My husband appeared to stare up at the ceiling, though I could only imagine that it was not a very clear image in his vision with the blindness he bore.
He sighs, “I wish I knew where I came from.” I knew he struggled with the sense of identity of who and where he came from. He knew a little from his mother, but the lack of not knowing where his father was from, it left him feeling incomplete. I did not struggle with the same challenges. I knew where I came from, for the most part, and I was continually learning more about my heritage through stories from my relatives. My husband did not have that luxury.
A year ago, he dug and searched for answers. His mother’s side was wide open, and he found so many connections leading to names and places he never thought. His father’s side was more difficult. With his father’s sudden abandonment at a young age, he was left with many questions unanswered. He only knew of his father’s father, but none of any other relatives. He never knew his other grandmother or any aunts and uncles from his paternal side. It egged at him as he watched me speak of a beloved aunt on my father’s side and how she impacted my life with her own adventures of trying to sign to me with a hand with half their fingers gone. He tried to search for answers through DNA, but he was left with more questions.
He discovered that he had many markers for Scottish DNA, but could not trace it back to any specific clans, though they had some general ideas. He had a little of this and a little of that all through out Europe. With not having any answers, he felt he would never know where his family on his father’s side came from. I tried my best to encourage him. “It may be that you can find who you are through your mom’s side; she did raise you by herself, after all.”
It took him a while for him to accept that idea.
As the full year of searching almost came to a close, he discovers a distant cousin in Poland, which he came to find related through his mother. A friendship grew, and my husband came to accept the very strong Polish last name he had inherited from his mother.
An idea came to him. “My surname means nothing to me. How about I take on a different surname- but one I actually feel a true connection with?” In knowing he needed to find satisfaction with who he is, I encourage him to search which name he would like to take. I even added, “We can all join you as a family in taking on the name.”
We went back and forth through several Scottish names, as he had thought about taking on a name that was fairly possible to being one in the family, according to the little information left from a few small pieces of his father’s history. I encouraged him to look to his mother’s side more. I felt it was stronger. It would honor his mother if he did take a name from her side as well.
My husband talked to his newly found distant cousin through the great technology of emails about his journey. His cousin shared stories of relatives from his mother’s side, and as he learned more, he started to think upon the idea of taking his mother’s maiden name. It was the same strong name that rang strong through many generations from Poland.
Precariously, the idea was brought up to our children, who were still in their elementary years. My husband shared with our kids why he was considering changing the family name, and our daughter, after hearing how small her daddy knew of his own daddy, became passionate in taking on a new surname to honor a facet of the family’s identity – Their Grandmother’s heritage, and thus, becoming theirs. Our son cared less about changing the name, though he did like the idea of gaining a new middle name to honor his uncle. (which was what I had wanted to give him when he was a baby… now his father agreed to the idea)
We’ve received our papers from the courts recently, and with a little Polish celebration. we closed the chapter of our old identity. Now onto discovering more of our Polish heritage, and we couldn’t be more excited! He just has to put up with a very Irish wife!