Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Finding My Roots

I’m a big fan of shows like Finding Your Roots or We’ll Meet Again.  I guess I’m a sucker for people discovering their heritage, finding stories of their family’s past, or reconnecting with someone that impacted their life significantly, yet lost touch with for many years. 

I also love watching videos from the program Momondo – the DNA Journey – giving folks an opportunity to discover their ancestry through DNA – many discovering their roots to various countries and people groups that they never imagined.

While I was enjoying these shows and videos as pure entertainment, I was actually contacted by someone, claiming to be my sister.  Backtracking a bit – In my late teens, I discovered that my biological father was not the man that I remembered raising me and growing up with (until the age of 7, when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack).  This information was only discovered as I was attempting to get working papers – back in the days when you had to physically trek down to the Board of Health to verify your birth certificate and then apply for this privilege to start earning an income.

Without going into all the details, I learned that my biological father left my mother when I was very young, and she later began a new life, with the man I had thought was my Daddy.  I have vivid memories of my time with Daddy, times of running to the store together, other times hanging out under the Triborough Bridge in Astoria, on warm summer nights, as he hung out with his buddies and chatted about life.  He took me everywhere and we were always together.

I also remember many Sundays when my Mom would stay home with my two younger sisters and he and I would head over to visit his sister (who was the matriarch of the family). We would always find her in the kitchen, surrounded by massive pots of sauce with meat, cooking her regular Sunday Italian dinner for the huge family that would be spending the day. Since these were special visits, when it was only the two of us popping in for a short hello – we would arrive before everyone came by.  But that didn’t mean I didn’t get to enjoy a dish of pasta with some meatballs and some delightful Italian bread before we left to go back home to my Mom and sisters.  It was a special “secret” between me, Daddy and my Aunt – since my mother would always say, “Don’t go eating all sorts of stuff, because I’m making a nice dinner for us when you get back.”

So when I found out that he wasn’t actually my biological father – I really didn’t care.  I guess I figured my biological father left my mother when I was very young, never attempted to see me again and this man loved me, loved my mother, and loved my sisters.  So in my heart – he was my father.

So now back to the present - I am contacted by someone claiming to be my sister. She had been adopted at birth, and raised by wonderful parents, who also had three other daughters.  She knew she was adopted, and was definitely raised and loved as one of their own daughters. Sometime in her teens, she sat with her parents and asked tons of questions about her biological mother. They shared many stories and answered anything she asked.  Eventually she decided to search for her mother.  After many, many years of searching through records, she finally did a DNA search that led to a first cousin. That discovery lead her to information about her biological father – which also led her to me – her sister – and my two sisters I’ve grown up with – who are also her half-sisters.

We emailed each other, sent text messages back and forth, and shared tons of info, pictures, and stories. Then we arranged a time to have a telephone conversation.  I was amazed at how nervous and excited I was about this call.  I called her on a Saturday afternoon, and we spoke for over three hours.  Speaking with her came so naturally and was super easy, as if we had known each other for our entire lives.  Since then, we have been in touch constantly.  She then planned a trip to come up to NY (where her son lives). We are counting down the days until we will actually meet each other and continue on our journey as sisters.  Our only regret is that she was unable to connect with me while our mother was still alive. 

We’ve been sending tons of pictures of each other back and forth, comparing how we looked at different stages of our lives; 

. . . when we were kids (with our sisters),

. . . when we were young moms, 

. . . pictures of our sons and our grandchildren, 

. . . and any other picture we think would be fun to share with each other.

I sometimes feel as though I am watching one of the episodes on one of those programs I enjoy so much – and then see myself and my sister on the screen.  There’s such an array of emotions – dealing with betrayal and abandonment, discovering secrets, and then new discoveries.  But as we move forward on this journey, I am excited where this will lead in our future – as sisters.

I am confident that this very time was known by my Lord, from the moment each of us was formed in our mother’s womb, and our future is in his hands as well.  I am thankful for this discovery in my life, and to be on this journey . . . along with my sister.

"For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you."
- Psalm 139:13-18

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The End - a Bit More Intimately

Montauk is definitely my little haven. Not only for the sweetest vacations – but experiencing the true life of Montauk – being the seaports, fishermen, fishing vessels, etc.  All this gives this place a vibe that can been felt as you walk around, eat at local restaurants, and learn about the people of Montauk.

This past summer, I stayed in Montauk for vacation, staying at a place I usually do and visiting some eateries that have become favorites. But I am always trying to explore new places to visit or eat at – leaning more towards, “Where do the locals go?”

Two favorite spots are Inlet Seafood Restaurant, owned by six commercial Montauk fishermen, and Westlake Fish House, a spot you might find some local fisherman stopping for breakfast at 5 am before heading out to sea. Also a place to watch as fishing boats dock and unload their catch. Both serving only the freshest fish, and always delivering on the best atmosphere and feel of Montauk.

But, I’ve learned by visiting during the tourist/vacation season, I still haven’t experienced the true “life” of Montauk.  I hope to visit during a slow time, when many restaurants and places to stay will be closed, and the local life will be the true experience in this haven at The End of Long Island.  Perhaps then, I will understand more of the local life of Montauk, something that deep inside of me thinks I would love.

While visiting the Montauk Point Lighthouse, I had the privilege to meet and briefly chat with Henry Osmers. He’s a historian and tour director, and has authored many books regarding the Lighthouse.  I was able to get a signed copy of his book, On Eagle’s Beak, detailing many facets of Montauk – from the settlement of the peninsula and construction of the light station, to the keepers who staffed it, as well as Montauk Light’s long struggle with erosion.

I also visited a favorite bookstore, A Tale of Two Sisters, located in the center of the village.  I’m always looking for a book written by some local authors.

I came across A Spec in the Sea, by John Aldridge and Anthony Sosinski, two Montauk lobster fishermen of the Anna Mary.  Being a story of survival, detailing the rescue of one of the authors after falling overboard in the middle of the night during a routine fishing trip, this immediately captured my eye.  I purchased this book, and just recently finished reading it.

A Spec in the Sea was an amazing survival and rescue story of John Aldridge, but it also gives a look through a window of the world in the life of fishermen.  Written in a way that not only follows John Aldridge’s fight for life, but also portrays the struggles of commercial fishing, the many regulations they have to deal with, dangers while their livelihood depends on heading out to the middle of the ocean, and the “family” that is like non other, in this world of fishing. 

Aldridge (with hose), Sosinski and Mike Migliaccio (in cap) on the Anna Mary. 
Photo Credit: Daniel Shea for The New York Times

John’s rescue was not only handled by the Coast Guard, but also 21 commercial boats volunteered to look for him as well, and set out one by one, keeping constant contact with the Coast Guard and John’s fishing partner and best friend, Anthony.  Searching and surveying the massive area of the ocean, in probable areas John might be, after falling overboard and being carried by the current and swells of the ocean for just under 12 hours, was a feat that was unimaginable.  The “family” of fisherman continued with a passion, searching for one of their own.
Photo Credit: Video Still from The United States Coast Guard

John Aldridge with member of the Coast Guard after his dramatic rescue. 
Photo Credit: John Aldridge and Anthony Sosinski

Reading A Spec in the Sea, I felt I personally met each person in this story. This story will stay with me a very long time, and it only made me love Montauk, the people, and its magic even more!