Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finding My Roots

February 6, 1958, a woman delivers a beautiful little boy. He's perfect as most babies are with 10 fingers and 10 toes. He weighs 6 pounds 12 ounces and is 21 inches long. Perhaps his mom holds him gently before signing the paperwork to relinquish her parental rights. Perhaps the pain associated with knowing he's not hers to keep prevents her from daring to even look at his face. And what about the father? Where is he? Does he want to keep this little bundle? Does he wonder if this baby has his talents and vices? These facts I may never know, but I do know that this baby grows up to be my father.

Yes, my father was adopted when he was six months old. Raised in a home with another adopted child. His adoptive mother died from cancer when he was only nine years old. I have the privilege of being honored with her name.

My dad provided me with all of his adoption paperwork about five years ago. I played around on the internet trying to see if I could locate his birth parents, but nothing could be found. I helped my dad to register for every free database that exists for adoptees, but I never felt we'd find anything there and my intutition proved true.

Flash forward to 2008. It was one of those nights where I couldn't sleep. I felt prompted to look through that adoption paperwork one more time. I always tried to read it and let my mind do some thinking to see if I could feel any questions spring to mind. I felt prompted to see if there is anyone out there who would be willing to help me with this quest for free. I know that locating this information can cost thousands of dollars and that's money I don't have. I locate a woman in Denver who emails me back at 5 am--apparently she's an early riser herself--and instructs me on all of the paperwork I need to fill out to make sure that I've done everything I can.

All of this paperwork doesn't bring me any closer to finding either of my biological grandparents. Then, she tells me that I can actually get what's called non-identifying information about my dad's adoption. We send away for the information in April of this year and six weeks later a few more puzzle pieces are revealed.

The key piece for me was the clue that my dad's birth mom was already married to another man when she gave birth to my dad. When I read that, I got another feeling that perhaps the last name that we'd had for her wasn't really her maiden name at all. However, having this clue still doesn't help me to know her name.

Then, in June another adoptee from Colorado wins his court battle against the state for the right to have access to his adoption file. This case changes the law in Colorado allowing all adopted children whose adoptions were finalized between 1950 and June of 1966 to get their original birth certificates. I am ecstatic. We're going to find her.

That birth certificate arrived at my dad's house on Monday and revealed that my intuition about her name was correct. I now have her maiden name in front of me and my dad is on the phone with me. I'm shaking so hard, I can hardly type; hardly think. I type in her name and the very first hit that google gives me is her obituary.

I have to pay to view her obituary and the next day, after much struggle with learning the hard way that gmail hides your spam folder, I gain password access to the obituary. I can hardly read. My eyes are jumping all over the page: Where are the names of all of her kids? What did she do for a living? Who else is alive that I can talk to about this?

I locate a current phone number for her brother. I dial and I am having heart tremors. What kind of a reception am I going to get from this man? Will he tell me he's not interested in digging up the past? Will he just hang up on me? I don't know if I can let it go with just that.

He doesn't answer his phone.

I call the nursing home where my great grandma is living (Yes she's living! Can you believe that? 92 years old and still very with it) and ask to talk to her. A male voice gets on the phone.

Him: "Hello?"

Me: "Hi. My name is Audrey."

Him: "Who?"

Me: "My name is Audrey. I don't really know how to explain this, but let me try. You had a sister named ______ (I'm choosing to not reveal this information on my blog for privacy reasons)."

Him: "Yes."

Me: "Do you remember that in 1958 she had a baby that she gave up for adoption?"

Him: "Yes."

Me: "That baby is my father."

Him: (excited voice) "Is that right?!"

I breath a huge sigh of relief and my heart rate goes down slightly.

Me: "Yes! I can't tell you how excited I am to meet you. To talk to you! I'm dying to find out some information if you're willing."

Him: "Well, yes, but this is the nursing home phone. Let me call you back in a few hours. When is a good time to call you?"

Me: "ANYtime you want to call is a good time for me."

Perhaps none of the rest of you noticed, but the next couple of hours crawled by. Did anyone feel the earth turn a bit more slowly on Tuesday?

My uncle has a southern drawl that I find adorable and is willing to share all of the information that he has available--which is hardly anything unfortunately.

I find out that my grandma was an extremely private woman who never told a sole she was pregnant until she went into labor--not even the man she was married to knew she was pregnant. She never spoke of the adoption or pregnancy again--at least to her brother or her own mother. She never revealed who the father was either though her own mother deduced the name from remembering back to the man she was dating. She never had any other kids for reasons that no one who is living seems to know. In other words, I know so much and I know so little all at the same time.

Within a few hours after locating her, I was able to locate my dad's biological father as well. He too is deceased. He died less than a year ago. I can't believe he only passed away less than a year ago! The question in this situation is whether or not he even knew that my dad existed. I have no idea if he did. His wife, whom he married the same year my dad was born, is still living, but her phone number is unlisted. I have written a letter and now all I can do is wait. Boy, I hope she knew about this because I can't imagine the shock it would be to find out about a child your husband fathered 51 years ago.

I hope she's kind. I hope she understands I just would like to see a picture...find out about his personality...see if I recognize my own features in him. I certainly am not interested in butting in where I'm not wanted, but my curiosity is insatiable about this situation.

So, even though I'll never be able to meet either one of my biological paternal grandparents, I have gained a sweet uncle and a great grandma. Not to mention all of the family that comes from them. Perhaps I'll get to meet them? I certainly hope so.

My dad with Ryanna.


Mariley Johnson said...

Gtreat story. Good luck and I hope it all turns out well.

Eldredge Family said...

WOW! I needed to hear good up lifting news. I hope you find the answers that you and your Dad need and want to have. I could not imagine not knowing my family that would be hard for me.

Lacey said...

I could tell on your message how excited you were and Christopher couldn't wait to fill me in on the details! How exciting! I hope you have a great trip this weekend and can't wait to hear more when you get back!

DKAZ said...

You look your Dad. What an amazing story. It's been such a roller coaster I bet. What a great're quite the detective. Keep us posted.

Brooke said...

Shut up! That's awesome!! Good luck!

Kylie said...

How exciting! Dean's mom is adopted as well (along with her 4 siblings), and hopefully someday we can all find out about her biological parents and the story behind her adoption. She too, passed away before they could meet. But there is still lots to learn about!

Mama Corleone said...

Wow! What a great story. Please keep us posted on what happens next. I hope, hope, hope that you find everything you wanted.

JenW said...

i am glad you wrote about it! how wonderful it really is to find out details of the past. good job, good sleuthing! keep going!

steve said...

Great work detective Audrey!! That is so much fun to find family the way you did.

RussellsRoost said...

Oh MAN!! That is so awesome that you found them, but a bummer that it was just a year too late for your grandpa. But how fun would it be to see a picture of him! I hope that you hear from his wife! I have been wondering if you had heard anything since our visit last week! Will you get to see a picture of your grandma?

Lauren and Trevor said...

What an amazing experience! It deepened my testimony of divine help.

citymama1 said...

Wow, what an amazing story. Good luck in all your sleuthing!

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing with us. I was on the edge of my seat! That's so great you were able to find out so much with so little info. to go on. I hope she writes you back.

luke & misty meldrum family said...

Thanks for sharing this story! I hope you get more answers. This is going to be part of my life forever since I have adopted two of my children.

Jessica Martiele said...

Holy cow, Audrey, I'm totally in tears sitting here at the computer while I SHOULD be making dinner! Very best to you, your dad, and your family! Let us know when you hear anything more!

bloggingchristy said...

What a neat experience! Thank you for sharing! I loved reading it!

rachel said...

HOw fascinating!! I love to hear how people are able to connect. This is really cool. You are so awesome to have the follow through and patience to get all of the pieces you have. It's too cool. Keep us updated on what else happens.