Fifteen years ago when I first started having symptoms of this muscle disease I wanted to find my father’s birth parents. I wanted to know if it could be genetic because where I was then, and still am, don’t know where this originated. I knew my father’s birth mother’s name. I made one phone call to the only name listed out in California where my father was born. A woman answered the phone. I told her I was looking for Sylvia Sternhill. She was unavailable. I told her I was looking for my father’s birth mother. The woman who answered told me I had the wrong number because THIS Sylvia Sternhill had no children.
After the muscle biopsy and the diagnosis of a myopathy I asked my father for more documents to find his biological family. He gave me everything he had. I had a list of Sternhills to call and started right away. Dead end after dead end because Sylvia Sternhill never had any children. I then realized that no one KNEW she had my father. In my documents of her birthday, the birth certificate, and her social security information though, I knew she was 30 or so when she had my father. How on earth did she keep that a secret? Why did she keep it a secret? I was told at the last call that Sylvia Sternhill had passed away. Was I telling her secret that she took to the grave? I was. The last person I called asked me to fax everything I had. He immediately called me back and I will never forget his voice. Somehow he intuitively knew I was his cousin. He compared her signature and all the information with what he had. I was His long lost cousin. Randy. Randy and I became fast friends and family. I loved him like a father I never had. I loved his wife. He told me that no one knew that Sylvia had had a child or put dad up for adoption. After talking for hours we learned how many similarities I had with Sylvia. Our personalities. And then my Randy sent me a picture of himself. I looked JUST like him and he looked JUST like my father. He and I, for 10 years had a very close bond. We talked every week. He has since passed away and we never did find out the details of why Sylvia kept her secret. I wish I could have met her. She was infact still alive when I made my first phone call 15 years ago. I wish I could have heard her voice. The person who I spoke to that day must have told her I called. Did I upset her? I hope not. She gave me a great gift of LIFE. She also gave me a group of cousins that I cherish.
I did learn from Randy, that his mother had the same symptoms as I do. Sylvia’s sister had the same symptoms as I do. She had since passed away. They never diagnosed her. I validated for Randy though that every symptom was real because he said I was JUST like her. He wished I could have met her so that someone would have KNOWN what it felt like to be weak and in pain.
Randy’s wife sent me a few of Sylvia’s things.
One was a charm bracelet that she wore. On the charm bracelet was a man holding weights (reminds me of my husband), a deer ( we all know my affection for deer), a couple under an umbrella, a wheelchair (why the wheelchair?), looking at her bracelet it was as if she foreshadowed my own life. She also had a broach that is beautiful. I took a picture of it even though I am in the middle of cleaning it with baking soda so it is not perfect but I am still sharing it.
I discovered that my ancestors are Russian/Romanian Ashkenazi Jewish. I love that I look like my cousins. I love that I found my father’s birth family. I hate that finding Sylvia Sternhill was just a few years too late. Maybe it was better for her that way. She has a place in my heart for saving my father, and placing him with two loving parents. My grandparents were wonderful. They knew unconditional love like I have never seen.
We never found out who my father’s biological father was. I don’t think we ever will. That secret she took with her. She loved her sibling’s children like her own though I was told.
Finding Sylvia did not bring me the health answers I was looking for. It gave me a family that I didn’t know I was missing.