Here are my raw results from the Ancestry.com DNA test I took recently:
Eastern European 35%
Native North American 24%
Native South American 10%
Southern European 7%
To my family, some of this may come as a huge surprise. I know it did to me. Various stories are rampant in our family about our heritage. These results add both clarity and questions to our process.
The verbal histories and documents for my birth father’s family are very clear. From my third great-grandparents, each responsible for 3.13% of my genes, generations of my paternal grandfather’s family are from Michoacan, Mexico. Many more generations of my paternal grandmother’s family are from Aguascalientes, Mexico. These individuals date back nine generations from me, some into the mid-1700s, which would account for one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) from each of my ancestors at the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent level. We know the towns and villages. We know the names. We know the dates.
In my birth mother’s family, though, we have always learned that we are not Mexican. We are Native American. Period. End of story, if my grandfather’s stories are accurate. The challenge is that the groups with which we should identify ourselves are not so clear since each of my maternal grandfather’s siblings told a slightly different story. Apache, Yaqui, Blackfoot, Ohlone, and so on. Having not been reared in this family, being adopted at birth, I had to learn all of these stories after most of my ancestors were gone, and be able to decipher them the best way I knew how. Eventually, though, I came to a dead end with no document-supported, objective answers that affirmed any of the stories without question with regard to our Native American history.
Several years after discovering even what questions to ask, I heard from a cousin of mine, Catherine, who has been a vital part of our journey to discover our family history, that a researcher in Santa Barbara was asking for DNA samples for people believed to be, in anthropology-speak, Costanoan indigenous people, or those whose ancestry came from the West Coast of California. We didn’t know whether we were from this macro group or not, but we had found our people in the San Jose, California region for more than 150 years. We do not have information about where some of them were born. With this information, I offered our direct-line genealogy and a DNA sample. That was several years ago and still I have not heard anything. All I know is that my DNA currently resides in Germany with researchers who are trying to make sense of my gene pool.
Let me continue this discussion by giving some perspective to percentages in every person’s family lines. The following table shows what percentage and fraction of my genetic material each person in that generation must claim:
Parents 50% 1/2
Grandparents 25% 1/4
Great-grandparents 12.5% 1/8
Great-great-grandparents 6.25% 1/16
If more than one of my progenitors shared an ethnic history, and in our case, some even shared family history, then the overall percentages of ethnicity would be skewered, which they are.
Late last year, I heard that Ancestry.com, an organization to which I’ve belonged since 2004, began sending out notices that a DNA test would be offered. This wasn’t one of the “Y” chromosome tests for one’s paternity information, or a mitochondrial DNA test for matrilineal information. No, this was an autosomal DNA test where they evaluate a person’s entire genome at more than 700,000 sites, or markers, in the individual’s full 23 chromosomes. This was the whole picture taken from all of my genetic material. I couldn’t pass it up. I added my name to the waiting list. Several weeks ago, my name came up.
I paid my fees, and within a few days, my test arrived. I spit in the vial and sent it out that next day. That was about three week ago. Yesterday, my test results came back in. Several things happened when I received that notice: I had some information confirmed, received some new information, and realized that my DNA may be in Germany a long, long time.
The confirmation I received is that my genetic history is about 1/3 indigenous to the Western Hemisphere; 24% from Central and North America, and 10% from South America. The data did not specify from which side of my family these numbers came. Although I was not aware that any part of my family originated in South America, it does not surprise me that some part came from there because my father’s family lived so far south in Mexico.
The most startling bit of information I received was that more than 1/3 of my genetic material originated from Eastern Europe, which includes countries from as far south as Greece to as far north as Estonia. One fact that made me smile is that my ethnicity is likely similar in part to my adoptive father’s, whose Polish heritage I have always claimed as my own, if only culturally.
As a strange aside, this information inspired me to to remember my late friend, Miriam, who often said to me, “I just know you are part Gypsy!” Contrary to what some who know me well may believe, she was not referring to the alluring musical theater character of the same name. She was referring to the Romani people. She had no reason to believe that I was part Gypsy; however, more regularly than I’ve seen with most others I know, she often made amazing leaps of intuitive gymnastics. Could there be a grain of truth in what she believed about me? She said this on numerous occasions, most often just before she died. The circumstantial evidence is there. The Romani people speak a language that many anthropologists and linguists believe originated on the Indian subcontinent. When people look at me, including individuals from that region,they most often ask me if I am East Indian. Not Mexican. Not Italian. Not North African. Not Middle Eastern. Indian. Could others see in my face what our family has had no knowledge? Could my genetic history confirm their observations by the fact that 35% of my ethnic pool originates in Eastern Europe, the same place the Romani people have lived since no earlier than the 11th Century? Of course, this is simply a fantastical hypothesis; or is it?
The part that is most confusing to me is that I have no idea from whom such a large proportion of my Eastern European genetic heritage could have stemmed. The only segment of my family that originated from anywhere remotely near there is the Sicilian branch of my family. As far as I know, not one person can be traced to Eastern Europe, let alone more than one-third of my ethnic heritage.
The most expected part of my genetic information is the 7% identified as having come from Southern European parentage. With families in Mexico often having Spanish ancestry, and a Sicilian Italian ancestor, this made sense. The one question that arose is that with one grandfather who I believed to be full Italian, this number should have been at least 12.5%.
One small surprise was the 6% defined as genes that originated from the British Isles. That means that one of my great-great grandparents was likely English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. The only problem is that I believe that I have information on all 16 great-great grandparents. Is this an indication of a secret that no one knew before?
The most difficult challenge that I had with the results of this test is a category called, “Uncertain.” This classification is for genes that have markers that generally indicate they derived from a certain area, but they do not meet the “extremely high standards” that Ancestry.com claims it has. Until they can be verified, these markers shall remain in this quizzical category. Could this be where the specific markers for small bands of Native Americas exist that at this point cannot be authoritatively assured? Could these be African or Asian aboriginal people that have so few people tested that there is no way to verify the data? Which of my ancestors are represented by this number?
The number itself is problematic. When I checked others’ levels of “Uncertain,” I saw numbers as low as 6% to as high as 16%. Why did I not see anyone with my level of “Uncertain,” which was 18%? This is nearly 1/5 of my genes, representing more than one great-grandparent’s genetic history.
As with any research project, often the researcher is left with more questions than answers. Such is the case with my DNA results. In this case, though, this is all so very personal. The good news is that I now know that fully 1/3 of my heritage developed from the Native American people stretching from North America to South America. On the other side of my family coin, I now have to figure out from where we originated because our information is clearly nowhere near complete.
Stay tuned for more information as we delve farther into our genetic past.
I am one of the luckiest people I know. I have the blessing of having two fathers. By that, I don’t mean two men who reared me together, or a father and a step-father. I have two fathers. My father of birth and my father of upbringing.
My birth father, Robert, was very young when he and my mother, Bette, found out they were going to have a child. As difficult a choice as it was, they gave me up for adoption. At that point, my soon-to-be-adoptive parents, Floyd and Teresa chose me as their own.
My Dad, Floyd, was a good man with abundant strengths and challenges to equal them. He loved my brother and me to the very depths of his soul. He was, I know, very much like his own father. A loving, strict, and generous man. He taught me how to live in this world by respecting others, valuing what I have, and maintaining my lifelong learning. He showed me what an amazingly attentive grandfather looked like, too, just like my own dziadzia, Stanley, did with me. My life is what it is in large part because of the work and sacrifices my father chose to offer to give me a life of stability and hope. More than that, he taught me the importance of being honorable, charitable, and committed to one’s family. I have missed him immeasurably since he died so tragically in 1999. “Hi, Jimmy, it’s Dad.” What I wouldn’t give to hear those words just one more time on the telephone. The last time I saw my father was on Father’s Day the year he died. This day is especially poignant for me for this reason.
My Dad, Bob, gave me life in 1959. I am, of course, grateful for this life. More importantly, however, he has given me so much more since reuniting with me in 1987. When I found my birth family, I was well aware of the horror stories many adoptees had about finding their families of birth only to be rejected immediately and wholly. I didn’t have to live through that process. Mine was full of welcoming, and inquisitive and supportive arms throughout these last 24 years. Although my birth mother, Bette, died at 50 only two years after I found her, my father, Bob, has remained a stalwart and participatory link to my genetic past. He has taught me more about myself than I ever imagined I had yet to learn. I discovered that even though I learned how to cope with life from Floyd and Teresa, Bob and Bette gave me my hardwiring. How I initially respond to the world is their gift. My intuition, my reasonability, my directness, and my caution, are components of the gifts I’ve gotten from them.
One of the things I don’t think my Dad, Bob, realizes is that our first meeting engaged my heart with him in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed before. After finding my birth family around Thanksgiving of 1987, my father was given my telephone number. He called me immediately and we spoke for quite a while. Within a few weeks, Dad came to see me in Sacramento from the Midwest where he was living. Although I was by birth his eldest son, there were other brothers who called him Dad. In the beginning, I called him Bob. The fact that he came to Sacramento to see me and meet my children, meant the world to me.
Dad said something very telling early on. He said, “You know, I knew you would find me.” I asked how he knew that. He said, “Because that’s what I would do.” Of course, I would do what he would have done in this important aspect because, after all, I am his son. He affirmed for me in that moment that he recognized that I was his son; not in the grab-a-glove-and-let’s-throw-the-ball-around way, but as someone who shared his genetic history. I know things about my own children simply because they are my children. This is something that before 1987 I had only known from one end of the equation. For the first time, I understood this concept from the other side as well.
My birth father and I have spent nearly a quarter century chatting between Missouri and California about our children, grandchildren, family history, life, illness, and death. Many years ago, I used to say I have a birth father and I have a real father. I can’t say that so much anymore. Both of my fathers have made me into the man I am today, and on this Father’s Day, I want to say thank you to both of them for the gifts they brought into my life. I am forever grateful for your loving strength, wisdom, and attentiveness.
As your proud son, I honor both of you, my fathers, Floyd and Robert.
Oddly, I’ve been thinking recently that having someone else’s name is a strange thing to do. I write, “Oddly,” because I’ve had no fewer than six monikers in my life time. From earliest to most recent:
Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera (The name my mother would have bestowed upon me had she not given me up for adoption. Both names were after my paternal and maternal grandfathers.)
Herrera (The name on my very first birth certificate. This was Mom’s surname.)
Hal (The name given to me by Children’s Home Society before I got adopted. Look at my face to the right. Do I honestly look like a Hal to you?)
James Stanley Glica (My adoptive name, after my uncle who introduced my parents and my paternal grandfather.)
James Stanley Chávez-Glica (The name I chose to honor my mother and father.)
James Stanley Chávez Glica-Hernandez (My married name.)
Sometimes, I like to string them all together with my title and degree, just for effect:
Reverend James Stanley Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera Chávez Glica-Hernandez, D.Div.
Come on, say that five times fast. I dare you.
Anyhoo, after all these name changes, I’m starting to think that my name, which at its core has remained James Stanley Glica since 1959, was enough all along. I love my mother and the name Chávez for a million reasons, but Glica was the name she chose to use, as well. My children are all Glica. I didn’t take my ex-wife’s name when we got married. I have to admit that it’s because I might have become James Daw-Glica. Uh, no, thank you. Go ahead. Re-syllablize it yourself.
Did you have fun?
We could talk all about the sociological reasons why wives originally took their husband’s names. Yes, class, ownership is one reason. We could talk about the standardization of second class citizenship afforded women until relatively recently, even on a letter:
“Mrs. Herbert Smith”
Either this woman’s parents need a solid chastising, or this poor woman has lost her name. Thankfully, I, of course, would not be Mr. David Hernandez. That would be silly because my husband is Mr. David Hernandez. I’m Mr. James Glica-Hernandez. Yet, I digress.
Am I any less married if I were to use only Glica? No. Plenty of people are overwhelmed by their wedded bliss while still maintaining their names of birth or adoption. Look at my husband. It’s my guess that he thinks Glica is a strange name and not one he wants to carry around the rest of his life. Hernandez is simple. Sure it has three syllables, but everyone can spell it, knows where it’s from, and almost always knows someone else by that same name. I only know this because on some of my identifying information, I use, James C. Hernandez.
“Ooooooooohhh!,” the young, ebullient fellow behind the counter squeals, “I actually know two different James Hernandezes…ez…ezzzzzzzzzzz… [Author’s note: you must visualize here a young fellow with a face that I once heard comedian, Dov Davidov, describe as having smelled freshly-baked cookies]. Do you know either of them?”
For goodness sake. And, this coming from a boy named, Myke Johnson? (Do you see how that’s different? Kewl, huh?) Ugh!
What I’ve realized, though, is that these various incarnations of my name are like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs back into my gingerbread house of memory. As someone whose had two small strokes already and probably will have another one eventually, any tools that amplify my memory are good tools, indeed.
“Was that pre-Chavez or post-Chavez? When did we meet them, before- or after-Hernandez?” It’s worked a few times, quite honestly. The only thing is I’ve been a Chavez longer than I haven’t and I’ve wanted to be a Hernandez since nearly the time I first met my husband a dozen years ago. So, the muddiness continues.
After it’s all said and done, I guess I’m still Little Jimmy Glica from McCloud and Dunsmuir, California, no matter whose grandfather I’ve become in the last 50 years. I like it that way. I’m proud of my entire name of birth, adoption, and marriage, and the paths I’ve taken to receive these beautiful names; however, like at the core of my name, the core of my spirit remains the same: a happy, loving little boy who loves to see people smile, sing, and dance.
Some things, as it’s said, never change after all.
Thirty years ago, I had never met my parents of birth. I didn’t know their names and I had no idea what their faces looked like.
The day I took the plunge and found my birth family in San Jose, California, in addition to meeting a huge number of family members on both my birth father’s and birth mother’s side, I got to meet my Grandmother Maria Secundina Gutierrez de Arroyo.
Grandma Arroyo, which is what I called her because I didn’t know others called her Mami, had to have my relationship to the family explained to her that day in November 1988. When she finally understood that I was her youngest son’s child, a fact she had not known for the entire twenty-nine years of my life, she looked at me with her amazing blue eyes. They were the color of seafoam blue-green at that moment. I wasn’t sure she would ever stop staring at me. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted her to break our connection. I had waited a lifetime to see features that actually looked like mine.
Finally, she must have seen something in my face, or eyes, or heard something in my voice that told her that I truly was her grandson, and she quietly wrapped me in her arms and whispered, “Welcome home.”
That’s all she said that day. To this day, it is enough for me.
Grandma Arroyo died nearly twenty years ago. After visiting her wherever she was living at the time, I still miss her terribly. I miss her smile and her stories that she would tell me in Spanish, since I was one of the few grandchildren who understood her native language. I miss her calling me Robert, my father’s name, every time she saw me.
Today, twenty-two years later, I opened my Herrera-Arroyo Family Tree on Ancestry.com. What I discovered there was as much a shock to me as my grandmother must have received the day I met her. Most of the children of my father’s brothers and sisters had been input into my tree. There are many, many, many cousins on Dad’s side.
One of my cousins, with whom I’ve recently become aquainted on Facebook, must have input that information, because I certainly didn’t, and no one told me they were doing so. I am so thrilled, I cannot find the words to express by deep gratitude to this anonymous person who shares genetic history with me.
I know that this information is for all of us to share. I know I was not the sole reason he or she took the time to add to our tree, but, our connection was strong enough to inspire him or her to do this very loving act.
It genuinely feels like I am hearing Grandma Arroyo say, “Welcome home,” one more time.
In the first week of October this year, I will be meeting for the first time with my fourth cousin, Toni. We have been in touch for the last year or so. We met through our common interest in our genealogy. Although Toni now lives in Colorado and I live in California, she is originally from California, too, so she is coming to visit her relatives; those that are more closely related to her than I am .
It’s incredible to think that this woman, whom I have never met, carries some of the same genetic material that I do. Her children swim in the same familial pool as mine do. I love that. For a man who spent 28 years without anyone other than his children toward whom he could look for that connection, it’s nearly magical to think that Toni now exists in my consciousness and, soon, in my presence.
I am very excited because Toni represents the most distant relative with whom I’ve come in contact since my family research began. For those who are not familiar with the relationship connections, her great-great grandmother, Rafaela Herrera Lopez is my great-great-grandfather, Lorenzo Herrera Leal’s sister.
It’s strange how those who are more distantly related to me are, in some ways, more fascinating to me than those more closely connected. I think it appeals to my sense of enormity for our family that our mutual great-great-great grandparents, Lorenzo, Sr., and Guadalupe, have reached 150 years across time to touch both Toni and me in this way.
Although we have yet to be able to prove it, we believe there is Native American blood in our common line. As such, it leads me to feel more strongly that our ancestors are truly playing a role in our reunion.
Toni is giving me such a great gift by visiting, even for a brief time. I hope I can return the favor in my gratitude.
Over the last year-and-a-half since I stopped teaching, my intention has been to write a book. The book I’ve chosen to pen is a memoir about being an adoptee who finds his family of birth and begins the process of discovering the genealogy on all four sides of the family. The impact this endeavor has had on me and many people in my family, the awakening, unity and divisiveness that has come from it, is being discussed in a personal and accessible way.
In those eighteen months, I have music directed four shows, written 132 blogs, helped bury a friend’s daughter, planned a memorial concert for this young woman, done research for my book, taken care of my family and, prior to yesterday, written a total of eleven pages on my book.
It wasn’t enough. The call to write toward completing my book has grown so strong that I finally decided to sit down and write. At the end of the day, I had typed twelve pages of double-space, 12 point font, words that, upon reading, were an outstanding addition to this tome.
There is an excitement in my heart and a peace in my mind with regard to this literary project that fills every cell of my body as I’m working. That has to have some significance. I have now completed page 23 of my book, Interwoven.
I know there is still so much to do. An average novel has between 60,000 and 100,000 words. I now have a little over 6,000. It’s going to be a long, long journey, but a journey well worth the taking.
I just wanted to share the good news!
The commemorative days that Babcia and Dziadzia died, my father would lock himself in the kid’s room, as we called our family room, turn out the lights, pick up his bottle of Cutty Sark, and weep as he sang this song to his beloved parents until he fell asleep in the rocking chair.
I never really knew why he would do this until just before I left home at sixteen-years-old. Over the years, I learned that the lyrics talk about how quickly time flies, especially when one misses those they love. It is a melancholy song of longing and sadness, while cherishing the memories of those that are no longer with us.
Most people laugh when I tell them of my Polish cultural, if not genetic, heritage because I so clearly do not look like I’m Polish. What most people don’t know is that I attended the Polish mass at Our Lady of Częstochowa Roman Catholic Church in North Tonawanda, New York, when I lived there. I ate pierogi, golabki, kiełbasa, and chłopski posiłek. I know that our name, Glica, is supposed to be pronounced, “GLEE-tza,” and not, “GLEE-ka.” I learned to play the accordion so that my father could enjoy my rendition of the Clarinet Polka. And, I learned the words, and their meaning, to this music when I was very young.
I miss my father, as well as my mother and brother, today, so instead of just singing the music, which I’ve done, sans liquor, I’m remembering my father in writing and on video, as well.
Dziękuję i miłość ty, Ta.
Because the advent of photography arrived in 1826, much of our family history in photographs only began in the late 1800’s. As Joseph Nicéphore Niépce of France managed to capture that first photograph, or heliograph as he called it, of the view from his window, portraiture to that point had been solely based on canvas renderings by outstanding artists. Our Western Hemisphere family did not come from wealth on most sides, and we had to await the docking of cameras on North America shores for many years before the first of our faces could be printed for posterity. Even the Sicilian side of my family does not have, to my knowledge, pictures older than those dating to the 1870’s. I have not seen any paintings done of our family prior to the photographic images that have been collected on the walls and tabletops throughout our family’s homes.
As I gaze upon the images we do have, for which I am phenomenally grateful, and contemplate my family’s faces, some born over 175 years ago, I can’t help but wonder about what they dreamed and rued as they reached their midlife. Did they worry about their children and grandchildren as I do? Did they struggle with issues of money? Were their concerns about survival exponentially greater than ours are today? Did they sense the amazing accomplishments that were to come from their lineage?
The photographs show only staid, unemotional faces, awaiting the lengthy exposure necessary to create these important images. The visages reflect the boredom, perhaps, my progenitors felt as the photographer said, “Now, don’t move or even breathe because the image will become blurry.”
Did the flash of the chemicals on the flash pan startle my ancestors enough to create some of the facial expressions upon which I ponder today?
As an adoptee, having not been reared with my birth family, I have often perused these familial treasures for glimpses of my eyes, my chin, and my smile. Fortunately, they are there. I spent twenty-eight years without seeing anyone older than me whose features I had drawn from their genetic pool. This ability to now share those with my family are so very important to me. My nose, for example, which I’ve always found doughy and thick, is now made beautiful because of my great-grandmother, Gertrude, with whom I share this bump of skin and cartilage.
There is no way for me to know how these people felt about anything, really, since most of them have been gone since before my grandparents were born. It is comforting, however, to know that I am writing the stories I do know for my progeny to know their grandparents, great-grandparents, and their ancestors before them.
The clouds today are grey and heavy outside my office window. There are drizzles of light rain landing in the pool in my backyard. I am still grieving for my beloved student, Rindy, whose death at 21-years-old, ensures that her personal history will slow dramatically from here. Her parents will never have a grandchild and will not see the noses and chins and eyes that they may have seen had Rindy lived, married, and borne children.
I am so very fortunate. I can see my grandfather in my grandson’s face. I knew Papa well and I know my grandson even better. My job is not over, I guess, and I must move forward, taking the responsibility of collecting the stories and photographs that will transcend my life as the storyteller and family historian. If one of my grandson’s grandchildren can look at a face from already 100 years ago and say to Raymond, “Look, Grandpa, that’s my nose,” then I will have done my job.
All day today, I’ve been reflecting on my birthday celebration on Saturday. Although my birthday was actually on Friday, my husband, David, put together a wonderful day for me with family and friends who have been an active part of my life. One of those people, my first cousin, Joseph Chávez, has been in involved in my life experience since his birth in 1960. My most recent friend, Emily Perkins, has joined our cadre in 2001.
In 1989, after meeting my birth family, I had a cardiac episode. It wasn’t exactly a heart attack, but I was in the hospital for about five days. I was 29 years old. My children were 12, 9 and 8 years old. I was separated and on my way to a divorce from my wife, Barbara, to whom I had been married since 1977. I had only found out the month before that my birth father’s family had a challenging history with heart disease, so it was fortuitous that when I went into the hospital with chest pain, I had something tangible to tell my physicians.
After my discharge, I decided that I was on gravy time. I had already been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, kidney stones and asthma. I was soon to have back surgery. There were still chronic bronchitis and early emphysema, bipolar depression, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatty liver, and two strokes in my future.
In addition to all these diagnoses, however, was this indefinable force that has kept me going no matter what specific events were happening in my orbit.
On Saturday, I remembered, once again, what that force was. It was my family and friends. And, what a force to be reckoned with!
As each of the thirty-plus people arrived to have fun at the pool party and barbeque at our home, it felt a little like the old NBC television program hosted by Ralph Edwards, “This is Your Life.” Even a few days before the event, members of my loving circle came to greet me with the warmest wishes for my birthday.
During the day, nearly everyone, at one time or another, was in the pool, playing volleyball, swimming with the little ones, or just floating, talking about our lives. My sister-in-law, Sherry Hoffhine, was at the barbeque turning the ribs and slathering sauce on the sausages. Huge bowls of fruit salad dotted the kitchen and salami with cream cheese and jalapeños were elegantly displayed and quickly disappeared.
My fifteen year old granddaughter painted a most beautiful picture for me that I proudly display in my living room.
I was even blessed to have our nephew, Vincent Higareda, write a song and play it for us on the piano in my living room. Although he’s had no training and his “writing” was beautifully flowing squiggles and lines, he played with such genuine love and intensity, it sounded like a concerto to me in only two fingers at a time. This six year old boy warmed my heart beyond belief.
My daughters, Ana-Maria and Rita-Alina, brought me a balloon that demanded, “I want a recount!” Thankfully, the only black decorations were a couple of the orbs in the balloon bouquet.
It was funny that these balloons reminded me a story about a balloon I wrote in the 1980’s when Rita had acute lymphocytic leukemia. I had taken the children, Ana, Rita, and their brothers, James David and Michael, to a small carnival at their elementary school down the street. Upon returning home with Care Bear™ balloons for each of them, Rita’s escaped her tiny hand and floated into the sky. As she was crying, I suggested that perhaps she smile at the flying messenger. I said to her that somewhere someone needed a smile and that wherever the balloon landed, the person who found it would feel happy because she had smiled it at as it departed.
Rita smiled, with her coal black eyes filled with tears, hoping someone would find her balloon.
Later that day, we received a telephone call advising us that a little girl from her clinic who had recently received a bone marrow transplant had died.
As I was relaying the information to our children, they cried, and I along with them. Rita looked up at me and wondered if her balloon was waiting for Miranda when she arrived in heaven. I was stunned into silence. I said, “Yes, sweetheart, I’m sure it was. Miranda is smiling because of your generosity.”
I remembered that moment because I knew that Rita had once again smiled as she purchased the balloon and she brought that smile along with her to my party on a string with a funny saying.
Out on my lanai, while everyone was chatting and laughing, playing and sipping their drinks to stay cool in the nearly 100 degree weather, as if in a bubble of silence, I looked around my backyard. Every single place I looked, I found people who loved me and whom I loved so very much.
It was miraculous to me.
The poignancy of my day was in that both my parents and one of my birth parents had passed away already. My birth father carried my birthday celebration to the 19th when he called me to wish me, “Happy Birthday!” My brother, David, and so many other members of my family were gone now.
The best part of the day for me was that every part of my life over the last fifty years was represented.
My cousin, Joe Chávez, represents my most ancient past.
My niece, Leticia Arroyo, represents my genetic past.
My friend, Sharon Manfredi, represent my childhood and art.
My friend, Emily Perkins, represents my adult friendships and work.
My mother-in-law, Eva Hoffhine, represents our family’s interconnectedness.
My daughters, Ana-Maria and Rita-Alina Glica, represent my parenthood and their grandparents.
My sons, James, Michael, and John, represent the distance that love can reach during their absence.
My grandchildren, Mary and Raymond Glica-Whitney, represent our family’s future.
My husband, David Hernandez, represents my personal future.
Everyone in attendance plays such a significant role in my life, changing it always for the better. This was never more recognized than when people were leaving.
“Everyone here got along so well.”
“I’m so glad I met so-an-so, because I’ve heard so much about them.”
“You have such great friends!”
It’s all true. I do have great friends and family. I’ve always made the joke that God protects small children, dumb animals, and me because none of us can take care of ourselves. God has me in a world that is padded for safety and joy with the most loving souls around.
I am so deeply grateful to everyone for making our celebration such a wonderful day. It is a beautiful way to end the first fifty of my years on this planet and begin the second half-century.
Since my heart problems, I’ve looked at life as an adventure. This first leg is done and now, I’m ready to begin the second.
And, he’s off!
This article appeared from the middle of a collection of newspaper cutouts my late parents had kept dating back to the early 1940’s. I couldn’t help but laugh that I began my life in the news. I keep showing up periodically there time and time again. The truth is, I have no idea why. I haven’t cured cancer. I haven’t written the great American novel. I haven’t done anything particularly remarkable, but there I am, on Page 23 every so often.
It’s a real giggle. Enjoy!