By Lara Trace
In mid-April my husband and I took a road-trip to visit our friends from Austria who also keep a family home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
My friend/sister/relative Dr. Raeschelle Potter-Deimel (left) is originally from Gulfport and at one time worked as an opera singer at the Met in New York City and on many stages in Europe and Austria. After opera, Rae became a renowned doctor of anthropology in Vienna! (She has American Indian and African American ancestry.)
Rae and I met in person at the American Indian Workshop (AIW) in Munich in 2005 but we’d actually met earlier via phone and email when I was editor of the Pequot Times in Connecticut. Rae had told me about the AIW and put me in touch with them. So my academic paper Power Politics and the Pequot: America’s Richest Indians was my first paper at AIW; then it was published in Poland, Italy and Germany. Many European historians were curious about the modern-day Mashantucket Pequot, including my friend Rae …luckily I had spent 5 years editing their tribal newspaper and their annual reports (1999-2004). With so little known or written about this hugely successful tribe, I offered a more modern view of their activity and successes. I was interviewed by the BBC and a German TV station so my Pequot paper was NEWS! (Of course I was very pleased they liked my presentation… I am now an official member of the AIW and invited to give a paper every year…) Later Rae and I wrote a paper together on the adoption projects and we continue to talk on the phone and make every effort to see each other when they come to the US.
Dr. Rae, the anthropologist, lectures about Native American history in Europe and writes and gives papers regularly. What I never realized until I met her: in Europe they teach a true version of Native and American history, with all it’s complications, gore and tragedy. Europeans actually know more than Americans know about American Indian history… Rae, in particular, is aware of the discrepancies and revisions in American history textbooks that purposefully glorify the invader-conqueror-colonizer and portray American Indians as vanquished, disappeared, drunk and/or dead.
Currently Rae is drafting a book on Texas Lumbee history and even though I retired from my publisher duties at Blue Hand Books in January this year, I do plan to help her get this remarkable book published in the near future. This trip we met to talk about the Lumbee book and just smooze like sisters do…
I’ve now been to Gulfport twice, my only trips to the Gulf Coast, and both times I remembered a story my birthfather Earl Bland had told me. I was sitting at his kitchen table in Pana, Illinois when I was 38 (in 1994), meeting my dad for the very first time. He was standing up and calmly said, “You have a brother in New Orleans and I think he’s an attorney.” I NEVER forgot this! (Did I ask questions? No. I was in a state of shock just being in reunion.)
From Gulfport, it is an easy drive to New Orleans. My husband and I had lunch in the French Quarter our last trip. Again Earl’s words haunted me… I have a brother in Louisiana. But how could I ever solve this mystery or find this missing brother? I didn’t know his name! Earl died in 1996 and he never elaborated on his story.
I could have a brother (?) or I did have a brother. I wasn’t sure. Teresa and I were close; she was my half-sister (same dad) and she never mentioned this in the 20 years we’d been in reunion! I wasn’t even sure if Earl had met this son. Yet somehow Earl believed he was an attorney? (Earl raised 5 kids who are my half-siblings. I’ve met them and we all thought I was the only one given up for adoption.)
When Herb and I got back from our roadtrip, we headed to Philadelphia for a funeral. My husband’s cousin Gwenny had died. The night before her funeral, sitting in our hotel, we watched on TV how two sisters who were separated by adoption met in a writing class at the same college in New York City. This was my first time seeing them reunited on TV. More than one person had told me about this miracle!
(READ: Two Sisters United After Decades when They Take the Same Class: http://www.smartmomstyle.com/two-sisters-united-after-decades-when-they-take-the-same-class/#sthash.EwzQzD1l.dpuf)
That same Sunday night I got an email.
Because I wrote my memoir One Small Sacrifice and mentioned my first father is Earl Bland and his name had made its way onto the internet and onto Ancestry.com, my mystery brother found ME…
YES!! Ronnie and his wife had wanted to find Earl Bland for many years. They asked their daughter in Texas to help search. Their daughter is named Tracy. My brother Ronnie chose her name — yup, my adopted name! It was Tracy who found my memoir and emailed ME!
Ronnie did live in New Orleans but he wasn’t an attorney. He had served in the Navy (same as our dad Earl) and worked many years in law enforcement and is retired. Ronnie was adopted by a relative (his aunt) and was told the truth when he was 13. And he carried a small photo of Earl Bland in his wallet. (Ronnie is ten years older than me so our dad Earl was 18 when Ronnie was born.)
When I got home, I could hardly wait to talk to them! I spoke to my niece Tracy (two hours+) and she has shared all my emails with her dad. I’ve emailed photos of Earl (and our family) and all the ancestry records I’d scanned.
(Remember we just drove through Alabama to get to and from Gulfport! REALLY! We had lunch in Mobile, Alabama where my brother Ronnie had lived and worked many years!)
Ronnie emailed me a few days ago. He lives in northern Alabama and wants to know how soon can I come visit.