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We Remember Our Baby Sister Doris January 18, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Our Family History.
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On my page “Our Family History of Adoption,” I tell the story of my mother’s death, my baby sister Doris’ relinquishment to adoption, my father’s remarriage, and our hard growing up. While we growing up, because of my oldest sister’s G.’s remembering of our baby sister, the rest of us kids always knew that we had a baby sister somewhere “out there.” Every January, G. would buy a doll and give it to my father, so he could give it to Doris for her birthday. She doesn’t remember exactly how many years she did this, but by the time she was 16, she had stopped.

When I was around 11 years old in the foster home, I received a new prayer book. This prayer book had printed on it’s inside back cover, a special page. There was a small prayer on top and a blank lines going down the page in a list form. This was where you wrote the name of a person that you wanted to say special prayers for. I had written on my list, assassinated American President John F. Kennedy, the first (and so far, only), Roman Catholic US President. President Kennedy was a big hero for American Catholics. My grandmother had a picture of him hanging up in her kitchen. Black folks have a picture of Martin Luther King on their walls, for Catholics, their hero was Kennedy. He was bigger than John Wayne “The Duke.” When Kennedy was killed, the nuns in my school were all crying. School was let out early. We were sent home. Some smart aleck kid asked Sister what homework should we do. She tearfully said, “Say a rosary for President Kennedy and a rosary for the First Lady.” I also had on my prayer list, Pope John the 23rd, who had died in June 1963, a few months before President Kennedy. I can’t remember all the names on my list, I probably had my father there. But I do know, that on the top of my list, I had written “Doris.” Then I drew a line from the end of her name, leading down to a space at the bottom of the page. I ended that line with an arrowhead, pointing to a phrase I had written. “So Daddy can adopt her back.”

Now if you read my post “Our Family History,” you have read how it was my mother’s sister Catherine and her childhood friend Helen (sister of Doris/Joan’s adoptive father), brought about the idea of Doris/Joan getting adopted. Because of the friendship between these two women, a picture of Joan, when she made her First Holy Communion was given to my Aunt Catherine. Joan says there was a conspiracy of lies and spying on her between the Wheelers and her birth family, and pictures of her were exchanged. There was one picture and ONLY one picture given to her birth family. But here is another example of Joan’s exaggerations and twisting of the truth. Anyway, growing up, my sisters and I would go over to Aunt Catherine’s house and in going thru her boxes of family photos, we saw this picture. In the picture, Joan looks remarkably like my oldest sister G. G. said she knew it wasn’t her, her hair was darker than Joan’s. She says she always suspected it was our lost little sister Doris. For myself, I was so dumb, that I would think it was G.

Now as I said, we never forgot our little sister. Particularly G. She kept questioning Aunt Catherine and finally got some information out of her. Sometime in the summer of 1972, I got a phone call from G. She was at her job at a downtown Buffalo dentist’s office. (Brisbane Building). It was a Tuesday, the dentist did not have patients in on Tuesdays, (and he himself wasn’t there), but the workers had to come in and do paperwork. I went downtown and to the office. Gert told me that the evening before, she had finally gotten out of Aunt Catherine, our little sister Doris’ adopted name. It was Joan Wheeler. But Aunt Catherine refused to give G. an address or any other information. G. asked me “how are we going to find her without her parents name?” I thought about it, and asked if there was a phone book around. I opened it up and went to the Wheeler listings. There were a lot of Wheelers. I asked G. if I could use the phone to make some phone calls. As the other woman working in the office was on her lunch break, and we were alone, G. told me to go ahead. I planned to make as many calls as I could while in the office, calling all the Wheelers listed in the phone book until I got to one that had a Joan living there. I hadn’t watched mystery movies without learning something.

 I started making my calls. Those that had someone home told me I had the wrong number when I asked for Joan. When I got to the first names starting with E, I hit the jackpot. A girl answered the phone. I froze. I knew immediately I hit the motherlode. She sounded exactly like my second oldest sister K. But I had to be sure. I asked for Joan. She said “speaking.” “Joan, this is (I gave a fake name). Where were you at bowling last night? We figured you couldn’t get a babysitter so we just started without you.” The girl said, “what number did you want?” I repeated her number, but changed one of the digits. She said, “oh. No, you got the wrong number.” I apologized and hung up. G. who had heard all this was looking at me. I told her, “That’s her. She sounds exactly like K.” We wrote down the name and address listed in the phone call. Now we knew where our little sister was, and what her new name was. We knew we couldn’t do anything as she was under the age of 18. So we waited.

In early 1974, I was living back at my dad’s house, after 3 years of having my own apartment. In 1970, my father had met a nice woman and they got married in October 1970. She had two girls, aged 10 and 4, and the following year, they had a baby boy. In 1973, my stepmother wanted to go back to work. So I moved back home. I was working the night shift at my job (where I still am). My stepmother worked 3pm – 11pm. And my Dad still had his job at City Hall, but he was no longer working at Sears. With me moving back home, there was an adult present at all times to watch the girls and our baby brother. One day, G. and my older brother Butch came into my bedroom and woke me up. They told me that Doris/Joan’s 18th birthday had just passed. Should we contact her? It was unananimous. We would. We knew we couldn’t tell Dad. We didn’t know much about legal matters in adoption. But we knew enough to know that Dad couldn’t contact her. Now we just had to decide which one of us should contact Joan. I told G. and Butch that it should be G., because she was the oldest. And so she did.

 Now I need to make some refutations about a couple of Joan Wheeler’s statements. After all, that is the purpose of this blog. In several of Joan’s writings, she says she was given up for adoption because she was “unwanted.” This is a lie. My father always wanted her. Her siblings, ME AND MY SISTERS AND BROTHER WANTED HER. Several other times Joan Wheeler has said that we, her sisters blame her for our mother’s death. HOW COULD WE BLAME HER FOR OUR MOTHER’S DEATH WHEN WE KNEW IT WAS CANCER THAT KILLED OUR MOTHER? And if we blamed her for our mother’s death, WHY DID WE ALWAYS REMEMBER HER? WHY WOULD G. TRY TO SEND HER DOLLS FOR HER BIRTHDAY IF WE BLAMED HER FOR OUR MOTHER’S DEATH? WHY WOULD I HAVE WRITTEN HER NAME IN MY PRAYER BOOK FOR PRAYERS AND WRITE “SO DADDY COULD ADOPT HER BACK?” WHY WOULD G. QUESTION OUR AUNT FOR INFORMATION LEADING US TO HER IF WE BLAMED HER FOR OUR MOTHER’S DEATH? WHY WOULD I GO THRU THE PHONE BOOK TO TRACK HER DOWN IF I BLAMED HER FOR MY MOTHER’S DEATH? WHY WOULD WE MAKE PLANS TO CALL HER AND GET HER BACK INTO OUR LIVES IF WE BLAMED HER FOR OUR MOTHER’S DEATH? But this is what Joan does. She lies. She has gotten herself in trouble with each and everyone of us. And instead of owning up to her contributions to our estrangement with her, she makes up stories to cover her own ass. And then she tells everyone what dysfunctional people her birth siblings are. On page 8 of her book Forbidden Family, she relates HER version of the phone call I made to her. She changes the facts. She says she got the call in the evening. WRONG! IT WAS AROUND ONE O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON. She says the caller was obviously drunk. WRONG! I WAS NOT DRINKING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON. She says the call ended with stupid laughter. WRONG! WHEN I CHANGED THE DIGITS OF HER PHONE NUMBER, AND SHE TOLD ME I HAD THE WRONG PHONE NUMBER, I APOLOGIZED AND HUNG UP. This was a serious attempt to find my lost baby sister. I was calling all the Wheelers in the phone book to find my lost baby sister. I would not be doing this thing while drunk and ending such a serious call with stupid laughter. This labeling of me as “drunk” is another of Joan’s attempts to smear my character. I first read this lie in a 1997 manuscript of her book.  And it was at  the height of her troublemaking against me. And as I said before, she will not own up to HER contributions to her birth siblings not wanting her in their lives. She will not accept responsiblity for her own actions, so to cover her own ass, she will tell people how important she is, how educated she is, how smart she is. And then spread lies about her birth siblings, like they are dysfunctional, they are drunks, they are jealous of her, they blame her for their mother’s death and blah blah blah.

 So I ask you blog readers, those who know Joan, those of you in the adoption reform community, what nice things has she said about her birth siblings? I bet she has filled all your heads with horror stories of how evil and jealous we are. How empty our lives are. And that we hate her and hate her children. ALL LIES AND MISCONCEPTIONS FROM JOAN WHEELER, WHO CONSTANTLY GIVES OUT HER TWISTED VERSION OF THINGS. But didn’t she herself just leave comments on that recent story (November 2009) on ABC News.com about adoption that the reporter twisted her words, and she always had problems with reporters giving their twisted version of what she had said. But this is exactly what Joan does. I have told you about the phone call I made to find her. IT WAS IN THE AFTERNOON, AND I WAS NOT DRUNK, I DID NOT END THE CALL WITH STUPID LAUGHING. I swear to you blog readers on the soul of my son, who I miscarried in June 1985, that I have told you the truth about that phone call. But Joan wants you to read a twisted version of what happened: HER TWISTED VERSION. HER LIE OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. In fact, a couple of years ago, someone close to Joan told me that she (Joan) “…is crafty at twisting words.”

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