My Adoption Story, Part IV: My Biological Dad

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!

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My Adoption Story, Part III: The Reunion

This is the third 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 and My Adoption Story, Part II: The Search before reading the post below. 

I stated “My name is Minnie. I was born October 12, 1973 and I was given up for adoption.” I paused and she practically screamed “Oh my God! I always knew this day would come!”

So there I was… speaking to my BIOLOGICAL grandmother! It was a life defining moment for me! She shared that my biological mother had 2 other children who didn’t know about me, so she suggested that she be the one to call her and that she would put her in touch with me.

That evening she called my biological mother every 1/2 hour to see if she was home yet (remember, verge of the internet here, almost NO ONE had cell phones at the time). My biological half brother kept answering the phone and was alarmed at the number of times his grandmother was calling. He thought for sure that something had happened to his grandfather. When my biological mother finally got home, she returned the phone call and was stunned to learn of my call reaching out to find her. As soon as she hung up, both of her children stared at her, waiting for an explanation.

In an ironic twist of fate, my biological mother had been thinking a lot about me the weekend prior (the very weekend that *I* was searching for her) and had decided to tell her children about me. My biological brother did not answer her page, but my biological sister had sat down with her and listened to the whole story from start to finish. As my mother explained the reason for their grandmother’s call, my biological brother was IRATE that this was the first he was hearing of this. She explained to him how she had been 19 and had made the choice to give me up for adoption. My biological brother’s first reaction was that of anger as he yelled “Does she have the same father as me??????” She replied “No, her father is Baloo Bear!” This did not impress my biological brother and he called her a whore.

My biological mother called me the next afternoon. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the conversation. I do remember that we talked long enough that I was late picking up my oldest daughter from kindergarten, though. We made plans to meet the next week at a chinese restaurant in a town central to both of us (we were living 11 miles part at the time I located her). I asked her to bring pictures of what she looked like at the time I was born figuring it would be like looking in a mirror.

Last that week, I called her. I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind. She said she felt the same way and we agreed to move up our meeting date.

I remember being nervous when I drove to meet her. Would our conversations come naturally, like 2 people separated at birth? Time has dulled my memory of that day, almost 15 years ago now. I remember sitting with her at a table in the very busy Chinese restaurant. I remember her asking me if anyone at a nearby table was related to me and thinking that was an odd question. She explained that she had considered bringing someone to the restaurant in case I tried to kill her. Uhhhhh, really? Is there an epidemic on adult adoptees killing their birth parents that I dont know about? It was at this table that she shared the story of how I had been conceived on New Year’s Eve. She had been dating my biological father until that fall, but they had separated. She was babysitting that New Year’s Eve and had invited him over. Clearly one thing led to another and she ended up pregnant. She said she didn’t tell anyone and the first that anyone learned of her pregnancy was at 7 months along when her mother found a letter she had written to try to secure an abortion. She shared that my biological father had never known of the pregnancy and that she would not share his information with me because she believed he would kill her and me both if he found out. I also remember her showing me pictures of her trip to Hawaii, taken just 2 weeks after I was born. She shared details about her life and her children and asked me very little about mine.  It was during this very first meeting that I knew my suspicions about her had always been correct. She hadn’t given me  for adoption because she cared about MY life, but because she cared about not “ruining” her life.

I went back to her house that night and met her husband and my biological half sister. The minute I walked in the door, her husband exclaimed “My God! She does look just like Mary Sue”! (I later learned that Mary Sue was my biological aunt on my father’s side of the family.)

The next few weeks we continued to have a strained but amicable relationship. We occasionally got together for visits and talked on the phone. For my 24th birthday, she baked a cake and used those sugar letters from the supermarket to spell out “Happy Birthday Birth Name” and she bought me an opal ring (my birthstone). The thing I remember most about that day was having a terrible migraine and just wanting her to leave so I could try to sleep through the pain.

In November, I attended a football game that my biological half sister was cheering at. My birth mother introduced me to various people by my birth name. My kids found this incredible confusing that I was being called by another name. Hell, *I* found this confusing when people would call that name out. Why would I look? That’s NOT my name.

In December, we were still in communication and got together a few days before Christmas to exchange gifts. This was the first time I ever connected with my biological half brother. He was 19, but somehow managed to bring a bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila as my gift. The fact he even brought something was miraculous because he had been very resistant to establishing any relationship with me.

In January, my biological brother came over and stayed the night before a skiing trip we were taking together. I remember that night in 1998 very clearly. As he & I sat watching the Winter Olympics, we began discussing the day he had first learned I exist. He shared his story with me and about the fact he hadn’t seen his own birth father since he was 4. He commented that he didn’t even know where to find his birth father. As you might remember from Part II, I had found the marriage license for my birth mom’s 1st marriage and I had called the number I found matching that name… ultimately my biological brother’s birth father! I shared the story with him and gave him the number. I commented to him that I our birth mother would not give me the name of MY birth father. He looked shocked and said “I know who he is!”… he went on to share that the story of the day he first learned I existed and how he had asked if we had shared the same father and was told “No, her father is Baloo Bear!” So there we sat, a brother and a sister each able to pass on the name of our biological fathers. It was a surreal moment and we did not know it at the time, but it signified the beginning of the end.

My biological brother called his birth father during that next week. His birth father was thrilled to hear with him and they decided to meet. My biological brother packed some things in the car and make the long drive to see him in Florida. They had an amazing reunion and both were thrilled to connect after 15 years of being apart. Saying my birth mom was livid would not even begin to describe her anger. I can still clearly remember her high pitched screaming saying how I had ruined everyone’s lives, telling me that just because *I* was ready to search for my roots did not mean her 19 year old son was ready for such things.

Over the course of the next 2 months, things went from bad to worse. My birth mother was completely irrational and would often call screaming if she believed her son was with my family. At one point, she showed up waving photos of my brother and I telling my husband that the pictures confirmed we were having some sort of inappropriate relationship (we were cheek to cheek in the photos). Mickey laughed at her… he had TAKEN the photos himself and knew that she was completely losing her mind. We had to call the police that night to have her and her new husband removed from our home.

She ultimately made my biological brother choose between us. He (understandably) chose her and I have not spoken to him in the more than 14 years that have passed. I did use social media to check in on him over the years and learned he is married with 2 sons. I am happy for him and I hope he continues to do well.

As for my birth mother, I did try to contact her again about 2 years after this falling out. We had a nasty conversation on the phone where she denied knowing who I was, stating that she had only 2 children and I was NOT one of them. In fact, she went so far as to go to the police to try to get a restraining order. The very best part of that was the fact that it was through FAMILY court and she was required to list our relationship on the paperwork. I felt vindicated that she could NOT deny my history. I hadn’t planned to fight the restraining order because I didn’t plan to have any further contact, but a friend of mine who is a lawyer recommended that I not allow it saying that it would reflect poorly on me. We went to court and she didn’t show up, so the restraining order was dropped.

I have occasionally thought about her over the years, mostly with disgust. As I shared in Part I, I had always believed in my heart that she was a selfish woman. Meeting her confirmed that. I am glad I had the opportunity to know my siblings, if only for a short time, and I am glad that I pursued meeting her despite the painful outcome.

Continue reading My Adoption Story in this post: My Adoption Story, Part IV: My Biological Dad

My Adoption Story, Part II: The Search

This is the second 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 before reading the post below. 

Shortly after I turned 18, my aunt and I went to the Catholic Charities office where I had been adopted. We requested help to locate my biological mother but were told that the records were sealed. The nun we spoke with told me that I could write a letter to my birth mother and she would add it to the file. If my birth mother also happened to write a letter in search of me, it would be added to the file. If someone happened to notice that we both had written letters and wanted to find eachother, they would offer assistance at that time to facilitate a reunion. We asked for medical information and were given very little “non-identifying” information. Included was the fact that my biological father had also signed off on the adoption, was Irish and was 5’5″ tall. It seems odd now that I remember only the information provided that day about my biological father, but don’t recall any of what was said about my biological mother. I think maybe that is because that was the first day I had given more than a fleeting thought to the fact that biologically I had 2 parents, not just the one that had given birth to me.

My aunt and I left feeling discouraged. Oddly, I remember that we went to Burger King and she ordered a kids meal because she said that was all she could eat. I remember that we tried to brainstorm ways to get more information but knew that it would be futile, so we let it drop.

Being an adoptee remained a critical part of who I was into my adulthood. If asked to describe myself, that was always a descriptor. I continued to look at my face in the mirror, wondering who I looked like.

Four years later, and just before I was to be married to Mickey in 1996, I was waitressing. I remember a couple at one of my tables telling me that I looked just like their neighbor. This wasn’t the first time I had been told I looked like someone and my heart fluttered wondering if it was possible that we could be related. I commented back that it was possible that I was related because I was an adoptee. I remember the shocked look on their faces as they shared that this man had given up a child for adoption. I felt certain that I had finally made the connection I needed to locate where I had come from. In time, though, we were able to rule out that I was related to this random neighbor and I was left disappointed again.

Shortly after Goofy was born in 1997, he became very ill. He was hospitalized for 5 days for an unexplained high fever. He had a spinal tap and numerous other tests run to determine the cause. The doctors were never able to determine what had been the cause and this reopened my desire to search for my biological roots. I reasoned that it was possible that every single family member had died of some rare illness that could be preventable if we only knew far enough in advance.

Within a couple of weeks after Goofy was discharged from the hospital, a friend of mine had agreed to go to the court where my adoption had been finalized to see if we could get the records opened. On a sunny Friday morning, we made the hour trip together to the court house. I spoke with a clerk and explained what had happened with my son and let her know that I was looking to have my records opened to search for my  biological family to get updated medical information. She sent me along to another woman who said she would go speak to the judge. I waited nervously. The mood in a courthouse is quite somber and I really didn’t know what to expect. After what seemed to be an eternity, the woman came back and said “Well, I dont know how much help this will be as the medical information is quite old” and she handed me a stack of photocopied papers. My friend, Jen, and I sat down at one of the legal desks in the hallway and began to browse through the records. One of the first things that caught my attention was a birth certificate. The name listed was not my name… and then slowly I started to connect the dots. This was my ORIGINAL birth certificate. It took me only but a minute to realize that either the clerk had made a terrible mistake in copying the entire file for me or that she had done me the biggest favor of my life. In either case, Jen & I made a MAD DASH for the exit knowing we had just what we needed to begin the search.

As she drove away like a criminal fleeing a bank robbery, I continued to look through the files. The birth certificate contained my birth mothers FULL NAME. I knew that she had likely married (and  statistically that she had potentially even divorced). At the time, we didn’t even own our first computer. The internet was a novelty at this point and not the incredible tool it has become today. Where would we begin this search?

Being the good detectives that we were, we decided to start at the city hall where she had lived. We knew that she hadn’t been married at the time I was born, so that gave us a starting point. We requested her marriage license, giving her name and the approximate years. Low & behold, the clerk at the city hall handed over a marriage license! We were stunned. Could it REALLY be this easy??

We spotted a diner nearby and  decided to grab breakfast and plan our next move. We decided the next logical step was to locate a phone number for her using her new married name. We knew there was a chance she was divorced, but were not sure how to track down the next piece of information. We headed to my aunt’s house and were easily able to locate a number for the man my birth mother had married. His last name was quite unique and there were only 3 of them listed in the entire country! I remember being really nervous as I dialed the number. A man answered and I asked for her by name. He replied “There is no one here by that name” and hung up. I was crushed. I had slammed head on into another road block!

Things had stalled but I was determined NOT to give up. I spent the weekend calling everyone in the phone book (remember those crazy yellow things?) with her maiden last name in the area where she grew up hoping that I would find someone who would be able to connect me to her. During each call I explained my story and who I was looking for and why, but sadly no one was able to help.

On Tuesday, as I reviewed the paperwork for what felt like the 40 millionth time since I had received it on Friday, I noticed that my birth mother’s parents names had been listed on one of the documents.  I reasoned that the older generation had a lower incidence of divorce. Was it possible that THEY were still married and had a listed phone number? I raced back to my aunt’s house to search for them online. Low and behold, they were listed together living just 50 miles north of where we were living. I held my breath and wrote down the number. Was this my golden ticket?

I came home and dialed the number while standing in the bathroom (for privacy). No answer. I did not leave a voicemail. I called back every hour that day until finally in the late afternoon, a woman answered the phone. I stated “My name is Minnie. I was born October 12, 1973 and I was given up for adoption.” I paused and she practically screamed “Oh my God! I always knew this day would come!”

Continue reading My Adoption Story in this post: Part III: The Reunion!

My Adoption Story, Part I: My Adoption

This is the first in a multi-part series of posts sharing my personal adoption story.

I was born October 12, 1973. I was given up for birth at 5 days old and lived with a foster family until I was 5 weeks old when my pre-adoptive parents took custody of me. My parents had tried numerous times to have a biological child, but my mother often miscarried and had one still birth, prompting them to explore adoption through Catholic Charities. I have heard the story of my “Gotcha Day” countless times. My mother told it to me as a bedtime story when I was young. Even into my early teens, I would beg her to tell me the story of the day they brought me home. Although my Mother passed away in 2000, I still remember many details of the story she told.

My parents had begun the process to adopt through Catholic Charities. My Mom was 25 and my Dad was 29 at the time. When the licensing workers came out to inspect the house, they found a nursery filled with beautiful little girl dresses and they knew that my mother was hoping for a girl. The process seemed to take forever (although I don’t know actually how long it took). One day in November, they received the call that the people ahead of them on the list had declined a baby (me!) because they wanted to adopt a baby boy. My parents went down immediately to meet with my foster family. The family told them I was very particular about the way I liked things done, but that I was a good baby. They were able to take me home that very day. On the way home, they stopped at the rectory of the local church to show me off. Then, they went to my aunt’s house where my aunt and my grandparents were able to meet me. My mother was thrilled in every way to finally have a baby and be a mom.

Approximately a year later, my Mother found out she was pregnant once again. These are the first memories I have of knowing I was adopted. I remember, albeit vaguely, my mother explaining that my brother came from her tummy but that I had come from someone else’s tummy. My mother tells me that when I was brought to the hospital to meet my brother after his birth, I was very upset. I did NOT want to take home a baby in a BLUE blanket, I wanted one with a PINK blanket!

When I was 3, my adoptive parents divorced. We lived briefly with my grandparents and eventually moved into a low income apartment. I have some memories of this time, but not many. My mother worked hard to put herself through nursing school while caring for my brother and I.

When I was 5, my Mother again became pregnant. She had been dating a man, although he hadn’t wanted kids. He told her that he would marry her if she made it to 5 months pregnant. If she lost the baby, there would be no reason to marry a woman who had 2 other children from another man. She did ultimately marry him and gave birth to my younger brother just as I started first grade. They remained (unhappily) married until I was in my late teens.

Throughout my childhood, I was content with my life (as crazy as it was, but that’s a story for another post entirely)  but curious about my roots. I would often wonder if I would run into my “family” without even knowing. I did not find any shame in having been adopted. In fact, I was proud of that fact, knowing my adoptive mom CHOSE me. Adoption was a part of who I was and I had no problem sharing it. I had several close friends that promised me they would help me search for my birth mother when I turned 18.

At one point in my teens, I started a diary to my birth mother. I shared personal things about how hard it was to be a teenager, thinking that one day I would share it with her and she would be able to relate to me and would know that I had thought of her over the years. I am not sure what prompted me to do this because I had never really felt “connected” to her. I could never understand why a woman of 19 years old could make the choice to give up her baby. People would always say “I am sure she wanted you to have a better life” but in my heart, I always believed that she was simply selfish.

Continue reading My Adoption Story in this post: Part II: The Search!