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"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

"Eat, Pray, Love"
by Elizabeth Gilbert

by Nathaniel Philbrick

February 5, 2009

Who’s your daddy?

I have been knee deep in DNA papers and so forth. I have been trying to find some information about Mmmm’s grandmother. We have a family story about her but as you probably know, all autobiography and probably biography, too, is fiction. Each generation adds its own wishes, dreams or suppositions. I would so love to find out something about Melvina Alice Delph, other than when she was born, when she died, and where she is buried. I would love to know who her father and mother were. To find out if she had siblings, to know about her roots.

The family story is that she was the young daughter of a fairly well-to-do family. Her brother (again according to the family stories) had something to do with Johns Hopkins hospital in Washington DC. She was an accomplished pianist and was in Virginia, walking on the grounds of a college there when she met, and evidently fell in love at first sight with this dashing, handsome young man, Mmmm’s grandfather. When they married, her family disowned her. She and Jefferson Davis Warner had seven children, one of whom was Mmmm’s father. She died one week after giving birth to her seventh child, George. My father-in-law remembers being behind the door being comforted by his older brother, Willy. I think Willy put him up on his shoulders.

After six months, the younger children were put into an orphanage and were adopted out. The rules for adoption were so different then. Some were merely taken and raised by families. My father-in-law was legally adopted about 8 or 9 years later. The older daughters took the two younger boys and raised them. I don’t know how they did it because they were working too.

My father-in-law father married again, after about four years, and had another family – a girl and twin boys. His wife, again according to family stories, had a “nervous breakdown” and was confined in an institution and the new family was placed in an orphanage. I have heard that the state would take the children after six months, if they felt it was better to have them in an institution. Vera, the daughter of this second family, took both twins and raised them in her home.

My father-in-law was very family oriented and I think that he could never understand how a father could give up his children. Of course he was only five when he was put in the orphanage so he, I am sure, felt abandoned. He loved and appreciated his adoptive family and felt he could do never enough for them.

This family story makes me realize how I should feel toward God, who chose me and adopted me and made me part of His forever family.

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