June 6’20, a Saturday morning. Translation: in no rush to get out of bed, time to run a finger over my tablet snooping for Trump gossip and slipping passed Covid tracking graphs. It wouldn’y have entered my head to check for any activity on my website. Just days before, Dave had installed a spam blocker on my site. Within minutes my ego which had been swelling in wonder at the numbers of hits I was getting on my site was a spurting, sputtering balloon. Not one real hit remained. OK, so I really am writing only to myself, not just pretending to journal my way to a personal understanding of adoption.
But Gmail, yes. I check it daily. A tap on my Gmail and there was a little surprise. Gmail had alerted me to a comment on my website. The comment, you can check it – as of Feb 19’21 it is still the only comment, reiterating ‘in your face’ how non-existent traffic to my site is. It reads, “I believe we adopted Yaroslav’s older sister, Svetlana!”
For me this is one of those ‘time stops’ moments. I had given some thought over the years to Yasik’s ‘bio’ family, wondering how we might help him get in contact with them if he ever showed interest in finding them. He had not yet expressed interest, at least to Dave and I. Sometime in his later teens, I asked him if he wanted to look for his mother whom I believed must have cared for him enough to have taken him to a hospital, returning to visit a couple of times. His response, “She never cared about me, so why should I care about her.’ I think that was a flat statement, not a question. Still, we had the parents’ names and from time to time I googled them. We had lost the one paper in Russian with a list of Yasik’s siblings’ names.
That morning I showed no restraint hitting articles on Trump, yet now I was restrained. I rolled over and with eyes in full stun mode looked carefully at the alert, trying to comprehend that I even had one.
“Daaaavve, look at this.” I opened the website to pull up the comment. And there it was. Yasik might have a sibling trying to get in touch with him.
Restraint again. What if this was just another way in for spam? A Nigerian prince wanting us to rescue him as he drained out our bank account?
We let this electrifying comment hover over us all day like a drone trying to see if we were going to respond, waiting for or taunting us to get over our silly cautiousness and deal with it.
Meanwhile the sender of the comment was on “pins and needles “so certain was she of her message.
You see I had started putting out posts from my journal about our adoption experience. In Journal entry #1 I provide Yasik’s full birth name, Yaroslav Guerin Nicolavich, and the name of the city he was living in at the time of our adoption, Yaroslavl. The comment sender, Cherie, had been looking for her adopted daughter’s younger brother since 2000, shortly after their adoption and with the aid of a set of documents not provided at the time of our adoption. Good ole’ Google – as obscure as my site is – found the match. Cherie put in the comment and crossed her fingers. On our end we dithered until the evening. Finally, we returned the email with a tentative response. She phoned. And sent pictures of her daughter. The evidence was in the pictures. Svetlana is Yasik’s sister. Turns out the other two, though half brother and sister to Yasik and his sister, look amazing like Svetlana and Yasik as well.
And this may not sound particularly PC coming from an adoptor rather than an adoptee from whom the observation usually comes, but as this discovery started to shift our thinking, I began to sense that in some hardly fathomable way, Yasik has some kind of fuller substance, is more substantial as a human being?, a reality, a history with a bio family. No longer a ghost as some adoptees describe feeling of themselves. I don’t understand why this is and maybe it is an idea from societal constructs, still it impacts.
Next step: now we needed to get in touch with Yasik about this life–altering news. Cherie says “our kids are complicated and guarded”. And when Dave and I try to get in touch with him to share news that deserves a flashing Breaking News tag, we agree once again. It takes nearly a month to finally get him on the phone. I sent him phone messages, wrote letters –one letter was one sentence in bold, in caps, as tall as the page allows: IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SOME LIFE-CHANGING NEWS … CALL THESE NUMBERS: numbers he knew well. His sister and her family were getting as antsy as we were.
Near the end of the month, Dave and I had an optometrist appointment at Costco. Dave went in first and I waited for my turn on a plastic chair along side a busy aisle of product and shoppers. With some finger twiddling moments to fill, my default brain mode in times of Yasik stress is to try twisting God’s arm to get him involved, never certain that I have his ear. “God could you please get Yasik to call.” In this very poor excuse for a waiting room, God may have done something. My cell rang. I fumbled to find it and turn it off, certain it was a robo call in a foreign language. I didn’t recognize the number. But I answered it: curiosity? boredom? auto pilot kicking in? a prompt from God? maybe, certainly not because it would normally have been a good idea.
A receptionist was on the line, calling from some medical office and wanting to know if we would be willing to offer our home address to give Yasik an address in order for him to receive MSP.
“Of, course. Our address is —. And uhmmm, would it be possible for you to get a message to Yasik for us.”
“Want to talk to him? He’s right here.”
Fumble, mumble. “Hi, Mom.”
“Yasik, I don’t want to tell you now. We are at appointments. But please, phone tonight. We have unbelievable news.” Or something to that effect.
Yasik interpreted all this to mean that we were at a doctor’s office and Dave must be having some medical issue, having no idea that I was going to be telling him he has siblings. One as nearby as the US.
I was so excited myself that I burbled to the receptionist, who was trying to prepare me for my eye exam, something to the effect that tonight my son was going to be finding out that he has a sister in North America. In the most blandly receptionist tone possible, she responded, “Oh, that would be weird.” Really? This is some of the best news I have heard in my life time. Cherie says Svetlana was over the moon at another point in their developing relationship. I was over the moon at this moment. But like Dave says, just because it is filling your heart and mind, it might not be registering in quite the same way to a stranger….. Duh.
Yasik called in the early evening.
‘Are you sitting down?” I asked in announcer mode.
He thought Dave must be seriously ill.
“Yasik we got an email and pictures and everything. You have a sister and she lives in the US.” And whatever other details came bubbling up.
“So what do you think?”
With a chuckle, “That sounds interesting.” There was happiness in his voice. But no “Wow! Holy Shit! You have got to be kidding!” Just – “That sounds interesting”. Interesting? It’s mind blowing to me from a perspective that was nurtured from infancy to express emotions with the confidence that they would be acknowledged. Again as Cherie noted, these two siblings are complex and guarded. If from infancy, a display of emotions has been ignored or even discouraged, a guarded response is deeply ingrained. Only the note of happiness in his voice was allowed to slip through.
Svetlana had called that afternoon. Like Dave and I, she and her mom were barely holding their breaths as well. She wanted to know when she could call Yasik and I said, “It just so happens…. He called just today.” We were able to let her know we had finally connected with Yasik and that he would be calling us in the evening. She gave us her phone number stat.
I gave her phone number to Yasik. He called her without hesitation later that evening. Pictures were sent back and forth, pictures of Svetlana and Anya and Nicolai, that could have been Yasik at different times; especially in the younger pictures, the similarities are obvious. Cherie and Svetlana also sent copies of the documents we had not been given. Svetlana’s passport picture at the time of adoption could have been Yasik’s. So begins a new chapter of their lives.
I will include other details, especially from the documents they received, of their lives in chronologically appropriate journal entries.