Finding the Missing Pieces part 3

After arriving home from my weekend of meeting my siblings and my birth father, I began the final part of my search. Thanks to the information provided by my birth father, I now had my birth mothers last name.

But it was like looking for a needle in a very, very large haystack…..seeming impossible to find….yet knowing it was there, somewhere, kept me pushing forward.

Over the next few weeks I received calls from my birth father and during those calls, he gave me little bits of information that I would then relay to my hired searcher, Julie….each little fragment of information built upon the last, until, finally, on August 19, 2011 my searcher and I realized we might have found someone.

After hanging up the phone with Julie, my searcher, I waited……would this be it? Could it finally be over?  Those years and years of searching and wondering, was this the culmination of all of that hard work??

I waited….and I waited…..and then the phone rang. The caller ID told me it was Julie…..Please, Lord, let this be the end of my search.

I answered the phone and then Julie said yes, this was my birth mothers brother and he and the rest of the family had been searching for us……

I cannot put into written words just what those words she said meant to me.

They had been searching for my sister and I.

They had not forgotten us.

We were wanted.

We were loved.

At that moment, I felt this immense, heavy weight lift from deep within my soul, freeing me from the pain of that very young girl.

And then Julie said the words I had dreaded…..my birth mother had died in 2007, just 4 years before I would find her. My heart sank.  I would never get to meet her….I would never get to hear her voice or hug her……I would never get to tell her that I understood and loved her. 

In the next few minutes on the phone, Julie gave me the details of my birth mothers death and birth and who she had married. And then she gave me the name and phone number of the uncle she had found.  He was waiting for my phone call.

I hung up the phone and I spent a few minutes just breathing…….

And then I dialed the phone….one ring and my oldest uncle answered the phone….he called me by my birth name, Teresa. Through the many miles over that phone line, I could hear and feel the emotion, the relief and the love.  He told me about my mother.  And he said she NEVER stopped loving me, wanting me or searching for me. 

My uncle told me that I had a really, really big family…..my mother was 1 of 8 children. And he said one of my aunts and another uncle had also been looking for me and my sister.  We hung up with promises of calling again and of finding a time, soon, to meet in person.

I called my sister to give her the information and we cried at the relief. My sister was the only person in the world who truly understood all that was going through my mind and my heart because she too, had those same feeling, needs and desires. 

Within minutes of hanging up the phone from my sister, my phone rang again, this time it was my youngest uncle, the one who babysat me as a young child. I could feel the love through the phone and my desire to meet these family members grew stronger by the minute.  And then a phone call to my aunt.   She told me about my mother.  They were very close and she had more insight into why my mother had given us up for adoption.  And my aunt said that right before my birth mothers death, she had said that she thought she had finally found me on the internet……but she died before she could reach out to me and before giving her siblings the information of how to find me.  I was getting answers from her siblings and my heart was bursting. 

My birth mother had loved me and had searched for me! I couldn’t believe it!  Truly an answer to my prayers and the start of the healing the little girl in me so desperately needed.  Until that moment, the little girl who had been separated from her momma, did not know she had been wanted.  That little girl thought that she must have been a terrible person for her own mother to not want her, she had to have been bad and unlovable.  It took a lifetime of searching for her to finally feel loved and to know that she had not done anything wrong…..those phone calls meant more to me than any words I could now use. 

It only took a short time to decide to make my way to Washington to meet this new found family.  I left Louisiana on August 26, 2011, headed to Washington state and a meeting that was 43 years overdue.  After spending a couple of days visiting with my dad and step-mom and seeing my youngest sister again, it was time to pick up my sister and go meet our aunt and uncles.

On August 29, 2011….43 years and 10 months after we were dropped off at Social Services, never to see our mother again, it was finally time to reunite with our birth mothers siblings. I picked up my sister and we drove to the restaurant up the road from her house, both of us more nervous that we wanted to admit.  We walked into the mall where we were to meet them and eat together and there they were….2 of my uncles with their wives and my aunt…..immediately hugging us.  They knew us.  And we knew them.  And yes, I cried.  Tears of relief, tears of happiness and tears of forgiveness.  I finally found that last missing piece of my puzzle.

Jones family
Reuniting with 2 of our Uncles and our Aunt

 

We talked and talked for a few hours. It was amazing to get to know these wonderful, funny, kind-hearted people…..my family.  I felt comforted and safe.  And I immediately felt loved.  They shared stories about my birth mother and about their lives.  And they told my sister and I about what we were like as babies.  Finally, the first chapter took shape and made the rest of my life’s story make more sense. 

Our aunt had brought pictures for us of our mother. And pictures of us taken months before our adoption.  I had never seen these pictures…..and seeing them was overwhelming.  And seeing the pictures of my birth mother…..I look like her.  I LOOK like my birth mother.  I have her curly hair, and her brown eyes.  I had never looked like anyone, and there staring at me was myself.  My uncles said I sound like her when I talk, that I laugh like her and stand and walk like she did.  I finally felt like I belonged.  I was complete.

We also learned during the conversations that our birth mother had had another child….we had another brother, younger than us. That story is for another day.

After we finished eating and visiting, we went with my aunt to make copies of the pictures she had brought and then said see you later…..never again will I say good-bye to them.

I left my sister at her home and headed to the hotel near the airport in preparation for my early flight the next morning. And then I digested all of the information, the emotions and the photos.  I did not sleep that night, trying to absorb it all and trying to make sense of everything I had learned that day and the 4 months prior.

I had spent more than 30 years searching for the missing puzzle pieces of my life and now that search was over…..what will I do now?

The search was over, and now to put the puzzle together without forcing the pieces, instead, gently putting them in the spots they needed to fill, taking the time to carefully place them.

And I needed time to just breathe…..

Finding the pieces to my puzzle has been amazing.  I have a family that has expanded beyond anything I had imagined…..and I have spent the past five years building relationships, getting answers and healing.  The rest of the story will be coming soon, the story of how I fit the puzzle together and the unexpected outcome from these reunions.  I hope that by sharing my story of searching and finding those pieces that I can give hope to someone else out there who may be searching for a way to put their own puzzle together. 

 

 

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Finding the Missing Puzzle Pieces part 2

(I had intended to write and post this part of the story on this past Monday, but life happens and I was needed in ways that kept me from writing until today. So, here it is, a few days after the 5 year anniversary of meeting my birth father.)

Monday, May 9, 2011 is a day that I will not soon forget. It has been 5 years, yet still feels like it was yesterday. 

I had spent the previous day, which happened to be Mother’s Day, meeting and getting to know all my biological half-siblings, blogged about in part 1 of my adoption search story.

Monday morning, the four of us who had stayed at the cabin, rose early and went out to the lake. My sister and our older sister hopped in the kayaks and headed out onto the lake and I laid on the dock, absorbing all that had happened so far this weekend and thinking about what was to come…..

And I was feeling something that I couldn’t explain or quite pinpoint, but something felt wrong to me. Something, deep in the pit of my stomach was aching and I wasn’t sure why….

 My youngest sister and youngest brother were raised by our shared biological father and they knew where he was. In fact, my birth-father had asked her to find our oldest sister, he wanted to see her…..and that is what led her to message me and ask if we were related, since my adoption postings said I was looking for my birth parents and her fathers name was the same as the one I was looking for…..I am so thankful that our biological father asked her to look for our oldest sister, because if he had not, then I would never have known about her and my younger brother, we never would have met and the events of that Monday, would not have happened.

Things happen for a reason…..

After finding my birth announcement that summer in 1990 and finding the full name of my birth father, I searched every where for a man with his name….an uncommon first name, but a very common last name. Through the years I found bits and pieces of information but could never quite make them fit together to form a complete picture. 

Then in 2002, my sister had requested and received her case file from Social Services and she sent me copies……..reading the case file was quite emotional. They carefully blacked out any identifying information about our birth family, but occasionally missed blacking out a name…..which confirmed for me the first names of both my parents and my siblings.  More confirmation that I was on the right track.

The file also contained information I had not known…..that my parents were never married because he was still married to the mother of my older siblings, news that I was not aware of, but helped make sense of the pieces in my puzzle…..and in the file was the information that our birth father left our mother and me while she was pregnant with my sister, more information that brought forth even more questions…..would I ever know what really happened? There was more in that file, things that made me cry, saddened for the little girl who was trying to hold onto the hope that her mother would come back, that her mother loved her. And then as the social worker drove that little girl down the road to the house where she had lived with her mother….a house that was now empty….. I wept, wanting to hug the small child, the child within me, as she realized her mother was never coming back.  The case file held lots of information, and created more questions…..now I REALLY needed to know what happened…..

Shortly after receiving the case file, I located a man in Washington State who had the exact name of my biological father…..maybe I would finally have some info…..so I wrote this man a letter and put it in the mail…..and I waited….

A few weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail from Washington…..maybe…..I opened the letter and inside was the envelope I had sent my letter in and my letter, returned to me with a note saying he wasn’t my father, did not know my mother and to NEVER contact him again. I was devastated, and all hope of finding my birth mother and siblings was gone.  My gut told me that he was the right man, but I would never know for sure……until…….

When my older sister and I finally connected and spent time on the phone, I discovered that she too, had sent a letter to the man in Washington with our father’s name, about the same time that I had sent mine.  And her letter was returned to her.  We couldn’t both be wrong, could we?

I finally made a decision to hire a professional searcher to help me find my birth mother, since I had no idea what her last name had been. I told my searcher that I really believed this guy was my biological father and she did her research and contacted him.  He once again, denied being my father, but knew my mother and gave a name that was different than the one I had…….again, I was denied……rejection is difficult, especially when it is from a parent…..

Shortly before my trip to Washington, my youngest sister was seeing our birth father, to let him know that she had found our sister and she would ask him about my mother, so I sent her a letter to share with him……again, he denied being my father but gave her a little more info about my birth mother…..but not the correct name.   My searcher continued searching for my birth mother and I prepared to meet my siblings.

That Monday morning was emotional for me. My older sister was going to go meet our birth father and I was happy for her….he wanted to see her and she needed to see him.  But something in me wasn’t feeling right…..I had planned to stay at the cabin with my sister and relax while our older brother took our older sister to meet our birth father….then at the last minute I decided I wanted to go……just to ride along and see him from a distance would be enough…..I NEEDED to go.

The ride to the meeting location was silent, the three of us did not talk, each of us lost in our thoughts about what was coming. We parked in the parking lot and our sister went inside.  My brother and I sat there and then we saw his truck pull in….we had only seen pictures of him, and we both knew it was him.  He got out and walked inside……and then he came back out, alone.  My brother was about to jump out of the car to stop him and then we saw our sister walk out. 

I watched from the front seat of my brothers car as the birth father I had always wanted to find hugged my sister……and I started to cry…..why couldn’t he hug me, meet me? Why did he leave my birth mother and me all those years ago?  He chose to leave me when I was a year old and he never came back.  And there he was, in the parking lot, just feet away from where I sat and I couldn’t talk to him…….

While the two of them were inside, my brother and I talked. At that moment I really needed my big brother and he was there, listening to me, talking with me and understanding what I was feeling.  I decided to write a note and go put it on the windshield of our birth fathers truck, so that he would know I had been there.  My brother talked me out of doing that, saying that he knew that would not be enough for me…..he said that I needed to walk over to the truck and stop our birth father before he left…..and my brother was right. 

So, we sat there talking until we saw our birth father walk outside…..and I froze, I couldn’t open the door, my heart was beating so hard and fast that I thought it would jump right out of my body……and suddenly he turned and went back inside…..okay, breathe….

When I saw him come back out, something took over and before I knew it, the door of the car was open and I was walking, quickly, toward the truck, signaling to the man inside to wait a minute….as I approached the truck, he rolled down the window and looked at me questioningly.

I told him who I was, that I was Laura Mae’s daughter and then I saw it in his eyes……he KNEW who I was. Before I knew it, he had put the truck in park and jumped out and hugged me…..and I whispered “are you my dad?”  And very quietly, he whispered in my ear “yes, I am your dad”. 

My knees gave out…..he had to hold me up. He WAS my birth father…..he Acknowledged me.  My tears flowed uncontrollably. 

He pulled away from the hug, held my hands and looked me in the eye and told me my mothers full name…..I had her last name. He told me where her family was from.  And then he asked me if there were two of us and if I was the oldest one?  Yes, and I had a younger sister.  He asked about her and then hugged me again.  He said he was sorry that he had not given me the information sooner, but that he was really happy that I stopped him.  He asked me to give my phone number to my younger sister and he would get it from her and then he had to leave……

I was shocked, shaking, and at peace. I ran inside and got my sister and then as she talked with our brother, I had to call my husband to tell him that I had forced my way into meeting my biological father and I had the information I needed. 

And then I called the searcher and gave her the information my birth father had given me…..now, hopefully we could find her.

One more piece of my puzzle was found. But there were so many more questions I had for him. 

We went back to the cabin and spent the rest of the night hanging out with our siblings…..what a weekend it had been…….I met my siblings and my birth father.

And my birth father did call me, a few days after that meeting. We have talked several times since I forced my way into meeting him and he has answered my questions, even the tough ones. 

I don’t know where the courage to confront him came from…..but I know that I HAD to do it. The feeling I couldn’t pinpoint that morning was a deep need to meet the man who was a part of the first chapter of life and I am so glad that I did it……..my brothers encouragement was all I needed to find it inside me to finally confront face-to-face the only person who could give me the information I needed to find my birth mother…………another part of my story for another day.

I am so blessed to have been able to finally put these missing puzzle pieces in my puzzle…..now to find the last piece and figure out how to put it all together.

Finding the Missing Puzzle Pieces, part 1

5 years ago today, Saturday, May 7, 2011, I boarded a flight in Minot, ND….bound for Washington State and a weekend I will never forget.

I was adopted along with my younger sister. I was 3 years old and she was 18 months old when we went to live with our new mom and dad.  I always knew I was adopted and when the kids teased me in elementary school, as kids will, my mom held me and soothed my tears.  The kids said that my birth mom didn’t want me….I was unlovable.  My mom told me that she CHOSE me and my sister and the other kids parents got stuck with them.  She WANTED us from the first day she saw us.  That was my mom.  She always knew how to heal my hurt and make me feel loved. 

Before my mom’s death she had shared with me the information our caseworker had given her…..dates of when I walked, ate, slept all night…..information that was carefully tracked by my birthmother and given to the caseworker. And on the back page was a list of three names, titled “important people in Teresa’s past”.  On that piece of paper was written my birth mothers first name—Laura.  My mom loved me enough to let me know the information that would eventually help me to find the answers I sought. I am sorry that she was not around when I finally found those answers, many, many years later.

A person’s story starts the day they were born, but for an adoptee the story starts the day they are adopted. And my story began when I was 3 years old.  It was as if I had been dropped on this earth, at the age of 3…..out of nowhere.  I longed for the answers of where I came from and why I was given away.

I have often been asked why I searched for my birth parents, did I need to find my “real” parents? My “real” parents are the couple who adopted me.  My mom and dad arrived in my life when I was 3 years old, and they will always be my mom and dad.  My search was more about answers, putting the pieces of a puzzle together, trying to complete that puzzle when pieces were missing….I needed and longed for those missing pieces.  I wanted to know who I looked like, where I got my love of writing and reading, where I got my love of the outdoors…..and I wanted to know why my sister and I were given up for adoption.  Did something happen, a tragedy perhaps?  Or was it the way the kids at school said it was—that my parents did not want me or love me?  I had a hole in my heart, a part of my story missing and I needed to know the answers.

I searched for years….long before the internet. And I dreamed about what it would be like when I finally found them.  I knew I had a birth mom and dad and I knew I had an older sister and brother….where were they?  Why were we not all adopted together?  Were there more siblings?

During a trip home to Washington in the summer of 1990, I finally found a piece of the puzzle.  I found my birth announcement in the archived papers at the library in the city where I was born.  There in black and white was the name of my birth father, the address where he and my mother lived when I was born and the names of my older sister and older brother.  I had to be sure this was the right family….so I went to the city where my sister was born and at the library there, I found her birth announcement and the same couple had given birth to her.

I finally had a last name for our parents and names for our siblings. The emotions took over and I spent the next 20 years searching for them, posting on message boards for adoptees searching, posting on message boards for lost siblings, and searching the online databases.  The internet was a blessing, making it easier to search through databases from thousands of miles away.  But I kept hitting brick walls…..searching for the needle in the haystack and never finding it.

I began to feel as if I would never find my siblings, my parents or my answers.

And then one day, in January 2010, my sister called me. She had messaged every person she could find on facebook with the same name as the person who had been searching for our biological father….and she got a response.  I messaged the individual and she called me.  She was the younger half-sister of our older siblings and yes, she knew where they were.  Within minutes of hanging up the phone, my brother called me….my brother CALLED ME!  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Finally, on the other end of the line was the brother I had longed for.  I don’t remember what we talked about, I just remember the tears, laughter and the love…immediately.

It was a few days before I heard from my older sister and when I heard her voice on the phone, I dropped to my knees….I knew her. The connection I felt was immediate…yes, this was my big sister….the one I had longed for.  We didn’t talk long….the emotions took over for both of us.

The four of us spent the next year connecting on facebook and talking on the phone. My sister and our newly found older brother managed to meet for a weekend shortly after we had all connected.  And after a year of getting to know each other we finally made plans to meet in person in Washington state, all four of us.  I was looking forward to this weekend and being able to see my siblings, to hug them, laugh with them and get to know them. 

A couple of months before we were to meet in Washington, I received a facebook message from someone who was looking for my older sister and had seen my posts on the adoption message boards….the posts where I was looking for my siblings and my birth parents. We messaged back and forth and then talked on the phone.  There were lots of emotions in that phone conversation.  Suddenly we had another younger sister, and a younger brother.  2 more siblings…..6 of us, sharing the same dad.  I cannot imagine the emotions she felt as she learned that she had not only the older sister she was looking for, but 2 other sisters and a brother she didn’t know about.    And then, one more call, to my younger brother, excitement and emotion ruled those calls.  I was thrilled to finally have some of the puzzle pieces and to have an expanding family….expanding faster than I had ever imagined.  We made plans for all 6 of us to meet on Mother’s day weekend. 

So, I boarded that plane on Saturday, May, 7th and flew to Washington.  I arrived at the airport, got my rental car and headed to the city where I would spend the night in a hotel with my two older siblings.  I was nervous and excited.  I arrived at the hotel and a little while later, heard a voice in the hall….I opened the door and there they were…..my older sister and brother.  We hugged, cried and laughed.  We spent the night in a flurry of conversation, tears and laughter and eventually sleep came.  I finally had more of those puzzle pieces and the puzzle was getting closer to completion. 

The next morning, Mother’s Day, we drove to my sister’s house where she was finally united with our older sister. And then we all drove to the cabin we had rented for the weekend….a great location on a little lake where we could meet and get to know all our siblings.  After arriving at the cabin we heard cars pull up and there they were, the youngest sister and brother.  Lots of hugs and tears as we met for the first time. 

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The night flew by….conversation, tears, laughter and connecting.  3 pairs of siblings came together that night….strangers to the other pairs and yet we knew each other…..we were connected by a shared father.  We spent that Mother’s day together, celebrating our expanding family. 

The next day was spent hanging out at the cabin, kayaking, talking and eating. We had dinner after our youngest siblings returned to the cabin and then sat around the fire that last night together, talking, sharing stories and laughing.  This was my family and I was almost complete. 

I will never forget that Mother’s day weekend or the pieces of my puzzle I found. I found the two older siblings I had been missing and found 2 younger siblings I never knew about.  And I am so blessed to have found them, to know them and to love them.

The first chapter of my life story was finally filling in…..and more answers would come, during that weekend and in the months that followed, as I would reunite with my biological father and find my biological mother’s family.

Those stories are for another day.

For today, I cherish the memories made that weekend, 5 years ago.