Yay and yikes

When my father had CABG surgery, every single clipboard attached to his bed had “no family medical history” written in letters so large that it was impossible not to see it. It didn’t stop doctors, nurses and social workers from asking him repeatedly why he had no family medical history.

Among the many, many revelations in the genealogy saga are multiple relatives who had strokes in their fifties. I consider this knowledge a win. It’s too late for my father’s doctors to know and fight this enemy before it attacks, but it will be written in every grandchild’s medical records. Yay for a family medical history. Adoptees should not have to spend two decades paying fees and sending notarized letters to get medical records.

Medical history is the gold medal in adoption record searching, but the silver medal is an old photograph, an image that allows vivid imaginations to see familiar eyes, noses and body types. The medical records feed the brain, but photographs feed the heart. My brother and I were prepared to make the trek to middle TN to search the boxes of ancient records in two church basements in our quest for photographs. The funeral home that nearly everyone uses would have been on our schedule too. Funeral home directors know more family stories than bartenders, but they are better at keeping secrets. When the funeral home director is yet another fraternity brother, there is the possibility of seeing an old photograph from a funeral program that predates online archives. Nothing in life is simple or risk-free. Life is messy. Our quest for photographs has become difficult and dangerous, because…

both of my father’s birth parents are alive.

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