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Monday, January 24, 2011


A friend told me to watch Oprah TODAY (she insisted!!) and so I did. I was stunned to hear that Oprah's mother Vernita had a baby she gave up for adoption 47 years ago, and didn't tell anyone, including Oprah.  Today's show revealed their FAMILY SECRET - and their reunion with the adoptee Patricia!
Patricia, a lovely 47 year-old mom from Wisconsin, got her non-identifying information packet along with several clues back in 2007 and she tried to reach out to her natural mom Vernita -- more than once (through the state offices) -- but Vernita said "no contact." (Sound familiar - mine did, too.)
When all the clues and birthdates fit together, Patricia tried to contact her older sister "Oprah" back in 2007 but never had success. Finally Patricia went to a niece in Milwaukee and did DNA and the rest, as they say, is television history. They showed the sisters and family reunited over Thanksgiving in 2010. 
I was actually very disappointed the show was a mere 31 minutes (without commercials) and barely scratched the surface of what Patricia, the adoptee, had endured all her life. She wasn't adopted until age 7 and her years in foster care had to be hard, along with being abandoned, adopted, then rejected by her own mother when she finally found her.
They did not even mention Patricia's natural father. Who is he - Where is he? She will have his entire family to discover, if and when Vernita tells Patricia about him.
I was proud of Patricia who said she'd be sitting somewhere and look around and wonder if they were her family. (I did that, too.) She admitted you feel very alone until you have your own children, or until you find your natural family. Adoptees know this so well.
I am glad Patricia did not give up. (Her story is so like my own.) It hurts me to think of so many adoptees who are desperately trying to find their birthfamily but can't because of consent clauses and sealed records.
We can hope this particular show will help change archaic laws which prevent adoptees from reuniting with relatives. One parent's consent is a bad idea. It is a horrible thing to hear "no contact," and in Patricia's case, she heard it more than once from Vernita.
But she's inherited a delighted famous older sister, Oprah and two happy nieces and their families.
Last and most touching was Oprah's epiphany on air about their mom Vernita who seemed very disconnected right now and frozen in time - 1963. Oprah said she can lift herself out of the shame and release that 1960s mindset, and not fear what others may think.
Oprah used the word "processing" more than once, which is obvious when adoptee and natural family meet for the first time...
No reunion is ever perfect or easy, as I write in my memoir. This family reunion was no different. Reunions are messy and complicated. Every family member will process emotions and it takes time, sometimes years. Sadly and tragically, some natural mothers never embrace their lost child, even in reunion.
It's a shame women like Vernita felt they must hide family secrets. Oprah did a good thing by putting this adoption issue on the front burner and on national television. Oprah did a very good thing, indeed.

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