This is the fourth in a multi-part series of posts sharing my personal adoption story. If you haven’t already, read My Adoption Story, Part I: My Adoption, My Adoption Story, Part II: The Search and My Adoption Story, Part III: The Reunion before reading the post below.
As you might imagine, meeting my birth mom was an experience that left me reeling. While I had learned my birth father’s name in January 1998, I hesitated to contact him. I had just introduced a mentally ill woman to my husband and children, invited her into our family and then watched her walk out of my life (for the second time). I wasn’t sure that bringing another “family member” into our lives, without knowing what to expect, was a good idea. As you might recall, my birth mother had told me that he had never known I existed and that if he had known, he would kill her and I both. I assumed that was her way of controlling the situation, but is that a chance worth taking? I wasn’t so sure.
Several months passed and I often wondered about him. The biggest driving forces in my search for my biological family were the need for updated medical information and a desire to find out who I looked like. I hadn’t looked like my birth mom (thank God!), so I figured I must look like my birth father. I surmised that some of her negativity towards me may have come from looking in my eyes and seeing his.
On August 5, 1998, I searched the internet for “Baloo Bear” and only one came up. In the entire country. The listing showed him living in Las Vegas. I had remembered my birth mom telling me something about him having moved out west at one point. Was it possible that a one minute search could produce the other half of my life story? I copied the number onto a scrap of paper and tucked it under some papers on my headboard. I wasn’t ready to tell Mickey that I had searched and found a number for my father. I feared his reaction and knew that if he asked me not to contact him, that I would have to respect that in light of what my family had experienced a few months earlier.
I remember laying in bed that night wondering about my birth father. Had he married? Did he have children? What was the time difference between us anyway? How early should I call? I would want to catch him before work, but I didn’t want to call too early that my call was disruptive. What if someone other than him answered? How would I explain who I was? Would they believe me? Would HE?
The next morning after Mickey left for work, I sat on my bed with the number in my hand working up the courage to call. I decided that I would call at 10am my time, making it 7am in Las Vegas. I dialed the number and after a few rings, he answered. His voice was rough. My throat caught but I managed to say “I am looking for a man named Baloo Bear who was originally from City, State and has a sister named Mary Sue.” He confirmed that I had the right person and I went on to say “My name is Minnie. I was conceived New Years Eve 1972 and born October 12, 1973. I was given up for adoption. Firstname Lastname is my biological mother.” I paused to let him absorb what I had just said and he slowly asked “Are you saying I am your father???” His question caught me off guard and I replied “I suppose I am.” and then quickly added “But I dont want anything from you. I just want to know who I look like.” He said that he would need to think about the timeline, but that if he weren’t my father, he could provide some names of men who could potentially be my father. He said “I dont mean any disrespect, but the reason Firstname and I broke up is because she got around.” I told him that didn’t surprise me. He and I agreed to exchange photos through the mail and then speak again later in the week.
My family and I were leaving the next day for a week long vacation at the shore. We were going with another family (ironically the same friend, Jen, who had been there when my records had been opened). Jen and her boyfriend were coming back to pick up his child anyway, so she agreed to come check my mail to in case the letter arrived while we were away.
As planned, Jen stopped to get my mail mid-week and (as promised) my birth father had sent pictures. Rather than wait and let me see the pictures first, she opened them. Her boyfriend, who didn’t know a thing about the story, looked over at the pictures and said “Is that Minnie with a mustache?” Yeah, that’s how much alike we looked.
In the early days, by birth dad and I discussed doing paternity testing, but as we came to know each other, we opted not to. There is not a person who could look at the two of us and deny our genetic relationship.
Shortly after we first communicated, my dad had the
duty honor of telling his 4 siblings and step-mother that I existed. Each of his siblings had been married (only one divorced) and each had two kids. My father was the only one who never had kids. As he called each of them, they were ELATED for him. Two of the siblings went to his step-mother’s condo to be there as she learned the news via telephone. As the matriarch of the family, she couldn’t have been more happy. They teased my dad endlessly because even though he was the baby of the family, he was the first to be a GRANDFATHER, as I already had 4 children (1 step-daughter and 3 biological) and was pregnant at the time.
He scheduled a visit for October that year. My birthday is the 12th and his was the 14th, so we celebrated our birthdays together that year for the very first time. The day we met was surreal. Despite having emailed and talked with him for more than 2 months, I told him I wanted to meet at a public place for the first time. We agreed to meet in a park at the town where I was living. He brought me a locket and presented it to me. It was special, although I remember it being rather awkward as well. It felt weird to hug him. I felt like even though we had shared hundreds of thousands of words already, I didn’t really know what to say. I attributed my nervousness to the fact that I had such a bad experience with my birth mom. I think I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. (It did, but not until MUCH later, so read on…)
He stayed for a week. One by one I met each of
his my family members and they were warm and embracing. They were sensitive when talking about my birth mother and how this had come to be, but more than anything they were focused on a future that included me. This was a very different experience than by birth mom’s family. Her sisters hadn’t even been sure they wanted to invite me to celebrate Christmas with them the year before!
As my dad wrapped up his vacation, he knew that the distance would be too much for us to try to build a relationship after 25 years long years. In talking one night, he said the words I will NEVER forget… “I have missed 25 years of your life and I won’t miss another minute!” He returned to Las vegas and sold sold his condo to move back.
Shortly after his return, he bought a 2 family home in a neighboring city. We moved in together. I can’t tell you the countless times I shared this fairy tail story over the years. What could be more magical than a father, who never knew his child existed, giving up his entire life to move across the country to be with her? This was “happily ever after”…. at least for a time.
Three years after he moved back, we had all settled in nicely. He was hating the winters and considered moving back to Las Vegas. He met with a banker to consider his options. This woman commented that she remembered him from when he had come 3 years ago and how excited he had been. He looked at her and in that moment realized that he could never go back. He thanked her and left the bank. We decided to buy a single family home in a smaller town close by. Between us, we had a sizable down payment and were able to get a beautiful home with plenty of room to convert part of it to an in-law apartment.
The years passed by and we lived side by side. The kids grew up with their grandfather close by and while we didn’t “do” a lot together, we were close. I would often knock on that interior door to the in-law apartment and go over and chat. We were comfortable. It was as if we had always known each other.
We often hosted parties here for our friends. We had planned a party for New Year’s Eve (2007 into 2008), but a huge snow storm rolled in. We decided that for everyone’s safety we would postpone the party. I remember that week so clearly. Tuesday was the primary. My father had always been big into politics… in fact, he was the one who finally converted me from an Independent to a Republican). I emailed him later that week to ask if he could take one of the boys to a basketball game. I was working at a local sporting goods store and things were busy as our football team had made the play offs that year.
Finally the weekend arrived and we began to celebrate our belated New Year’s Eve. As the last few guests were arriving around 6pm, I realized that we had blocked in his car. I knocked at the interior door to his apartment and let myself in to let him know we could move any cars if he needed to get out. It was dark as I entered and I noticed a strange smell. I called to him a few times, but didn’t get a reply. I went back to my house, grabbed a friend and brought her worth me. I asked him if she thought the smell was gas. She wasn’t sure, so we went back for one of the guys. He came over and said it wasn’t gas, but still the panicky feeling would not leave my chest. It still seemed strange that my father would be in bed at 6pm on a Saturday night. I asked my friend’s husband to come with me to check on my father. We climbed the stairs, me yelling to my dad the whole time. As we got to the top of the stairs, I could see his figure in the bed. I continued to yell, but got no response. My friend’s husband grabbed my arm and said “Come on!” and brought me down stairs. He ran to another male friend and asked for him to come with him. The two of them climbed the stairs, while 2 of my closest friends followed. I was relaying the story of the odd smell to the others. The 4 of them climbed the stairs, and one friend went around the side of the bed to find a light switch. She switched it on and the 4 of them ran as fast as they ever had in their lives. My friend told me to call 911, which I did. As the woman at the other end started to ask me questions, I realized, I didn’t have answers. I handed the phone to a friend and began running in circles. I was out of my mind. I knew the truth, but couldn’t accept it.
Eventually the paramedics and police showed up to confirm what I had already know. My father had passed away. He had died a few nights prior in his sleep, likely of a heart attack. I had already lost both of my adoptive parents to death and my birth mother to selfishness. I felt very alone. It was a soul crushing time for me. Sadly, though, this was not the last time my birth father would crush my soul.
The story isn’t over yet! Check back for My Adoption Story, Part V: The Rest Of The Story!