My Sister’s Story
On September 15, 1959, my sister was born, “died,” and started a new life. On August 12, 2009, she returned to her origins.
By that September 2009, the month in which both Vicki Sue’s (on the 15th) and my (on the 24th) birthdays fall, Susan Mary had found her birth family and a part of herself she thought she’d lost forever. What a 50th birthday present—and what a reward for an impulsive telephone call. . . . Or maybe it was a case of “spontaneous inspiration”?
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I hope you have enjoyed reading about my sister’s path from adoption to reunion with her birth family. Although our story has a happy ending, I recognize that each adoption story is unique and may follow a very different path. Nevertheless, I offer this story to all those who yearn to reconnect with their beginnings in an effort to feel whole again—and return home.
Here I present a timeline of events in an effort to illustrate the synchronicities underlying our story:
- September 15, 1959: Susan Mary was born and was adopted a few days later
- September 1959: Pam started second grade in Northeast Philly and met her “friend-sister” Sandee Crespy (Kline)
- December 29, 2008: Our father died; Wayne found Susan Mary’s registration of birth in our father’s papers, planting the idea in Pam’s mind of looking for their “long-lost” sister
- Winter 2009: Pam received an email from Sandee seeking help for some of her family members; this inspired Pam to sign up with a family-matching registry to try to find her sister
- July 2009: Pam told her Aunt Ceil the story of her lost baby sister; somehow, her aunt had never heard the story before
- August 12, 2009: Pam received a phone call from her father’s second wife, Emily, who had received an earlier call from someone named “Vicki” saying she had been adopted; her birth date was September 15, 2009; and her birth name was Susan Mary, a fact she had just learned seven years before when she found her adoption papers following her adoptive father’s death (she had known she was adopted, but not any details)
- August 15, 2009: Pam and Vicki Sue met at the Stockton Inn to exchange papers and photos to confirm that they were indeed sisters–which they did! Vicki told Pam that the whole time she was growing up her favorite names were Susan and Mary, a fact that astounded her when she’d discovered her adoption papers seven years before
- August 16, 2009: Pam announced the “rebirth” of her third child to their mother; later that week, the nervous-but-happy birth-mom called her “reborn” nervous-but-happy daughter
- August 22, 2009: Wayne, wife Anne, daughter Lindsay, and husband Doug met Vicki Sue and family–husband Howard, older son Dan, and younger son Jason–at his and Anne’s, house
- August-September 2009: The mother-child reunion finally happened in Mom’s apartment; Pam and husband, Farok, met Vicki Sue’s family for a luncheon at Olive Garden; Pam and Mom visited Sandee’s Mom in the hospital and told her and Sandee’s sister, Ronnie, Vicki Sue’s story, complete with photos; tears of joy and happy babbling ensued
- September 15, 2009: Vicki Sue turned an elated 50 years old
- October 18, 2009: We held our first family-reunion “Oktoberfest”; attending were Mom and her friend Joyce; Aunt Ceil and her other niece Nancy; Wayne and Anne; Lindsay and Doug; Pam, Farok, and Matt (my son); Vicki Sue, Howard, Dan, and Jason; Phill and Noelle (our step-brother and sister-in-law); and, of course, Sandee, who came to meet her soul-sister, Vicki Sue; sadly, they never met again
- November 2009: Our father’s house was sold and his phone number was disconnected–had Vicki Sue waited much longer to dial that number, we may never have been reunited
- January 2010: Sandee became ill with recurrent afternoon fevers after returning from a trip to Israel with her husband, Mitch, to visit their daughter, Malka, and her family; Pam drove to see Sandee in her home for what turned out to be the last time
- August 14, 2010: Pam and friend Sue visited Sandee at Johns Hopkins–exactly one year after Vicki Sue and Pam met; it was our final girl-time together, and it was good
- September 27, 2010: Sandee died of leukemia
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As I’ve told you in this story, Sandee became “Susan Mary’s” replacement in my seven-year-old world, which had been shattered by a temporary parental separation and a private agreement to give the third child up for adoption. Sandee lived just long enough to meet my sister, whom we call Vicki Sue to honor her adoptive and birth names, after her remarkable re-emergence in 2009 from the shadows of our past. Other than my family, no one was more moved or jubilant that I’d found my sister than the one who’d taken her place all those years ago. Sandee and Vicki Sue met at our family’s first Oktoberfest on October 18, 2009, 50 years after we had lost Vicki Sue and 11 months before Sandee died, at age 57, of the leukemia that was starting to leach the life out of her–and that she didn’t yet know she had.
After Sandee’s funeral in September 2010, Sandee’s sister Ronnie gave me a hollow, ivory-colored ceramic heart with a separate, smaller solid heart in the center–the image that appears above. The idea was to bury the small solid heart with the beloved deceased and for the bereaved to keep the hollow heart as a remembrance of both loss and eternal connection. Although I helped carry my childhood friend to her grave, I did not place the solid heart in her coffin. Instead, I gave it to Vicki Sue. Sandee would have loved knowing that my broken heart actually has a living center. You can read a little more about Sandee in my December 6, 2013, post commemorating her birthday.
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As I experienced the events I’ve related in this story, they felt very much as if they were somehow being inspired–and perhaps even influenced–by powers beyond those available to us on this side of the veil. Back in the winter of 2009, my first intuition was that, from wherever he was, my recently deceased father made amends for his part in the family separation by somehow inspiring in me an impulse to find my sister. This impulse was further reinforced by Sandee’s “rescue” email on behalf of her family. Within months, my sister–after 50 years–had an impulse to try to find her birth family and dialed my father’s number, which would be disconnected within three months. Shortly after they finally met in 2009, my friend-sister, Sandee, met the birth-sister, Vicki Sue, whom she had replaced in my life in 1959; sadly, Sandee died less than a year later.
And Vicki Sue, not knowing her birth name until adulthood, announced that her favorite names since she was a little girl were Susan Mary.
You, of course, may draw your own conclusions. I have drawn mine.
Postscript: Vicki’s adoptive mother recently died on Sunday, November 10, from complications of emergency abdominal surgery; she had been living in a care facility. Happily, Vicki Sue now has us, her old-but-new extended family.
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I will end by deferring to a great poet, who says in few words what I have tried to say in many:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
From “Little Gidding,” the last of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets