I am Milady.
How did I get here? It’s a fundamental question. It is probably a question everyone reflects on in some unconscious way all the time, but because they know the answer it just flies in and out of their head without much consideration.
I can’t really do that. I am Milady. My parents are Rose Evelyn and Information Not Given. I can’t remember anything from birth to age four, save a couple of snippets of my grandfather’s home on North 11th Street in Kansas City, Kansas. I remember my grandfather very fondly, then he died. I spent the years between four and 10 essentially living out of a turd brown 1962 Chevy Nova station wagon. The next eight years, from 10 to 18, are the ones that probably shaped me more than any other, but it still doesn’t answer the fundamental question, how did I get here?
Just to be clear, I have never really fixated on the missing information. It’s just there, and it is what it is. It would come up every now and then. That blank box. The one that kept me from filling out my passport application online because the form wouldn’t accept anything other than a full name for parental information. The one that made me worry about my security check for my Federal job.
My mother told me one story, then another, and then others. I always knew that there might have been a shred of truth in each story, but none of them were “the” story. Mom had what I called convenient memory — she remembered things the way that was most convenient to her, and then she believed it, so it was truth to her. What was inconvenient or embarrassing to her, just didn’t make it into her story, and she really didn’t think much about how she told it. She had no problem telling me as a child that I was not loved or wanted. But it is what it is, and I never spent a lot of time pondering it and just assumed I’d never really know. Over the years others had approached my mom with questions, and she was just as creative with them. We got some great quotes though. Glenda, who was my “mom” for many years, was adamant I needed to know and she had a long conversation with my mom once. All she got out of it was that apparently the sex was “hot,” but nothing more. And yes, that was the word used. Ick.
I once had a client that was a private detective. To help pay his bill with me, he did some research on a name and story that my mother had settled on after I was 12. I just kind of assumed that the shred of truth was that second name. My step-dad had once found my mother crying over an obituary when I was 15 or 16, and she claimed then it was the man that was my father. She told my aunt the name, giving a certain amount of credence to the story. The detective researched, found the obituary my mom likely had referenced. He died in the mid-1970s, so the timing was right. I just filed the info away in my brain and left it with that. I had a sneaking suspicion that he, or whoever it was, never even knew I existed, and if he were dead, my mom didn’t have to give it another thought.
In 2014, my husband gave me a Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas. I sat and stared at it for six months before I finally spit in the vial and sent it off. I’m not sure why I waited, other than it was just that blank box thing again. I just wasn’t sure it would tell me anything new. I’ve always felt like I was on the periphery of my family anyway, and it wasn’t going to change any of that.
In 2015, I got my ancestry profile. It actually was kind of fun. I’d always assumed that I was predominantly Scotch/Irish based on my mother’s ancestry. Well, not so much. Turns out I’m primarily Western European and British — my mother’s ancestors came from France and England. That was news to me. I felt a little let down that I wasn’t as Celtic as I’d imagined, but it is what it is.
I shared my results with my maternal cousins, and one took an interest. He was so curious, he did his own DNA kit.
The first confirmation was that Ancestry.com immediately matched our DNA and made our relationship first cousins. A fact has been established. This is just about the most concrete evidence of where I came from that I’ve ever had.
Then we noticed something. We had shared DNA matches. Ancestors on my mother’s side. It was an actual path that I could follow. My husband was fascinated by the whole thing and worked my genealogy back to something like 700 AD. There’s landlords, Countesses and castles in the lineage. Perhaps I am a little bit of a milady after all.
That lead me to the DNA matches that my cousin and I did not share. The obvious implication is they came from whoever my father was. My closest relative on that side is a second cousin. That means we have shared great grandparents. I’ve talked to her, and her aunt on her mom’s side, and it seems logical that I’m from her mother’s branch of her family tree, because that’s the branch that was from Kansas City. We haven’t quite figured it all out, and I still can’t say I know who my father is, but I can tell you who he wasn’t. He wasn’t the name my mother gave me when I was 12, that she cried over an obituary for, and that the private investigator researched for me many years later. He may be one of the names mom mentioned in her waning years as dementia was taking over. I will never know. Based on the little bit of evidence I have, it looks like the possible candidate, who is deceased now, was at time of my conception substantially younger than my mom, probably around the age of 20 to her age 31. That would have been a fling that my mother would never in a million years have admitted to because it would have been far too embarrassing for her. Que that convenient memory.
The one conclusion I can come to is it is very reasonable to believe that my father, whoever he was, had absolutely no idea he ever had a child named Milady out there. I can believe that telling me I was not loved or wanted was at its least unfair. That may be all I ever get, but it’s more than I had. It is what it is. I’m here.
I am Milady.