Courtesy photo Cathy and Terri, two of Connie and Vickie's new found siblings in 2012.
click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Sunday, January 06, 2013
A family finds itself
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- This story begins with a woman who did the best she could.
A mother plagued by demons -- but who never stopped fighting them -- ultimately fulfilling her potential and parenting a child.
Along the way, however, she left other children behind -- children left to answer their own questions and find their own ways in the world. This story is about them.
It is a convoluted, emotional tale with many players, twists and surprises. It is a story steeped in love: children's love; mother's love; grandparents' love; love between brothers and sisters.
Most of all, this story is about discovering family.
Vickie Watson is the News-Sun's senior advertising executive. She knew growing up in Illinois that she and her older sister were adopted. They had lived in an orphanage until she was 3 and her sister Patty was 5.
Vickie loved her adopted family and felt part of a whole. As far as she was concerned the only mom in her life was the woman who tucked her into bed every night.
Her sister Patty, however, never felt she fit in. She became restless, leaving home early in search of answers to her past.
The answers, she discovered, were impossible to find due to officially sealed records. Faced with disappointment, Patty lived her life feeling incomplete and unhappy.
Vickie had none of this curiosity or regret. "It never really bothered me, not knowing my birth parents," Watson said, "except for not knowing my medical history."
As the years passed, Patty gave up hope. "I tried all my life and couldn't get anywhere. Because of the sealed records, it was always a dead end," she told the News-Sun.
The situation changed in November 2011 when Illinois unsealed adoption records. Patty immediately began looking for her birth mother, but again, had difficulties finding anything concrete. With her daughter helping, Patty finally turned to someone with experience.
The results were quick. After years of disappointment, Patty found answers within two days -- answers that came with a surprise and a coincidence.
First the surprise -- Patty and Vickie were indeed sisters. In fact, they were two of eight siblings all born to the same mother. No one was sure if there was more than one father.
Now the coincidence -- Patty's daughter lives on the same block as Patty's biological sister Connie, and Patty works with Connie's father-in-law.
Patty discovered she had two older sisters, one older brother, two younger brothers and one younger sister (in addition to Vickie). In birth order the brothers and sisters are: Cathy, Connie, Garry, Patty, Vickie, Rusty, Terrie and Danny.
Some of Patty's questions have been answered, although some of the answers were painful to hear.
Only Cathy, the eldest, could remember Patty or Vickie at all.
One day, Cathy told them, she came home from school to find a baby in a crib at the end of her bed.
A few days later when Cathy came home from school the baby and the crib were gone. Nothing was ever said.
Two years later when another baby in a crib appeared at the end of her bed, Cathy told Vickie, she did her best to pretend it wasn't there. Two days later it wasn't.
It turned out the six siblings, who all grew up around one another, knew they had two other sisters, but no idea of where they'd been sent. For years, efforts were made to find them, but the same dead ends that thwarted Patty, frustrated the family.
Then came the phone call on Memorial Day, and they and Patty were finally brought together.
"The only way you can explain it is comfortable," Patty said, describing her relationship with her new found family. "From the beginning no one felt nervous. We all felt at ease. The only way I can explain is they opened their arms. They call randomly just to tell me they love me. I've gone from feeling lost to having more family than I know what to do with."
Connie said the timing couldn't have been better. She had just lost her son to complications from diabetes when her niece called to tell her Patty and Vickie had been found.
"God took my son away," Connie said, "but he gave me two sisters. It gives me goosebumps," she added. "The day I met Patty we were wearing exactly the same sun glasses."
Patty and Vickie learned that except for the two youngest, their brothers and sisters were raised by different family members, and that there were still questions about which children share fathers, DNA tests are planned to sort it all out, but no one is in a rush.
The woman who gave birth to the eight children is no longer alive to share her dreams or explain her decisions. "I'll never find out all the answers," Patty said. "But all I really wanted is closure, and I got a family."
Vickie is glad Patty found peace. She is also awed at the warmth and openness of her brothers and sisters. She looks forward to a trip this spring when everyone will get together in Illinois.
Even so, she feels a twinge of disloyalty to her true mother, the one who raised her day to day.
"I think this is karma," Vickie said. "Mom died in April. I thought, 'my mom is gone, there goes my family'. Then, in less than a month I discover a whole set of brothers and sisters. It's like my mom is saying from heaven, 'it's OK.'"
my sisters (by: Terrie Hessenflow - 1/7/2013)
im very happy to know who my sisters and brother is after these yrs. I knew my mom had secrets and would get drunk and taunt me with not telling me nothing. For 22 yrs i lived thinking my father was my dad, again another lie he wasnt my father. Now to this day my biological father has nothing to do with me. i have met Patty i love her dearly and she has eyes like mine i cant wait for the day to meet Vickie. I have alot of issues dealing with what my mother has put me thru in my life
Small Banner Ads