|Mary Lou Lockhart, printed in Anchorage Daily News 12/9/12|
I met Jack the Turkey last spring when I visited my sister’s farm in New Mexico.
I was smitten immediately. Outside of his obvious good lucks, I loved the way Jack walked with us around the property, keeping up with our conversation, interacting with the other farm animals, and becoming despondent any time I shifted my attention from him to a baby goat or to my sister. The guy had a lot of charisma.
I later learned that as a farm turkey, Jack’s was only expected to live a year or less. And yet, here he is, living out loud at age seven in Eastern New Mexico.
Jack’s early life story is sad. Raised by a single-mother who died when he was still a babe, Jack grew up without ever meeting his father. He was separated from his siblings at a young age, and found out that they, along with most of his childhood friends, met their demise in large ovens.
But Jack is a success. A survivor. He’s defied the odds. I interviewed Jack in May of 2012, and he had some words of wisdom that are worth passing on.
Q. You’ve outlived your turkey peers by far. What do you attribute to your success?
A. Thank you. I know this may come off arrogant or self-centered, but it occurred to me as a young guy that I’m better looking than the average turkey. And people really respond to that, so I started taking care of myself. I began walking a lot, and although the people who raised me gave plenty of food, I refrained from eating everything in front of me. I don’t want to get too big. I groomed carefully, and kept my feet clean by washing daily in the dog’s water dish.
Tip: Be a good steward of your given strengths
A.But after the first year, I could see my looks begin to slip. My feathers thinned and my wattle drooped. Then I met Molly. As a dog, it looked to me like she had a great advantage. People have always called dogs Man’s best friend. So I decided to copy Molly. She follows her owner everywhere. She likes to show affection. She chases things thrown to her, and hangs out with cats, dogs, humans, and me. Molly helped me understand that family isn’t just who you’re born to and with. Family can be created through any relationship where love and commitment exist.
Tip: Find a mentor to copy
A. That said, I’m not unaffected by my circumstances. I don’t like Thanksgiving, or Christmas. or New Years. Any of the holidays when my less fortunate relatives might be slaughtered. But every January 2nd, I’m reminded that life is a gift that I’m grateful for. I try to take nothing for granted, and I tell the younger turkeys I meet to take care of themselves, to value their relationships with friends and family, and to promote eating chicken for the holidays whenever possible. Or tofu.
Tip: Every Day Can Be Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving to Jack the Turkey, and to all of us survivors.
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|My father Kova Meredith|
Today is Father’s Day.
It’s a time when those who have one remember and (ideally) honor their fathers, those who had one remember their fathers, and those who had none mourn their losses.
In my work with juvenile delinquents, it’s common to talk to kids who’ve never met their fathers. Sometimes, their moms don’t know who or which one he was. Other moms, like mine, deliberately cut contact between the child and father.
Such a shame. Everyone needs a father.
What is a father, exactly? I looked at Dictionary.com today http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/father and found the following:
[fah–ther] Show IPA
But so do all fathers.
To my daughters, I wish for you a borrowed father like Hank.
To those who haven’t met their fathers, I sure hope you can find yours.
And to all dads, Happy Father’s Day.
Your importance can never be overestimated.
Within a short while, through the considerable efforts of many people (and I am honored to have played a small role), he was able to locate his father. When he and his father reunited and I had a chance to spend time with them, I was struck with awe as to how much they were alike – not just in physical resemblance, but in posture, speech, mannerisms, and in every way imaginable, yet they had never had any contact whatsoever or spent one moment of time together before the reunification. I then took it upon myself as a mission of sorts to do whatever I could to help facilitate this type of reunification whenever possible.
Back in the ’70s and ’80’s, it involved a good bit of detective work…numerous phone calls, searching out newspaper articles, mailing letters to possible relatives or even past business contacts. It sometimes took many months to even come up with a clue.
Of course, things like the WARM Confidential Intermediary System make this all much easier, but I dealt with many cases as an attorney where the adoptee or the parent did not want to use the services of any organization, perhaps because these organizations were still relatively new back then and there was still a large degree of societal opposition to reunifications. Fortunately, these organizations are much better-known these days there is less hesitance for the parties to seek out their parents or children, and society is recognizing these reunifications as something that can be very important to the birth parent, to the child, and to the adoptive parents as well.
When my friend Libby told me she had been adopted, I asked her if I could help her search for her father. She had very little information about him …only his name and her city of birth. Libby was one of my best friends in the world, and I would have done anything for her, so though this seemed a daunting task with so little information, I set out to find her dad, thinking all the while that I might meet with failure, but not accepting failure as an option.
I’d like to say that it was my brilliant investigative techniques that led me to finding Libby’s dad, but it was simply luck and/or divine intervention. The very first thing I did was to call directory assistance in the town where I expected he might be living (thinking I might find some relatives who could help me), but I was completely surprised to find that he had a listed phone number. Imagine further the joy I felt when I called that number, spoke to him, and told him that his daughter would like to meet him. He told me he had been looking for her for 20 years.
Oh…about the divine intervention part, I should add that had I made my call to directory assistance just an hour earlier, I would have come up with nothing, as he just had his phone service connected that day and it was a brand new listing. In fact, my call was the very first call to that number, and he had assumed it was the phone company calling to see if the phone was working properly.
I have done many reunifications that were far more difficult, but I can tell you that reuniting Libby and her dad was quite probably the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life. To this day I keep in my desk a copy of Libby’s Name Change Order that was entered on June 7, 1985 (exactly 27 years ago to the day as I type this) which allowed her to once again bear her birth name.
How has technology changed the location process?
In the years that have passed, the Internet makes these type of searches much easier…I suppose that is obvious. And the widespread use of the Confidential Intermediary System in my State is a great help as well.
When I was sworn-in as a Superior Court Judge (coincidentally, in the same courtroom where I got the name change for Libby), I became the Judge in my county who is primarily responsible for all of the Confidential Intermediary requests. And each time I sign one, I am able to re-live to some extent the joy I shared with my college roommate, with numerous friends and clients, and, most of all, with my friend Libby, in reuniting parent and child — sometimes for the first time ever.
Mother’s Day last weekend was especially terrific.
My youngest daughter graduated from college in New Mexico the day before, so I was there to spend it with her. It’s been at least five years since we were together for Mother’s Day, and she went to great lengths to make it special. We agreed it would be more convenient to celebrate in advance of the actual day, when restaurants and the like are over-crowded.
The morning began with coffee. Then pedicures. We got a massage together, followed by an ionic cleanse, and lunch at a Turkish restaurant. Such fun.
On the actual Mother’s Day, we drove to my sister’s gorgeous farm in a nearby town and relaxed with her and her husband. Again, so special.
That night, back at the dorms, I caught up on emails and blog links. I read about the R.O.S.E. Fund’s success in helping Crusita Martinez reconstruct her entire face after a former boyfriend threw battery acid on her face as a punishment for leaving her when she was just 18 years old. Now, seven years later, she is mother to a little girl who understands that her mother’s strength is her beauty.
What a wonderful story of survival.
I’m partial to the R.O.S.E. Fund. They helped me reconstruct my life, and, as their acronym indicates, they’ve helped scores of survivors in Regaining One’s Self Esteem.
Founded it 1992, the New England-based non-profit has directed resources to helping survivors of domestic violence while raising public awareness about the issue. In the 90’s, the R.O.S.E. Fund gave awards to a few nominated women a year, and in 1998, I was one of those lucky few.
At the time, I worked as a domestic violence advocate full-time, but couldn’t afford medical insurance for my daughters. I hoped to complete a graduate degree in psychology and write a book about my experiences.
Then came the call. I had won a $10,000 R.O.S.E. Award. The girls and I were flown to Boston, where we were presented with the award at a banquet. I gave a talk in front of 500 attendants, including the entire team of the New England Patriots. It was a dream come true.
Thanks to the award, I finished my degree in psychology, which allowed me to get a job that provided medical benefits for my daughters. That allowed me to give up my paper route and focus on writing. Which allowed me to complete my book.
Today, the R.O.S.E. Fund focuses on helping victims of domestic violence who need reconstructive surgery, and assists educators with tools they can use in high schools to prevent and/or address teen dating violence.
To me, their gift was enough to give me a leg up without promoting any kind of dependency upon them.
Thanks to the R.O.S.E. Fund, I had the courage to chase a dream. And watching that transformation helped my daughters chase theirs.
Would you like more information on how you can help? Feel free to peruse the link below.
Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to all.
There are newer shows now. Like Long Lost Family. I boo-hoo, every time I see it.
My update since the first time I posted this: I published my memoir.
And because I did, I met a still-missing brother and cousins and, more recently, had contact with an uncle I’d always wanted to know.
My family isn’t perfect. Neither am I. But they’re mine. And I am so happy to have them all.
Every day at my job, I work with kids who don’t have contact with one or both parents. Mostly, it’s their fathers. Many of them can’t name who their father is or where he might live.
It’s an ache and a longing they can never seem to reconcile.
One day, I’ll have time to write more about the benefit of knowing one’s roots. But for now, I reiterate what I’ve said before in the post below.
I have mega-exciting news to share in my newsletter, soon. I hope you’re signed up.
Thank you for being here.
Did you get a chance to watch the television show The Locator on We TV before it went off the air? The one where investigator Troy Dunn found missing loved ones and filmed the reunions? His tagline was You can’t find peace until you find all the pieces.
That was true for me. One of the best decisions I ever made in my youth was to find my missing father. I was still young enough that I didn’t fully realize how much growing up without him hurt me. Or how growing up hearing scary stories about him shaped not just the way I felt about him, but how I felt about myself.
Years later, I met a brother on my mom’s side I hadn’t seen since I was a toddler. Again, it was magic. I followed up by contacting family I’d lost contact with for one reason or another. Each reunion was a gift all its own.Twenty-seven years after my first family reunion, the connections I’ve made with family continue to add color and dimension to my life, and I often tell others with missing family members, “Look him (or her, or them) up! What are you worried about?”
Three Reasons to Find Your Missing Family
When my oldest daughter began dating Vince, an old friend of hers from high school, I learned two things about him. He had cancer. And he grew up in a splintered family like I had. He told me his mom had been a young Filipina immigrant when she married his father, a tall and rough American soldier.
Vince had vivid memories of his father terrorizing his mother after they separated. He remembered her not being allowed to exercise her custody rights, and remembered her moving out of state.
“I want to know my family,” he told me. “I want to know them all, the Filipino side, my siblings, all of them. Can you help me?”
I was thrilled to be asked.
But before I got very far, Vince’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. In February of 2010, he told me he thought he was dying. Within the next eight weeks, his body was ravaged by tumors. He lay in the middle of his family’s living room while they smoked cigarettes and played the television loudly. Unable to eat or speak, his face hallowed and his eyes sunk. He was in much pain, and I privately wondered why he fought the inevitable for so long.
It turned out that his mother had been granted permission by his father to see him one last time. A dozen years had passed since she had seen him. Vince’s mother hadn’t been permitted access to Vince was a small boy, and though she called and sent packages irregularly, it wasn’t the same.
If Vince had some assurance he’d get to meet his Filipino family, be they good, bad or indifferent, would he have lived longer? Lived happier? We’ll never know. I do know that finding mine changed everything, and like Troy Dunn promised, I found peace.