Friday, April 15, 2016

Searching for Leila

Dear Readers,   Thank you for returning to my story about putting together pieces of  natural self-hood.  I'm referring to the Sealed Record adoption laws in South Carolina that prevent my sisters and me from knowing the whole story of our origins. This right to know is, in our opinion, one that every American must have.  I was prevented from identifying my natural mother and my siblings, and I still have no "right" to information of my birth father's identification. We three sisters are all in our 60's; not children.  

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Our sister, Karen, and I learned of Lottie by chance, in February 2015, through a 2007 internet post on a geneology site.  Lottie was seeking information of our mother, Leila, who died in 2004:

Hi Renee,
I am Lottie Lee Caddell Altman and my grandmother was Lottie Lee Causey Caddell. I am the daughter of her son, Alonzo Lanneau Caddell and I was named for my grandmother. My father, grandmother and grandfather are buried at Providence Baptist Church in Macedonia South Carolina.

The area of our family in Berkeley County is known as Hellhole Swamp which covered many small communities. My grandfather was from an area known as Hood Town but is now known as Macedonia. I believe my grandmother was from Cordsville but I cannot verify that information at this time.

My Grandmother Lottie Lee died before my birth so I never had the opportunity to meet her. However, I can remember her picture hanging on the wall in my grandfather's home and how highly everyone spoke of her. I believe this picture is now in my Aunt Mary Magadeline's family which was the youngest of her children.

My father, Alonzo died when I was four years old and my mother Leila Grace Cox Caddell left us when I was six weeks old. Therefore, my Grandfather Andrew raised me until his death.

I have been searching for my birth mother and my friend, Suzanne has been helping me. She found your posting and excitingly provided me the information. I have a picture of my father, Alonzo and will post next to his information.

It is so good to find someone researching the family history. I have always lived in South Carolina. I will keep in touch.
Lottie 

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This is part of an email exchange between Lottie, Karen and me, the day after we 3 connected. Lottie, Karen and I were introduced by e-mail and Facebook on Valentine's Day, 2015. None of us had any information about siblings, other than a sibling who had died in a drowning accident at 16 in TX.:

ME:  "Hi Honey,  the short version is that I contacted Catholic Charities, Charleston, since I had my adoption papers.  They would only give me non-identifying information.  And it was very sketchy.  With the name Lee--the papers referred to me as Ruth Ann--I pursued a path for Lee's for months.  This was in 1992, before internet was widely in use.  I got the help of local geneologists. The break came when a C.C. agent offered to give me more information, for a fee.  She would only give it to me on the phone, so I wrote the little extra she revealed to me on an envelope.  I was stunned and excited to learn our mother's name, Leila Grace Cox.  I later learned that Lee was the name of her divorced husband.  "Karn," the name, repeated a few times in the notes the agent read me, gave me no clue as to the sex of our sibling.  I guess the name was interpreted from Momma's speech.  For more weeks I phoned, wrote letters to agencies and with the geneologist, who used old cemetery records, maps and phone directories, this time with the name Cox.  It all led to my call to Lawrence Cox, our  now sweet, deceased cousin, who shared information with me. First, he gave me the number of Aunt Ruth Cox, Momma's sister-in-law, and she gave me Karen's number. Never give up asking, dear Lottie!   xo

Lottie: WOW - You did all this before the internet!! You are very strong willed. What happened when you first met our mom? Did she every say anything to you about what happened?

ME:  Karen told me, that at first, Leila denied that the woman who called Karen was a daughter, but then quickly said it was true. She had me in St. Francis hospital, (the papers could have been signed then and there) and she left me.  Or, she might have gone to Catholic Charities while pregnant to tell them she wanted to give me up.  St Francis was affiliated with the Phillips Mercy Hospital and Infant Home in Rock Hill, where I was taken. When I met Momma she seemed happy, but she had no information about my father, or of any other siblings.  If only they would unseal the records.

Although we did have a good meeting with Karen, there were a lot of mixed feelings. I think our mother's poor health and lifestyle contributed to her confusion. She had end-stage kidney failure, was on dialysis, and while still in TX, where she had lived for 32 years, her leg was amputated. But we got around; went to cemeteries in Greenville to visit ancestors graves, and attended a Lenderman-Cox family reunion.  It was often pleasant, but sometimes strained. When I returned to PA she would call me.

Lottie: I was born in Berkeley County Memorial Hospital in Moncks Corner. I went to Family Court a few years back in Berkeley County to get a copy of my original birth certificate. When I asked for it, the clerk laughed and said South Carolina was a sealed state. Therefore, the only way I could get a copy was to hire an attorney. I still remember how she laughed without even caring how it affected me. 

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Karen: Yes, Lottie, Mama really created a lot of unhappiness down the road. I lived with her parents, Frank and Corrie Cox til I was 10 even though mama's brother Charlie and his wife Ruth wanted to adopt me, and raise me with their daughter, Linda. (She's the only 1st. Cousin on mama's side). Finally, at 10 she came and got me and took me to Texas where she was living with her husband, Frank Adams, and their daughter, Susan Paulette (Susie).  It was terrible! He was an alcoholic and she drank too. Then they would fight. She was a mean, crying drunk. Now I know why. He was abusive to me too. At 13, she brought me back to SC. She was going to leave me with her parents again, but by then Grandma had dementia, so I guess she knew that wouldn't work, so we left for Charleston on a Greyhound. Mama never drove. We stayed about a week in an old hotel I think on King St. She had lived there before and knew the owners. She took the last of her money and bought a white blouse and black skirt. I think her uniform at her new job, probably where she had worked in past. But Mama was very heavy and her looks were shot, and she was leaving Susie and I alone in the room at night while she worked.  I guess she knew that wasn't working, so we hitchhiked to Spartanburg, and she asked my daddy, Ralph Lee, if he would take me. He said yes, so I stayed, and she and Susie went back to Texas. I finished school in 1966, got married to Johnny Allen 1 month later at 17. I have had my ups and downs but still know God has blessed me beyond measure. Hope to hear from you soon, 
Love you, Karen

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Thanks for reading! And thanks for supporting unconditional release of adult adoptee birth records and Original Birth Certificates in all States!
Leila Grace Cox September, 1993,
the day after we reunited. I was born in 1951.