom told three people she was pregnant — Rubie (her mother), Bill (her boyfriend at the time), and the family priest, and so Gene was born in secret on a June morning in 1963. Though his biological mother knew that the couple adopting him would change his name, she looked down at her baby boy and whispered, “Michael Joseph — that’s your name.”

“I never forgot about you,” she told Gene. “I’ve always loved you and hoped that you were well, that you had a good life, and that we would meet again one day. Every year, I drew a heart on June 8th on my calendar, but no one ever asked me what the heart meant.”

Gene and Texas Mom have grown close in a short amount of time. I don’t think a day has passed since December when they haven’t communicated.

So in early May, I asked my husband, “What are you planning to send your biological mother for Mother’s Day?”

My question sent an immediate panic through his body. A bath robe or flowers just didn’t seem to fit the occasion — their first Mother’s Day together. And so after a few days and multiple conversations, Gene decided to get his biological mother a silver bangle bracelet with engraved messages on both the outside and inside of the metal. A set of coordinates are engraved on the outside — the location of where Gene was born near the Catholic home for teen moms. He had, “Love, Michael” engraved on the inside — a nod to the name Texas Mom gave him all those years ago.

He placed something else in the box, too — a dainty cup and saucer from his adoptive mother’s collection. He wrote a note explaining that he wanted Texas Mom to have something from the woman who raised him, because he felt certain that if his adoptive mother was alive, she would want to say, “Thank you,” to the woman who brought Gene into this world, making it possible for her to be his mom.

A few days before Mother’s Day, Texas Mom received the gift, and though it was early, she opened the box. She called Gene immediately to tell him how his gift had touched her heart.

Here in Georgia, Gene and I breathed a sigh of relief. We were both glad to know that she loved the memento that commemorated their shared secret — the moments Gene’s biological mother held him in her arms before she said, “Good bye.”

But then Gene’s new half sister, Kim, called.

“Oh great!” she said. “Now what am I supposed to get Mom for Mother’s Day? I can’t top that!”

She was joking, of course, and Gene and his new half sister laughed and talked for an hour. When they finished their phone conversation, and my husband fell into the sofa, I looked up and said, “I hate to bring this up, but have you thought about how you will acknowledge Bill on Father’s Day this year? He’s your biological father. That’s coming up in June.”

The grin on my husband’s face disappeared, and a fresh panic set in.

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