Note: This story could be a short book, and someday might be, but I hope I can convey the message in a “blog-size” version.
I once wrote a piece for Aiken Family Magazine called, “We Chose You,” sharing the story of my adoption and subsequent life. It then became one of my earliest blog posts in 2010, but somehow it has gotten lost in the WordPress twilight zone and I may have unintentionally deleted it while trying to free up some space on the old blog.
Growing up in a neighborhood where about half the kids were adopted, and quite content with the life I was given, I really never considered trying to find my birth mother. Part of the story is that when I was adopted at 3 months, I’m told that I showed evidence of being abused and as I got older, I saw no need to get in touch with that part of my life. (That three-month period is still a mystery)
I was at peace with that decision and at age 58, even if I did change my mind, what were the chances she was even still alive?
On Sunday, September 2, 2018, I was at Mass and it was being celebrated by our new parochial vicar, Fr. Raymond. He took the opportunity of using the homily/sermon to introduce himself to our parish. He was sharing how he was on the path to becoming a physician and as he made the comment, “Sometimes man plans and God laughs” everything went black and quiet. I then heard a voice say, “Go find your birth mother. She needs to know you are OK”
Then the lights came back on and the tears welled up in my eyes.
God, was that You?
After Mass, I had a long discussion with my wife as far as what I should do. What were the chances I’d find her? What would I tell my parents after over 50 years of telling them I would never do this?
After a lifetime of arrogantly dismissing anyone who said they heard God’s voice, I had a change of heart and what one might call a conversion experience.
I recalled that the laws in New Jersey changed back in 2014 and adoptees were now able to get their original birth certificates without hiring attorneys, getting court orders and spending thousands of dollars. I went to the website, printed off the form and mailed it the next day.
I shared the story with a few, close friends and what stuck in my mind was from a man who spent years tracking down family members, He warned me to . . .
“Be prepared for what you are not prepared for”
I kept reminding myself that this was not something I wanted to do and I was only going to go so far. I found a few websites created for parents and children to re-connect. There were literally thousands of names with identifying information and I came away with an intense, overwhelming sense of despair. I was not going down that path.
On Saturday, November 10, 2018, I walked out to get the mail after lunch and there was the letter from the State of New Jersey.
It was show time.
I was home alone and walked back to my office and opened the envelope, reading the “supporting documentation” first and then unfolded the piece of paper that told the story of the first day of my life.
“O.W.” was the first thing that caught my eye. . . Out of wedlock. No biggie as I expected that. Next, she was 16 when I was born. She’d be 75 now . . . not too much of a stretch. Then I saw her name. If it was a common name, all bets were off, but it was not quite common.
I weighed my next move, although I already knew what it would be.
I typed her name into Facebook and only one person came up, with a married name added.
Could it be that easy?
I opened her page and the first thing I saw were pictures of Black Labs.
A few hours later, I sent the following in Messenger:
“Please pardon my frankness, but is it possible that you had a son that you put up for adoption in 1960? If not, please forgive my intrusion, but please advise of same.”
As I laid sleeping the following morning, my phone dinged and I saw the response, “Is your birthday (the date it is)?
I came to the realization that without wanting to, I accomplished something in a few minutes that most in this situation may never accomplish after a lifetime of trying.
I punched out the story of the voice I heard in church, that I was not seeking anything from her, did not want to complicate her life and that she had nothing to fear from me.
That started an e-mail chain that has helped both of us connect some dots and fill in some blanks. It is downright shocking how many commonalities and similarities we share. She appears to be a typical, normal mother/grandmother and my daughters, who have friended her, tell me I look just like her.
I still have not heard her voice, aside from her calling her dog in from the snow in a brief video, but we have learned much about each other.
She gave me life and my parents gave me a life.
She told me that she often wondered about how things turned out for me and prayed that I had a good life.
After getting pregnant as a young teenager, it was decided that the baby would be put up for adoption. That is important as now we know that any abuse I may have suffered was not from my biological mother and possibly a result of a foster home situation. She saw me at birth, but never again.
That will probably change..
I thought my parents would be upset in light of my saying I was not interested in finding out who my birth mother was, but they have embraced the idea, marvel in how easy it was and how God may have played a role in the process.
Did God really talk to me? Is there another plausible explanation as to why this process was so simple, with impediments removed all along the path?
I sometimes still have to work to get my arms and emotions around it, but it’s all good and I am glad that I was able to find her and let her know that I was OK, as instructed.
The story has just started up again after an almost 59-year hiatus and I’m sure there will be a few more chapters to write.
Here’s to never saying never.
Note: All three Red Bird photos taken by me back in my bird watching days..