Thread of Life: An Adoption Story is the true story of an adopted child’s journey to find his birth parents. The adoption process can often leave many unanswered questions for the adoptee, the adopted parents, and even the eventual offspring of an adopted child. It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth, with two or more individuals, each with their own unique mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a future together. You become a family not because you share the same genes but because you share love for each other.
Mike Doiron’s original intent was to try to fill in some of the gaps—genealogically, medically, and perhaps even mentally—as he began his adult life following university. The endeavor took him down a path of self-discovery and adventure. When he began to chronicle what he had learned, he decided that he wanted to share his findings with others. For him, Thread of Life is not meant to be a guidebook for families of adoption, but rather a documented true story sharing personal insights from his own journey to answer the questions many adopted children ponder as they become adults.
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Thread of Life
An Adoption Story
By Mike Doiron
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Mike Doiron
All rights reserved.
Meet the Big Apple
"A People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."
Some stories never really have a beginning nor an end.
Ruth Wilband was a living contradiction in many ways. Born in 1926 and growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada to Clara, a homemaker, and husband Stephen, a longshoreman, She was a working class girl in a working class burg; quiet yet rambunctious, ladylike yet tomboyish and pretty, very pretty, and petite. Her family was close-knit and large, though some of her siblings did not make it out of childhood. The era was different than today and medicine was not modern nor childbirth easy. For practical purposes, she grew up with four sisters and two brothers.
Agnes, the oldest girl, was the prototypical sibling matriarch, dedicated to remaining ensconced in the town of her birth 'til death. Ruth was the next oldest girl, a conflicting counterpoint to Agnes and yet the two remained close forever and ever. Agnes was the family's rock and would remain loyal to her siblings in all of their life's adventures, keeping her judgments to herself, difficult as that would sometimes prove to be. Often younger siblings confide in their older or closest sibling, sharing secrets or simply seeking advice.
Saint John was indeed a large city for its place in Canada, and yet it was not a place of glamour, but more a port of call, a center of industry, prominent for its shipbuilding and its fishing, located, as it is, along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. The bay there boasts some of the largest tides in the world. The location lent itself to both great port access to the East Coast, as well as for shipbuilding. Ruth's grandfather was a sea captain by trade. The most abundant settlers in the area were called the Loyalists, North Americans who remained loyal to the British crown, unmoved by the political concepts of the American revolutionaries. Many left their homes and their properties in the thirteen colonies to migrate to Saint John where some were promised and given land grants by the British government. Today, Saint John still refers to itself as The Loyalist City. The people of the area are also loyal, to their friends and families, few venture away from New Brunswick. If they do however, they always 'come home' for holidays or summer vacations to connect to their roots, and enjoy the self-proclaimed 'the lobster capital of the world' in nearby Shediac. There are a couple of well known names from NB, like Donald Sutherland, and Mayer of MGM fame, but for the most part it has a toned down sort of mentality, easy going and relatable.
Some emigrated from the southern colonies, fearful that the day would soon come when their slaves would be taken from them. At that time, New Brunswick allowed them to keep their slaves. Ironically, other blacks found their way to Saint John desiring to be treated as free men, and so they were. Another major group to inhabit the city was the Irish immigrant seeking refuge from the potato famine. Saint John, it seemed, was a place for the displaced, a place with welcoming arms and a tolerance for a variety of social and political viewpoints. Today, there is no discernible overtone of discrimination to any race or visible minority there. Inequities and faults of the past evolved faster than most north american regions, and even the french and english blend seamlessly, unlike the other bilingual province of Quebec. And yet there were some, like Ruth Wilband, who would eventually leave, bored perhaps, a 'free spirit' looking for something new and exciting. The population of Saint John has been in almost constant decline over the course of the past century, despite remaining the largest city in New Brunswick, Canada.
The Wilbands were not a quiet family. They were active and outdoorsy. Stephen, the father, loved to hunt and fish not necessarily for sport, but for sustenance as well as for profit when possible. Ruth loved to swim. Lilly Lake was her favorite swimming hole, a place she would frequent often with friends. Her childhood had its share of bumps and bruises, perhaps more akin to a typical boy's upbringing. A bit accident prone, perhaps due more to here adventurous and risk taking spirit, she once fell off a diving board and broke an arm, and she even once fractured her skull breaking up a fight that one of her younger brothers got into. This was all the more unusual, considering she was smaller than most kids, even most girls her age. However she was tough, very tough when it counted.
It must have been this mental toughness that made her so independent and so unafraid of adventure and change. While Saint John was fine enough for Agnes, for Ruth it proved far too small and provincial; not at all glamorous. No, glamour was what you found in places like New York City and no sooner had Ruth graduated high school than she set her mind to getting out of Canada and down to the Big Apple.
It was a different era. The world had been at war, many young men were still stationed overseas or were just returning, and because of "Rosie the Riveter," of WWII warplane manufacturing fame, women were temporarily given a bit more free rein with the direction of their lives. Perhaps it was due to this unique historical window that Ruth Wilband was somehow allowed to venture out on her own, not sneaking and slipping past her parents, but openly and enthusiastically packing her things and heading off to the Mecca of all that was dazzling and exciting.
Today, there are many exciting places to go and live, but in the midto-late 1940's, there was New York or there was nothing at all. London and Paris were at war and Los Angeles was just beginning to become the west coast behemoth it is today. New York was the center of the universe – Broadway, Times Square, the Copacabana, and the Latin Quarter. If you could make it there, you could make it anywhere.
Ruth and kid sister Louise went first, followed a few years later by younger sister Claire, and finally by baby sister Joan, each doing so as a way of celebrating their emancipation from high school. All four girls were within ten years of age of each other and when together they acted like quadruplets. As wild and high-spirited as the girls were, and as willful as young Ruth had to be in order to pick up and leave for the big city while still in her teens, she was actually considered "the quiet one," usually drowned out by her younger sisters Claire, Joan, and Louise who were far more outspoken. The four shared one common passion: dancing. If there was a chic nightclub to be found, the Wilband girls found it, dancing the night away as often as possible. Being from Saint John, they were open to anyone and anything. It was nothing to them to go out for a night to an all-black nightclub if the band was hot and dancing was good. Between the four of them, there was always some scheme available to get themselves past the bouncer at the door.
Ruth took her dancing seriously. It was an era of specific dance moves, of tangos and cha-chas, mambos and bossa novas. One did not just get out on the floor and flail about. Ruth knew this and wanted to let it be known she was no hick from the sticks. Some clubs offered dance lessons early in the evening as a come-on to fill the hall and Ruth would be there. During the day, when she had saved up some money, Ruth would also look for studios in Manhattan that offered dance lessons sometimes for a fee, sometimes for free. It was all about pride. If there was some new dance she hadn't quite mastered, then Ruth was damned if she was going to sit that one out. Claire, Louise, and Joan enjoyed dancing, too, but neither took it to heart like Ruth.
There always seemed to be two Ruths. One was the quiet girl who always took stringent care of her looks and her clothing. The other was the joker. The joker, the life of the party, would come out after a few drinks at a nightclub. That particular Ruth had no problem talking to men and sassing back at them as brash as could be. Ironic again, as first impressions would peg her as quiet and reserved.
Time passed. Months turned into years. The girls worked, but most were not what one would call a "career girls," excepting Joan, who did open a business of her own for a time. They earned their keep, kept themselves fed, put a roof over their heads, and then went out for fun and frolic. One of Ruth's first jobs was in a doctor's office, as was Louise's. The jobs didn't pay much, but doctors were wealthy and when their wives would clear out their closets for new coats and dresses, Ruth and Louise were more than happy to accept the offer to pick through the piles for first choice before what was left made its way to some charity shop. The quality of the goods was stellar and so they were more than happy to be the recipients of this largesse. What they couldn't fit into they occasionally shipped back to their younger sisters in Canada. The Wilband girls back home were thrilled at these gifts, strutting around Saint John in what may have been New York hand-me-downs, but were the best quality clothing in all of New Brunswick.
Ruth had many jobs during her time in New York. She worked for a time as a stenographer at a courthouse. One time, she had a job as a coat check girl at a swanky nightclub, once receiving a $100 tip from none other than Frank Sinatra. One such cocktail bar she worked at was called "Proof of the Pudding", which was one of her favorites. Along the way, she also worked in a very high-class women's apparel shop. In each of these jobs she was required to dress well and dress attractively and she did, sinking most of her earnings into fine clothing. Between her natural good looks and her haute couture fashions, Ruth was quite the stunner.
Joan, the brashest of the three sisters, spoke often of Ruth's great luck with men. In Joan's eyes, Ruth always managed to attach herself to men with money, men who would show her a good time and take care of her monetarily so she could dress nicer and live finer than the other three. Unfortunately, having moneyed men around also absented Ruth from having to worry too much or learn much about money management. It was a different era, and men were often in charge of money, while women had their place, quiet and removed when it came to more serious matters.
New York was not a fling for the four Wilband girls, but a new and permanent state of being. Years went by. Wars began and ended. Was there romance? Yes, and lots of it. But the Wilbands of New York were no longer Saint John girls, destined to marry a man before they turned twenty-one, becoming hausfraus as had Agnes, still back in Canada. There had been love affairs, but nothing stable, nothing leading to marriage – at least not right away – and yet there was no weeping over their state of affairs. Life was good, maybe even better than good. For some and for a time, men were interchangeable, not something to be served and waited upon.
Louise was the first to take the plunge, marrying in 1953 after six years as a single gal in the Big Apple. Claire went next in 1955. Joan waited until near the end of the Eisenhower era before she finally wed, claiming herself, "the wiser one to wait." By the sixties, only "Ruthy", as the sisters called her, remained unwed.
But then nature stepped in. Sometime in the fifties, Ruth became pregnant and aborted. Not all the sisters were aware however, as this was a more private affair at the time, especially for a more private woman. In 1962, Ruth found herself pregnant again. The father was an Italian fellow; his name unimportant. Ruth had taken a liking to Italian men, having once spent some time with a certain Nat LaCicero, aka Nat Brown, a mobster on the "money-management side", who had been linked to Frank Costello, America's number one gangster in the 1950's, the defacto leader of New York's famed Tammany Hall and Al Capone's successor as the most famous criminal kingpin in America. Ruthy lived with Nat for a while until his untimely passing. The sisters loved telling the story of cleaning out Nat's apartment following his untimely death, and finding multiple false drawers and hidden holes behind pictures etc., each with hundreds of dollars stashed inside. But Nat was gone from Ruth's life by now and this new man was far too transient to her existence for her to want to build a life with him all on account of a biological accident. He had feelings for her, perhaps would have even married her had she insisted or even informed him of her pregnancy, but Ruth simply wasn't feeling towards him the way a woman wants to feel when she agrees to marry a particular fellow.
Agnes. Agnes would know what to do. Agnes, the rock of the family, was still up in New Brunswick. For reasons long forgotten through time, Ruth concluded she did not want to abort this time. Abortion was illegal still, although this did not affect the family planning of the wealthy, for whom everything was always safe and legal. For the working class, though, things were far tougher, though doable. Ruth did not wish to take another chance, though, with the classic "back alley" abortion. She called up Agnes and arranged a coming-home visit.
Arriving back in Saint John, Ruth spilled out her heart and her secret to her older sister. Agnes certainly could not have approved, nor had she ever really approved of her younger sisters' lifestyle in the big city, but still, family was more important than moral judgment. Agnes was married and already had children of her own, but it was soon mutually agreed that Ruth would stay in Saint John until she was ready to deliver and then once she did, Agnes would adopt the child herself, rather than pass it off to a stranger.
It was a sensible arrangement, made better by the fact that all parties involved had vowed to be quite open about it. Ruth no longer cared what the Saint John people had to say about the situation, or her for that matter. She had left them years ago and no longer lived her life to suit them. Thus Stephen, a baby boy named after Ruth's father, was born. Ruth stayed for a short while, but soon was back off to New York, leaving the baby behind. Stephen would grow up with Agnes and her husband, calling Agnes "Mom," but also fully aware that he had another mother and her name was Ruth. This was far more open than most illegitimate births in those days, where in some cases the grandmother would raise a grandchild as her own, and the child would be raised to believe the actual mother was a sister. Such was the case with many, including some famous names such actor Jack Nicholson and singer/actor Bobby Darin. But no such hiding or obfuscation of fact was done in this instance. Ruth would visit from time to time and when she did, the boy called her "Mom" as well. It was an odd arrangement, but a loving one. Stephen grew up surrounded by love and with lots of extended family. He was happy, and wanted for no more than any child.
Two years later, Agnes's niece, Nancy, began coming down to New York for extended visits. Nancy, a pretty, gentle and somewhat less adventurous sole than the Wilband sisters, found all the adventure she wanted in visiting the big apple with the ladies. It was arranged for her to stay with Ruth so that she would not be all alone in the big metropolis. This tickled Nancy to no end, as Ruth treated her as an equal despite a twenty-year age difference. With Cousin Ruth, Nancy was an adult, a big girl now, and Ruth trotted her all over the city like she would any of her other girlfriends. For Nancy it was intoxicating – in every sense of the word. Ruth let her smoke – the big taboo of the era – and Ruth talked her past the front doors of all of the city's "poshest" night clubs. Would that every seventeen-year-old had such an enlivening mentor. Time with the Wilband sisters in NYC was always like first class to a Saint John girl – always as the best : Port Out, Starboard Home.
When Nancy was on the scene, she and Ruth lived on East Ninth Street in Brooklyn, an address Nancy learned to memorize quickly for when she needed to wave down a cab late at night when exiting some hot nightspot all by herself, Ruth having ventured off into the dancing night.
Around this time, Ruth was not the only unmarried Wilband sister to have unwanted pregnancy problems. Joan, the youngest, was between marriages, got pregnant, and chose to follow a different path, deciding to go to Mexico to terminate the pregnancy, where availability and discretion was more plentiful. She, Ruth, Claire, and Louise decided to make a "supportive" vacation of it, the four of them trotting off to beautiful Puerto Vallarta together. It made the true reason for the visit a little more palatable and the company of her sisters eased Joan's mind somewhat. They chose a nice resort hotel and lounged by the pool. It was there that Ruth met a man, a very special man, one who caught her gaze and held it. For the entire latter part of the trip, to the dismay of her sisters, Ruth was impossible to find, spending all her days and nights with this new man.
His name was Harter.
A Boys Roots
"My upbringing made me who I am now. But I can become merry and happy at once. There were many years that I was feeling at a loss about my life or how I grew up. I couldn't understand what is right or what is precious. At that time, I was so miserable and self defeating. I was feeling angry with various things. My anger came up to the surface then. I don't say such tendency has disappeared. Even now there is anger and the dark side in myself. But it is the first time I've been so close to the light."
I was adopted at the age of two weeks in Saint John, New Brunswick. Don't ask me too many details about it because I was far too young to remember. I also have a brother, Marcel, who is three years older than me. We are not genetic brothers, for he, too, was adopted in the years prior. Our 'real' parents, the ones who raised us - for who else is one's real parents but the people who raise you and were with you all along life's way -unfortunately could not conceive together. Apparently the adoption experiment with Marcel was considered a success in the early 1960's and so they decided to roll the dice one more time and add me to the family.
Marcel and I both came to my folks via Catholic Welfare, a wonderful organization that made the adoption process a very personal one. Their empathy was evident and my parents claimed they could not have asked for better accommodations and assistance. They told me picking out a child for adoption was sort of like going to a restaurant. They asked you what you were looking for – a boy, a girl, blond, brunette, young mother, older mother, young Catholic mother, what have you, and "assumedly" you got what you ordered. I mean, if you asked for a boy and got a girl, it would be pretty obvious, but otherwise you took all else they told you about the child on faith – no pun intended – and, in the case of my parents, they were happy with what they got.
Excerpted from Thread of Life by Mike Doiron. Copyright © 2013 by Mike Doiron. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Meet the Big Apple.................... 1
2. A Boys Roots.................... 11
3. Harter and Ruthy.................... 47
4. A Diamond in the Rough.................... 69
5. Starting to Search – pre-Google.................... 97
6. E Pluribus Unum.................... 115
7. Meeting Mother and Brother.................... 121
8. My Dad or Our Dad?.................... 149
9. Driving to see my 'Real' Dad.................... 161
10. The Horizon moves as you get closer.................... 173
11. Connecting the DNA.................... 187
12. Birth mom and Real mom.................... 195
13. Connecting the thread to your Children.................... 201
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Wow, this should be a movie