Blood Lines

Blood Lines

It was the coldest day of the year and dog, boy and I were ensconced on the sofa under a pile of rugs with the heater humming and laptop aglow was scrolling through Facebook when a striking photograph appeared; it was a portrait of a late nineteenth century man wearing a riding cap. His long face framed intelligent brown eyes that held wistful look; he was strong jawed with a straight nose and resolute mouth, but what struck me most were his high, prominent cheekbones.

I had just that afternoon glanced at my son playing his guitar and noticed the arrival of his own cheekbones. t is a joy for parents to witness their offspring stretching into adulthood, but it can be tinged with sadness too as childish traits recede into the past. My boy doesn’t much resemble me, but his high cheekbones confirm that he is my progeny!

My birth mother had posted the photo of the man in the riding cap with the caption My grandfather!  Realisation dawned and I exclaimed to my son We’re related! He just shrugged at the remoteness of this ancestor, but for me it was a seminal moment.

I am happily adopted along with three siblings.They are every inch my brothers and sister so blood played no part in the relationships we formed in childhood. It was of little significance that we did not look alike; though in a broader sense by not resembling anyone at all, it feels I might as well have landed from a spaceship. I am intrinsically linked to my adoptive family, but I’ve never felt a sense of belonging toward any clan.

I’ve struggled to understand the desire to trace one’s genealogy and the appeal of television shows where celebrities are guided to discover the fate of their ancestors. Could this be because some protective mechanism closes when a baby is separated from its tribe?

I’ve always queried the notion that blood is thicker than water, surely we are bonded by something deeper; our very humanness, our desire to love and be loved, our need to be accepted. I believe I would love my son no less if he were adopted. Has my view stemmed from not sharing blood lines with family members?

I’ve watched with fascination, and a little envy, the tightly woven closeness of families who share looks and mannerisms alike, and those who simultaneously revel in spats and fierce displays of loyalty and sentimentality. But I also wonder if it’s too high a price to pay, to sacrifice the spaciousness that comes with being an ‘alien’ raised in an independent household.

When I made the connection with the man in the riding cap I felt something akin to a current running through him to me to my son.  For a rare moment something inextricably wonderful linked the three of us, and it wasn’t just the cheekbones.

I found myself repeatedly going back to gaze at his photograph.  I asked my birth mother about him and she said his given names were Michael Patrick and he was a horse trainer born in Ireland. My son’s confirmation name is Michael and at birth my mother named me Patricia before she was made to give me away. This synchronicity gave me a small bond with my great grandfather.

The man in the riding cap has opened a door enabling me to feel a blood connection, and provoked questions into the formation of identity when part of a clan. It feels weirdly nice, but for now I’m happy to be an alien.








4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mandy :)
    Aug 08, 2014 @ 09:24:44

    Your writing is wonderful….I can now understand why you love to blog. I LOVE blood lines and how special to have that moment in life that provoked those feelings of identity …’s such a buzzzzzzz + a natural high on life….. however, I totally respect you when you say “for now I’m happy to be an alien!


  2. Stephen McQually
    Aug 08, 2014 @ 11:00:25

    Beautifully written.


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