I clearly remember the day I discovered a ‘slight’ issue with my lineage. An inquisitive child, it was not unusual for me to be delving about in things that I was not supposed to. On that day in 1964 at 7 years old, the objective was a long upper shelf in a utility area between my bedroom and the bathroom. All sorts of adult treasures were stored there, and I soon found myself digging through a tin container of photos and documents. One of them stopped me in my tracks. 

Once upon a time, hospitals created a ‘birth certificate’ for a newborn child–complete with tiny little footprints. The folded up parchment I held in my hands was issued by St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Illinois, and contained a real surprise. The original information was written in blue fountain pen ink in blanks intended for the usual information– the time of birth, parents names, and the delivering doctor. What was easy to see is that someone had attempted to erase my mother’s name and had overwritten another over the top. It was still quite legible–and the overwriting was in black ink. The line for ‘father’ was obviously originally left blank–and was also inscribed with the more recent black ink.

The original ‘mother’ line contained the name of a person I had always believed to be my prodigal aunt, Barbara Thrush. Armed with this document I went to find my ‘mom’, Marcella Thrush. After a bit of obfustication, it came out that ‘Aunt” Barb was indeed my biological mother. Curiously, I never thought to ask who the other partner in this situation was… So there it was, my ‘parents’ were actually my aunt & uncle–and I was an ‘in the family’ adoption. This news was taken with great aplomb for a person my age and helped to explain a great deal about family attitudes and comments that struck me as curious.

Barbara Thrush was a ‘wild child’ from the very beginning of her life. Born in 1932 as the youngest of a family containing two brothers and a cousin–she was brash, precocious, defiant and somewhat delinquent. Her father, Leroy Thrush had died of a heart attack at 45 when she was 5 years old. Brother Leroy did his best to fill in the male role of the family as the oldest sibling. By the middle 1940s, she had been sent by her mother Eliza Williams to live with brother Leroy & his wife Marcella (my future adoptive parents) in Cadillac, Michigan with the hope of taming her. In a few years, she reached her age of majority and embarked on a lifelong career in food and beverage services.

By the middle 1950s, she had become what was know as a ‘popular girl.’ Essentially this meant that she dated a number of men–and had committed to becoming a brassy dressing redhead. She was also well-known to be brash & direct in conversation–whether what she had to say was appropriate or not.  Sometime in that time frame, she was working at a very popular supper club & steak house in the Peoria Heights area of Peoria, Illinois–the name escapes me, but not far from Glen Oak Park. Getting to the root of the matter, over the course of 45 years she refused to reveal his name–but certain details escaped in a series of visits with her.

Mom & I at hospice 2012, age 80. She passed less than a week later.

Our relationship over the years was episodic and often uneasy. During my early childhood when she was simply “Aunt Barb” she would flit in with presents and visits. By this time she was living & working in Des Moines, Iowa–and had married a man named Timothy Charmichael. I visited her during a trip to Peoria in 1974 and was told a series of fictions about my father that later proved untrue. It was during a trip to see her in 2006 that some details came out. We were driving around town looking at ‘old places’ when she showed me the steakhouse she had worked at–and a two-story stone carriage house several blocks away.

Her coy comment was “that’s where you were made.” Other details emerged, such as he had either joined the Army or traveled to Germany by the time she discovered her pregnancy. I was told that she called him when she was about 3 months pregnant, and he responded with “what am I supposed to do, drop my life and come back?” Obviously, that did not happen. Never would she reveal his name–even on her deathbed in 2012.

So there is the root of my quest–to discover who my father is–and know the other half of my genealogical heritage. To date, my investigations to find paternal family through yDNA testing has not born fruit–and I have tested through multiple labs and listed the findings with those that accept the information and resources such as gedmatch.com. Ultimately, it all has only led back up the tree for my matriarchal lineage.  

After ‘the cat was out of the bag’ I was told over the years how much I looked like my father, and how he had seen me several times in my early childhood.  I have no recollection of this–but do not disbelieve the information.  Reading over the years the experiences of those who were seeking and had found their biological parent(s) has given me great insight into the emptiness that comes of not knowing–and the calm satisfaction which comes from discovery.  Those that knew the truth in my family are now long passed–and cannot offer any testimony. 

Given the reality it’s over 60 years later, ‘mystery dad’ may no longer survive–but assured confidence that I have younger half-brothers and sisters remains strong.  Perhaps it is just a matter of time–waiting out future DNA testers–or something someone knows, I believe in the end truth will out.  Hopefully, that will happen before all of us reach the age where we need to shuttle back and forth from nursing homes to meet each other…

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