By Terry Hood, The News On 6
OWASSO, OK -- Most of us grow up lucky enough to be surrounded by family, sure of our place in the world. But, for some, life is more complicated and sometimes full of secrets. An Owasso woman went on a quest to uncover her own past.
Tammy Franklin knows all about the burden of keeping secrets. She grew up with one. Her parents divorced when she was an infant. Her mother remarried and her stepfather legally adopted her. They did everything possible to make sure Tammy would never know.
It wasn't until she had a grown child of her own that the secret began to unravel. A military check alerted her to a discrepancy in her medical records, and her mother eventually told her the truth.
"Terrified. I was absolutely terrified," said Tammy Franklin.
Terrified, but determined, with the help of her 13-year-old son, Mark, Tammy began a quest to track down her biological father.
"For a year and a half, it was like an obsession. To the point almost that my family suffered, it was such an obsession for me," said Tammy Franklin.
Eventually, Tammy hired an online service who delivered another piece of devastating news. Tammy's father, who had lived within 10 miles of her, had recently died. But, she also got the names of other new relatives.
And then, her story got even stranger.
"I sent a certified letter to this uncle who unfortunately has suffered from a severe brain injury," said Tammy Franklin.
The letter went unanswered for two long months. Tammy says she gave up hope and literally went into a period of mourning.
"I had just kind of picked myself up from it and the telephone rings and it's my aunt. And, she said. She said, ‘this is your aunt and your dad knew about you and your family knew about you and we love you and we want to meet you,'" said Tammy Franklin.
That was July 4th weekend. Tammy soon met aunts, uncles, cousins and to her joy, two new brothers.
They haven't missed a day of talking since.
Tammy's experience has had such an impact on her life; she's turning it into a cause.
She's talking to state lawmakers about changing Oklahoma's adoption laws to make the records more accessible. And, it's not just sentimentality that's behind her effort. Tammy suffers from a rare auto-immune disease that's left her with chronic pain. It was years before doctors could make a diagnosis.
"It went on for 10 years. If they'd caught it even at eight years, I wouldn't be in the condition I am now. And, our dad had it," said Tammy Franklin.
But, Tammy Franklin doesn't spend much time these days worrying about what might have been. She's grateful for what she has.
"It's been a complete blessing. I mean it's been sent from God," said Tammy Franklin.
"I woke up Sunday morning and for the first time in my life, I felt like OK. Everything I'm supposed to have inside of me is here. And, I have it," said Tammy Franklin.
Tammy says she hopes that along with open medical records, Oklahoma will change its adoption laws to include a sibling registry so that brothers and sisters separated by circumstance, can, if they wish someday be reunited.