Family secrets


Photo Credit: courtesy of Karen Buchar

Karen Buchar poses in the middle of her two adoptive sisters, adoptive father, and her daughter Ariana. Buchar was adopted at five days old when her older sister was 8, and 10 years before her younger sister was born. From left to right: Buchar’s younger sister, Karen Bucher, Buchar’s adoptive father, Buchar’s older sister, and Ariana Buchar.

by Rebecca Podd, Staff Writer

 Many families have their secrets, but math teacher Karen Buchar’s family was a secret itself for 25 years.

Buchar has always known she was adopted. She grew up in Clifton with her adoptive parents and two adoptive sisters. She had been told her birth parents were dead, that they had both died in a car accident.

Buchar never had made any attempt to find out anything about her birth family. One day, while pregnant with her own daughter, she was watching a talk show. The woman on the show had given a child up for adoption. Later the woman found out the child’s father’s died from a heart condition that could have been passed on to the child. Buchar, who did not know anything about her biological medical history, immediately feared for her baby and the unknown conditions she could be passing on.

Buchar expressed these fears to her adoptive mother, Terry. Her concerns led to the reveal of a secret that Terry had kept for 25 years: Buchar’s parents were not dead. Instead her birth parents had made it a condition of the adoption that Buchar had to believe they no longer existed.

While the shock set it, Terry took on finding Buchar’s parents and the family’s medical history. Terry, a hypnotist, traveled to a “conference” in Arizona,  only to return with news from Buchar’s birth mother and pictures, photographs of Buchar’s 11 biological siblings.

Buchar discovered many unknown connections between her life and her newfound family. Buchar’s neighbor identified one of the girls in the photos as her friend Daphne. They found out Daphne was the daughter of Buchar’s oldest biological sibling Donna. As it turns out, two of her biological siblings were living within walking distance of her house. They had been raised in Paterson, right next to Buchar’s childhood home. Her birth mother had moved to Arizona a few years ago, but the two oldest sisters had stayed behind in New Jersey. Along with learning she had been living so close to her family all along, Buchar learned that her father-in-law had worked at the same water company as Donna’s husband for years.

Buchar also learned that the name she would have been given by her biological mother was the same one she received from her adoptive parents. Her adoptive mother had no knowledge of this.

“My name’s Karen. Apparently, I was supposed to be named Karen anyway. My biological sister, when I met them and met my niece Daphne, she goes she made her daughter’s middle name Karen after the sister she lost,” Buchar said.

Buchar’s siblings didn’t know she existed. Her sister Donna told her that their parents went to the hospital, and when they came home with no baby they told the children that the baby had died. All that her siblings knew about her was that her name would have been Karen, and she would have been their ninth sibling. Her parents would go on to have three more kids after they gave her up.

“I’m the only one they put up for adoption,” Buchar said. “Early 90s, I finally decided to go out to Arizona and meet my mother. She claims, now my father was a Paterson cop, he wasn’t a very nice man. He accused my biological mother of having an affair and that he would, this is again what she said, that he would not support another man’s child.”  

Her father wanted her mother to have an abortion, which were neither legal or sanitary back at the time of her mother’s pregnancy. Her mother would only agree to adoption.

“I have a hard time believing that because I have three younger siblings. This is what my mother told me and it doesn’t make sense,” Buchar said.   

But she couldn’t think of any other logical explanation. Her birth father had died before Buchar found out about her family, so she couldn’t talk to him. Her biological mother said she would not have agreed to meet her if he was still alive.

Buchar has almost met all of her siblings except for one brother and one sister. Her siblings have since moved to Arizona and Buchar has lost most contact with them. Her birth mother has since died, as well.

Buchar and her daughter Ariana now know their medical history, which was the original purpose of finding her family. Although they definitely found more than they had expected.   

“It was really overwhelming to learn that I had 11 aunts and uncles somewhere in the world,” Ariana said.

Buchar found out her father died of a gastrointestinal disease, and her mother later passed away from stomach cancer. Now she is attentive to her health in those areas which she might have otherwise ignored.

Life would have been very different if she had never been adopted. Her 11 siblings were raised in a three bedroom house in Paterson, with multiple kids per bed and kids sleeping in the living room. Some fell victim to drugs and one sister was a grandmother by the time she was 36.

If Buchar hadn’t been adopted she would probably never have become a teacher at Glen Rock High School, where she has taught math for 21 years. She never would have met her husband or had her daughter. In a way she is very fortunate that something which might otherwise be viewed as unfortunate happened to her.

Her father believed that she was another man’s child. However, she has O- blood, which is a rare blood type that accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population. She later found out that her father also had O- blood.

“I’m happy,” Buchar said. “I would probably not be a teacher. None of my siblings went to college, so that probably wouldn’t have happened. So yeah I think it was meant to be, cause I met my husband. I mean do I believe in fate, not so much, a little bit, but I think your own decisions, and things happen that you have input in.”