I’m a True Daughter of the American Revolution
The men throughout my ancestry served in various wars and were proud to serve their country. I just wish I had known about them earlier.
The only scholarship to go unclaimed during my senior year of high school was the one offered by “The Daughters of the American Revolution.” I could have qualified, but the secrets of a sealed adoption denied me the opportunity to grow up knowing my remarkable ancestry.
I was raised with the following understanding: I have three fathers. Yes, you read that right. Two are deceased and one is my Heavenly Father who is very much alive. My adoptive father, “Dad,” always harbored the hope that I really was his. He never wanted my siblings to argue that I “wasn’t their real sister,” so he kept my adoption secret. He died before they learned of his deception.
Dad raised me with the lie that my biological father “never even wanted to hold me.” I doubt he ever realized the emotional torture such a statement would have on a 12-year-old kid. My biological father, whom I never remember meeting, died when I was six years old. As a drunk driver, he wrapped his car around a tree and left us all behind. It’s through his ancestry that I learned about my heritage as a Daughter of the American Revolution.
My Family Members Have Gone to War Throughout History
He and my mother were divorced, but he enlisted into the Vietnam War when he learned my mom was pregnant with me so that she’d have a stable income to count on. They say he was never the same when he returned. He was a gunman on a helicopter. I can only imagine the horrors he saw pulling the trigger, watching our men run to the chopper while being shot from behind. I know I would never be the same. Sometimes my heart aches to ask him questions, to thank him for providing for me, for serving his country.
My paternal grandfather served in World War II, in England, where he met and married my grandmother. I met her once on the phone when I met my half-sister. It seems she didn’t believe I was hers. Disappointing. This grandfather’s ancestry includes a letter written to one of his great-grandfathers, a militiaman who fought alongside General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. The letter is in an attempt to pay him for his service. He refused to accept. It was an honor to serve his country. It makes me proud to know I hail from a family of such character. I received the gift of this inheritance from a family member at my grandfather’s funeral.
My maternal grandfather also served in World War II and was a grand storyteller. He served on a mine-sweeper ship in the Pacific. I remember his description of seeing floating houses in the ocean. They thought there had been an island flooded nearby when they realized these were massive sea turtles. (The things you remember as a kid.) These stories are tokens of my history and explain a certain deep-seated pride and patriotism that I’ve felt since my childhood. The stories of sacrifice in service to an ideal greater than self inspired me to believe in a life of service to others. My grandfather was a recipient of two Purple Hearts.
I Learned About My Ancestry Too Late
I pause here to note this tidbit of information would have been nice to know at the time of my high school graduation. Here again was another scholarship opportunity I missed based on not knowing my family’s history. Without pining over missed opportunities, I simply acknowledge these details could have made the difference in my attending—instead of just being accepted to—the University of Southern California. I ended up at City College, and it took me five years to obtain a two-year degree, but I graduated with zero college debt.
I made choices. I moved on. But, how much loss have I suffered because someone denied me the opportunity to learn who I am and from whom I descend?
I spent the key years of my childhood running through the forests of Mississippi where I learned my “Yes, Ma’ams” and “No, Sirs.” It was a place founded on deep respect and profound Confederate pride. It was also very racially prejudiced. I knew a very poor Black family with five children who went all summer long with no shoes, and whose house had no running water. That never stopped us from playing stickball together or locking someone in the outhouse. Color-blindness to skin is a beautiful thing children have.
I learned later that my Dad’s mother was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian. She never let it slip. It was a disgrace in the South at that time, so she buried her ancestry and the rich heritage that could have come to me by the spirit of adoption.
Not to harp on the scholarship theme, but because I was legally adopted by a Native American, that too could have had an impact on the opportunities afforded me when considering my options for college.
My Sealed Adoption Prevented Me From the Truth
Lastly, I confess to a mistake that I’ve regretted for years now.
My maternal grandmother gifted me a set of Tree of Knowledge encyclopedias, which sat in a storage box in the garage for years. Cleaning it out after a church yard sale at our house one day, I didn’t realize that the box of encyclopedias—containing a key piece of my grandmother’s history—was part of a stack of boxes going to Goodwill. Years later, I remembered the picture my grandmother told me about: Her grandfather in Arkansas riding in a car with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. All she remembered was that he was an important man who gave all his money away to help people during the Great Depression and died penniless. Guess what I learned when I went for the encyclopedias? I’d donated them to Goodwill. I’ve been heartsick ever since.
My grandmother passed away after years of dementia. I had tried to sit down with her on several occasions to learn of her history, but because she was raised with the firm idea that one shouldn’t talk about oneself, I know only her maiden name and a few scant details of stories to piece together the mystery. Who was my ancestor riding in the car with President Roosevelt?
In looking for the picture on the internet, I found a man sharing my grandmother’s maiden name from Arkansas, a politician who ran for president himself, and has a picture commemorating his service in the halls of the U.S. Senate. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to know I have a relative with a noble resume of service to this country of whom I know almost nothing and have little proof of being able to make a formal family connection.
In the reliquary of my mind, I polish the trinkets of my heritage with wonder and awe. The sealed adoption put a fatherless child in a family. The secrecy orphaned me from my ancestry.