One day before I die I’ll learn the name of my father’s mother.
I’ll come from work fresh off the bike, and I’ll make out a message on my voice mail between the impatient meows of my cat. I don’t recognize the name and they’ve asked me to call them back about a “very important” matter.
A gentle Southern accent will deadpan a woman’s name. The next few details will spill forth. The voice will tell me a bit about who this woman was, what she did and the tense will reveal if she’s a live or dead. But I won’t hear any of this. The voice on the other end of the phone will pause respectfully as I repeat the name until it’s committed to memory.
But Archaic laws in Alabama and Georgia have upheld a static veil of secrecy and silence between myself and my father’s family for decades.
I did a video with some background info a couple of years ago:
Today I was on the phone with a woman in Atlanta. She has some papers on her desk. My father’s mother’s name is written on one of those papers.
It’s the closest I’ve come to it.
I hear the rustle of the papers as she tells me that there is no background information on my father’s mother – just a name and an address. As an employee of a private-public organization that conducts adoption reunions in Georgia she has access to those files.
If it was up to her, I am sure, she’d share everything she knew with me. But she needs to keep her job. Only a bureaucracy would feel the need to withhold someone else’s truth with such vigour for so long.
So, I have to submit to bureaucracy, play by their rules and hope it works out in my favour.
Last week I sent the Georgia Reunion Registry $300 US. They will attempt to locate a living relative of my grandmother using the information they have on file. If they find one they will make contact with them and ask if they are interested in contact with me.
If my new-found relative declines contact then I’ll be screwed. The reunion people will ask them my most pressing questions, but if they decline to answer I will receive no information about my background.
If they have a positive response then the Reunion people will put me in touch with them. I doubt I have a living grandparent so it’d likely be an aunt, uncle or cousin.
If after six months they can’t locate any relatives and confirm that my grandmother is deceased they will release to me her name and place of burial, if known.
Have you ever had an encounter with a reunion registry in Georgia or elsewhere? I’d love to know what to expect.