What A Ride!
by Neal McFarland
Updated September 9, 2010
I'll never forget the first time my Dad took me to ride in his lap on The Comet roller coaster at the Forest Park Highlands amusement park in St. Louis. I was five or six years old, excited and giddy with anticipation. I had no idea what to expect when we got into the car and pulled down the safety bar. As we slowly climbed up the first long hill, leveled off, then plunged down the deep chute, it took my breath away and with every unexpected twist, turn, climb and drop, my heart pumped faster and faster. The 60-second ride scared the bejabbers out of me. When we finally stopped, I begged my Dad for a re-ride, which he agreed to. I was hooked! And since that first ride on the Comet, I've ridden some of the longest, fastest, steepest, meanest coasters in the country and never found one I couldn't handle.
My research into our McFarland family has been a microcosm of all those thousands of twists and turns, climbs and free fall drops. Every new discovery has been exhilarating; every dead end frustrating. But the anticipation of discovery never diminished. Like that first ride on The Comet, the search became an addiction.
As I've stated before, I started knowing next to nothing about the McFarland side of my family and only a little more about my Mother's side. Now, I can trace my McFarland line over three hundred years; my Mother's family over two hundred. And, along the way there were plenty of surprises.
I found a few skeletons in the closet. But, as Mary Helen Haines has told me, most every family has a few skeletons in the closet. They just don't talk about them. That's perfectly understandable.
Mary Helen also encouraged me to take a DNA test to validate my ancestry back to Scotland. I did that. And when I received the results of the testing. I was devastated. The test proved not only that my ancestry doesn't date back to Scotland at all, but that my DNA doesn't match any other McFarlands that have been tested. Not even close. My ancestral origins go back several millennia to somewhere in East Africa.
I asked myself, "How can that be? Where did my lineage disconnect with the McFarlands? When did it get off track?" I made a couple of assumptions about my Grandmother and/or Great-Grandmother which were not very complimentary. In addition, they didn't make any sense, based upon what I had already learned about them. I also knew that my Mother had never been unfaithful to my Father. My birth certificate proves that. So, again, the question, "How could this have happened?"
I found two innocuous documents along with my birth certificate that led me to believe I may have been adopted. I also verified that it's possible to have a birth certificate that shows your Mother and Father as your birth parents, even though you are adopted, but no public records are available to prove your adoption. I had only one way of confirming or disclaiming my adoption, my Uncle Henry, who was about 19 years old when I was born and is now 90. When I talked to him, he confirmed what I had already concluded was the truth. My Mom and Dad had already lost two sons when they were babies and both pregnancies had been very difficult for my Mother. Rather than risk her health and the possibility of losing another baby, they arranged to adopt me. I am thrilled to know that. My birth mother cared enough about me that she didn't have an abortion or dump me in an alley somewhere. My parents loved me enough to take me in and raise me as their own flesh and blood. They all gave me a second chance to live. What greater love can there be than that?
I am now searching to find out who my birth Mother and Father are. Not that it matters a whole lot. I would just like to know. Whether I find out or not, it won't change a thing about how I feel about my family. They are the only family I've ever known; the McFarlands and the Smiths. They always will be. And, I'm one of them!
For anyone reading this, I'd like to offer a little advice. If you are adopted, don't be ashamed of it. In truth, it makes you sort of special. If you are considering an abortion, don't. Adoption is the best alternative. Your unborn baby deserves the same second chance I was given. Finally, if you are trying to learn the entire truth about who you are or where you came from, don't give up. There may always be another hill to climb, but just over the crest, another exciting discovery to be made.
Instead of finding a skeleton in my closet I found an Easter Egg.
Yes, it's been quite a ride. A bunch of unexpected hills and valleys, twists and turns. And, I've loved every minute of it!
The End of the Ride!
September 3, 2010- After six months of correspondence with the State of Missouri, the Circuit Court in St. Louis and a County Clerk's Office in Illinois, I finally received the news I'd been searching for; a copy of the original adoption decree naming my birth mother and an "unknown father," as well as my new adoptive parents. The decree also legally changed my name. I've been only able to determine that my natural, unwed, mother (Georgia Ann) had grown up on a farm in Central Illinois. My natural father was "unknown." That's all I need to know them.