Chapter XIII : On The Way Home
...The desire to find my natural family and my roots was stronger than ever. Now it was time to act. I didn't know how to proceed. The laws on adoption had changed over the years and I was vague as to exactly what was allowed and what was not. Adoptions were very secretive when I was adopted
and my mother's firm insistence to my sister that the records would never be opened played on my fear that it must be a very difficult thing to accomplish. I wondered if I would have to hire a lawyer and go through a long and complicated legal proceeding. Could I do it on my own, using resources I had available to me as a police officer? All these questions were running through my mind. I had to do something very quickly. I decided to talk to a friend of mine at work who was also adopted. He had located his birth mother a few years earlier and spent two years with her before she died. He told me how he searched records in the town hall where he was born and in the state library. He hadn't needed a lawyer. He did the whole thing on his own. His wife had helped him with some of it, and she made the initial call to his mother. I was excited when he offered to help me.
The next day my sister called me at work. "Mike, I did some checking and found out how simple it is for you to start your search." Her ex-husband was an attorney. He had contacted the agency where I was adopted. The agency was now called Catholic Family Services, and it had moved from its original location. According to him, the records still existed. The information he received indicated that it would only cost me twenty-five dollars to get non-identifying information and one hundred and fifty dollars to have a full search done. I was elated. He gave the address and the name of the woman in charge, I was on the right track at last. I immediately typed a letter to the agency. The only requirements were two forms of identification, and my letter had to be notarized. I made photocopies of my license and social security card, and had my boss notarize the letter. I put the letter and the money in the mail that day. I was on pins and needles. After mailing the letter, I began to have a lot of strange fantasies about who my mother really was. I didn't really care about finding my father as much, despite my adoptive mother's reference to him being the possible cause of David's problems.
I thought more and more about my mother. I imagined different scenarios in which I might meet her. I saw myself meeting her at the agency. She would be waiting for me in a room while a social worker briefed me outside in the hall. I would enter the room, and she would walk toward me. I would give her a big hug as we both cried. The funny thing is I couldn't clearly imagine a face for her. It was more like an apparition than a real person. I can't even give a physical description of the woman I was imagining. The days of waiting for an answer were very difficult. Nancy and I worked hard trying to help David. In general, things between myself and Nancy were much better. I still had some bad days, but I was not blowing up at her and the kids as much. Nancy knew that waiting for the adoption agency to respond was putting a lot of stress on me. She maintained her calm and stood with me through that tough time. She never gave up on me. I didn't want to be alone during that phase of my life. Thursday, October 7, 1993 is a day I will never forget. I came home from work and Nancy told me I had an important piece of mail. I knew immediately what she meant. She had put it in the basement and wanted to be there when I opened it. My heart started to beat faster as I descended the stairs. There was the envelope waiting for me on the bookshelf. Nancy stood next to me as I opened it. I was so nervous my hands were sweating. I had waited so many years for this. I had no idea what I was about to find. I almost didn't want to open it. I hesitated. "Mike, do you want me to open it for you?" Nancy asked. "No, Nancy. I have to do this myself."
I opened the envelope and pulled out the papers it contained. I unfolded them and started to read. With that simple action I took the leap into the unknown I hoped would lead to my becoming a whole person. It was so simple a process that it was almost anti-climactic. The first page was a cover letter from the social worker at the agency. It explained that I was receiving only non-identifying information. The letter continued to clarify the process involved should I choose to pursue the matter further. I quickly scanned through that page and proceeded to the next. I had waited forty years to read that page. It contained information about my birth mother and father. Tears filled my eyes. Nancy was behind me with her hand gently resting on my shoulder as I started to read the information concerning my birth and my identity. I can't begin to sufficiently describe the torrent of emotions streaking through my head as I held that paper in my trembling hands. There are no words I can use to give a non-adoptee an indication of what that feeling is like. Only an adoptee who has searched as I have can understand that feeling. I had taken the first step toward my connection with my true self. It was only words on paper. How could they be such a big deal? I read the top line on the left half of the page. It was a description of my mother:
Age - 21, Race - Caucasian
, Ethnic Background - Czechoslovakian, Number of years of school completed - 12. Height, Weight and Build - Unknown. Eyes - Blue, Hair - Blonde, Skin - Fair, Religion - Roman Catholic, Occupation- Insurance, Future Aspirations - Unknown.
For the first time in my life I had knowledge about what my natural mother looked like. I began crying. I held in my hands a piece of my past. It was a piece of me. My only connection to who I really was. I cried so hard I couldn't look at the rest of the paper. Instantly, my entire heritage had changed. I was no longer French-Canadian. I wasn't sure how to handle the instant change of ethnicity. My natural mother was described as being a very pretty girl. Her talents were given as knitting and sewing. On the right side of the paper was a description of my father:
Age - 25, Race - Caucasian, Ethnic Background - Italian, Height - 6', Eyes - Brown, Hair - Brown, Number of years of school completed - 12. Description of appearance - None available. Religion - Unknown, Occupation - Unknown, Future Aspirations - Unknown.
He was of Italian ethnicity. At least that part of me was the same. No other information about him was provided. This page also contained a description of the relationship between my mother and father:
The birth parents were in a relationship for approximately two years. The birth mother decided against marriage because she was unsure of her feelings toward the birth father. The birth father helped the birth mother with some of the expenses of the pregnancy. Birth mother felt that placement of the child in an adoptive home would be in the best interest of the child."
This information concerning the relationship between my mother and father made me cry harder and harder. I knew now what the circumstances of my conception and birth were. Throughout my life I had envisioned all sorts of scenarios. I thought I might be the product of a one night stand between some drunken sailor and a prostitute. I could have been the result of a liaison between two teenagers in the back seat of a car parked on some dark wooded lane. I had imagined all sorts of possibilities. As it for many adopted children, it was important for me to know under what conditions I was conceived. At times I had even imagined that I had been abandoned in a basket on some doorstep. Unless you are adopted, you can't understand fully the kinds of thoughts and emotions that can go through your head. I continued to read the document. For the first time, I knew what time I was born: eleven o'clock in the morning. My birth weight: seven and one quarter ounces. There are things most people know off the top of their heads. Under another heading, descriptions of the two families contained more information.
The birth mother was the middle of five children. She had an older married sister and an older brother was in the service. Her two younger brothers lived at home at the time of her pregnancy. Her family was considered close-knit. The birth father had a brother who he shared a business with. The birth father attended a theology school for four years and did very well academically. The birth father was described as "a very intelligent boy who came from an excellent family."
My father attended theology school! My first thought was that he had been a minister. What a story that would make for the gossips of the world. I read all this out loud for Nancy. I gave her the paper and she read it. I was still crying. It was funny. There we were in the basement again - a place where much of the past two years had been spent fighting and talking out our problems. This was the first time in a long time that we had shared some good news. It was about time. After reading all the information from the agency, I started to analyze it. "Mike, you should be happy to know you're not the product of a one night stand," Nancy said. "Nancy, you know I am," I told her. "My mother was only twenty-one when she had me. She may be still alive! If she is, she would only be sixty-two years old. I have three uncles and an aunt. My father would be only sixty-five if he's still alive. This is fantastic!" The potential for finding my mother and my roots was becoming greater. I was terribly anxious. I wanted to continue the search. It was never merely a question of wanting to, really. I knew I absolutely must continue. How could I stop now with only that small fragment of my past? I needed to find the rest no matter how difficult it might be and no matter how I might be received or rejected. The medical
information provided was limited. One disturbing thing on my mother's record was that she had been hospitalized for depression at age twenty-one. That was while she was pregnant with me. That bothered me a lot. "Mike, it might not be a big deal," Nancy tried to reassure me, "Many pregnant women
get depressed." "I'm happy that it appears as if my mother and father had a relationship with love in it," I said. "It doesn't seem to have been some cheap fling." "Mike, what does it matter if they loved each other or not?" Nancy asked. The question made me irate. I screamed at Nancy. "It matters a lot to me! You of all people should know that after all we've been through because of this issue of being loved."
I didn't mean to scream at her. She had just touched a nerve. I needed to know that my mother and father cared about each other. I called my sister and told her about the information I received and she was excited and happy. When Donna asked me if I was going to pursue the matter further, I told her I had to. I had come this far. I knew I might be facing bad news or rejection, but there was no other way to get the answers I needed without going through with the search. Donna agreed, and wished me luck. I promised to keep her informed. Nancy and I decided it was time to tell David and Julie the truth about my being adopted. It had been kept a secret all those years despite the fact that I knew from experience that it was wrong. I don't know why I had never told them before. I had to tell them now before things went much further. I was as guilty as my adoptive parents had been of keeping it a secret. At last I was going to clear the air. "Dave and Julie, I want you in the kitchen," I yelled to them. "I have something very important to tell you." They came downstairs and sat at the kitchen table. I wanted this to be a positive interaction, so I mustered the calmest voice that I could. I didn't want to stage a repeat of what had happened to me. "I hope that you can try to understand this," I started. "Dad is adopted and I'm in the process of trying to find my real mother." I watched closely their reactions. Julie rolled her eyes in her head. David did not say anything. "I want to read something to you," I told them. I pulled out the non-identifying information papers and read them the information about my mother and father. They listened without comment. Finally David asked, "Is this going to make you happy, Dad?" "I'm not sure," I admitted, "but I have to do it anyway." Then he asked "Does this mean that my last name isn't really my last name?" "No, David, you still have the same last name. I gave you the first name my natural mother gave me. It was a promise I made to myself many years ago. That if I ever had a son I would name him David." I told both the kids that they still were who they always had been, except their ethnic background was different. Julie didn't really understand, so I let the subject drop. Nancy and I decided we were going to have to pay close attention to how the kids responded to all this. They needed time to absorb it, and so did I.
The next morning I called the agency and spoke to the social worker who had sent me the non-identifying information. Her name was Susan, and she was very pleasant and cooperative. She explained to me that she was an adoptee, and had found her birth mother five years earlier. I was happy to hear that. She was a kindred spirit. She would understand what I was going through. She told me she knew what I was feeling, and what was going through my head and heart. "I know Mike," she explained, "You've been feeling these things all your life." It was as if she had known me for years. I trusted her. She was like me. "Susan, what's the next step I have to take to continue the search?" She explained that the agency would conduct a search for my birth mother if I sent a $150 retainer. She explained that it didn't matter if it took six months or six minutes, the fee was the same. I found that reasonable, and I fully intended to proceed with the search. I asked her what the outcome of searches usually were. She said, "In my experience, about eight out of ten times there is some form of contact. In two out of ten times they slam the phone down on me." "Those odds seem worth a shot," I told her. "What's your experience in cases where contact has been made?" "It can run the whole gamut," she explained. "Sometimes there's just one meeting and nothing further. Other times a relationship is established. There are no absolutes, Mike. I'm optimistic that yours can be a positive situation. Your birth parents had been in a long-standing relationship, and the families are described as being close-knit." I told Susan I would send the money and the two forms of ID she needed as soon as possible. I also had to include another notarized letter. I sent it all out the next day. Then there was nothing to do but wait. It was unbearable. I knew that it might take a long time. Susan had explained that she takes the requests in the order that they come in. She averaged about one per day and she currently had a stack on her desk. Obviously, there were a lot of people out there like me; people who were searching as I was. People who needed to be "connected" as I did.
I started to have a lot of fantasies about meeting my mother. I thought about her every day and I cried a lot when I thought of the potential reunion with her. I had no idea what my mother would look like. I tried to imagine a sixty-two year old blonde, blue-eyed woman. I looked around in stores and on the street for a woman who resembled that description thinking "Are you my mommy?" This looking was nothing new to me. I had been doing it for years. I had always looked, consciously or unconsciously, for people who resembled me. It gives you an eerie feeling, looking over people in crowds wondering if you're related to them. I didn't really think much about meeting my father. It was my mother I wanted. I needed her. I missed her. I had a lot of hope that I was coming to the end of my long search. I was finally going to find what I had been looking for all these years. The jaunt would be over at long last. I was finally going to have all the answers. I was usually rational enough to understand that there were variable possibilities. When I was not, Nancy would remind me.
There were three possible outcomes to my search. The first was that my mother was dead. I didn't really see that as a strong possibility because she was not that old. The second was that she was alive, but would not want to see me. That would be the most difficult to accept. It made me cry to think about that possibility. The third was that my mother was alive and wanted to see me. Obviously, this was the scenario I hoped for. I replayed it over and over in my head. The idea of actually being able to touch my mother dominated my thoughts. I wanted more than anything on earth to be able to hug my mom. That was the most important thing to me. I needed that so badly. Other kids had held their mothers and had their mothers hold them. I was deprived of that. Was that so much to ask out of life? I believed I was emotionally ready for whatever the outcome might be. I could think of nothing else, night and day. With each passing day, my fantasies became more and more vivid. I thought about my mother and what she would be like. Did she look like me? Would she be happy to see me? What would I say to her when we met? I was setting myself up for a potentially huge letdown, but I didn't care. I found myself crying on my way to work. They were tears I needed to let out. They were a release. I waited and waited. Each day passed like a month. Should I call the agency? Why can't they go faster?
Friday, November 19, 1993. I was sitting in my office. I remember looking at the clock. It was about ten minutes till noon when the phone rang. It was Susan. "Mike?" she said, "This is Susan from the agency. How are you?" I was tense. She didn't sound as happy as I thought she would have. I tried to prepare myself for whatever it was she was about to say. "I'm afraid I had some bad news for you," she said. "Your mother is deceased. She died in 1979. I'm very sorry. I didn't want to be the one to give you the bad news." My mother was dead! Susan's words rolled over me like an avalanche. I had known it was a possibility, but I never thought it would be the one that was true. I wanted to cry, but I held it back. I was at work. I was supposed to be a tough cop. Who would understand if I cried over a woman I had never seen? No more tears. I asked Susan, "How did you find this out?"
"I called one of your mother's brothers - your uncle - and pretended I was from a high school reunion committee. I told him I was doing research to put together a reunion for next year and I needed information about your mother. Your uncle sounds like a very nice man and he was very helpful. He seemed to get a bit suspicious about the call, so I couldn't press him for much more information. I didn't want to take a chance and blow my cover." "Did he say how my mother died?" I asked. "She was very young if she died in 1979." I did some quick math. "Just about forty-eight years old." Susan paused, and then said "The indication is that she took her own life." Susan said this in a very business-like manner, yet there was a touch of sadness and empathy along with it. She was really a nice person. "I'm sorry that I have to be the one to tell you this," she said. "You have a right to know." Suicide. That was one possibility I had never thought of. I couldn't say anything for a long minute. I can't describe the emotions I felt upon hearing that my mother had taken her own life. I was utterly destroyed inside. There was a massive void opening in me. It widened until it became a chasm. There was no way it would ever be filled. I was doomed to carry the emptiness around with me for the rest of my life. I had to know more. "Susan, is it possible for me to talk to my uncle?" I asked. My voice was quivering with anxiety and anticipation. "I don't know," she said. "I'll have to ask my supervisor what to do in a case like this where the birth mother is deceased. I haven't had any experience in handling a case like this. I'll need a little time. Please be patient." "Susan, I want you to pursue it as far as you can," I said. "I'll wait as long as it takes." "I'll do my best and get back to you as soon as possible," she said. She apologized again for being the bearer of bad news and hung up. She had been very kind. I liked her.
After I hung up the phone a strange feeling washed over me. Actually, it was more like I didn't want to feel. I didn't cry. I told myself it was no big deal. So my mother was dead. That was the end of it. Oh well. Back to work. I'm an adult. I can handle this. This is no great crisis. I had been through a lot worse than this and come out with only minimal damage. Anyone could lose their mother. People lose their mothers every day and their lives go on. I just lost one I never knew. Why should I be upset? I tried to concentrate on my work. A female friend of mine, Lori, came into my office. She noticed I looked upset. "Mike, what's the matter?" she asked, "You look terrible." I told her about the phone call. She knew I was looking for my family. "Mike, I'm worried about you," she said when I finished telling her. "Don't be," I said. "This is no big deal. I'm fine. I can handle it. I knew it would end up this way. I really don't want to talk about it. Please leave."
Lori left and I went back to work. I didn't tell anyone else about the phone call. I worked until four o'clock, went to my locker and changed from my uniform into my civilian clothes. When I got to my car, all the pent-up emotions came out. Tears flowed out of me like a waterfall. I was hurting pretty badly. I started driving, but I could barely see where I was going. I would never see my mother. I would never get to hold her. I cried out loud over and over again "Momma, Momma, I love you Momma!" I cried all the way home. I couldn't stop myself. So many thoughts and emotions were running through me that I couldn't focus on any one of them. I felt so alone and I felt abandoned again. It was the story of my life. I always seemed to lose the ones I love. It hurt so badly.
This was crazy. Why am I acting like this? I pulled into the driveway and sat there trying to get control of myself before I went inside. I didn't want the kids to see me in that condition. Nancy was in the kitchen when I came in. She could see I had been crying. "Mike, what's wrong?" she asked. "I heard from the agency. My mother is dead." I blurted the words out as if they were the last words I was going to say. I opened the door to the cellar and went downstairs to have a smoke. Nancy followed. I told her about the phone call from Susan. "Nancy, my mother killed herself," I said. "I can't believe she killed herself. We never thought of that possibility." "Mike, please don't jump to conclusions. Maybe it's not true. Didn't you say that Susan said the 'indications' were that she had killed herself? That's not absolute truth." Nancy's words didn't reassure me. I knew it was true. I began to regret that I had ever started this. I was crying again. I could not help thinking about my mother. Why had she done this to me? Why did she leave me again? I need you Mom. I need to hold you. I need you to hold me. I need to know that you love me. Please don't be gone. I love you Mom--it's was David the child overruling Mike the adult--who tried to control the situation with rationality.
was interrupted by the ringing telephone. Nancy answered it. "Mike, come upstairs quick and get the phone! Hurry up, it's Susan from the agency!" I pulled myself together, ran upstairs and took the phone. "Hi Susan," I said, "It's Mike. What can I do for you?" "I called because I was worried about how you would take what I told you this afternoon. I felt so bad to have to be the one to tell you. Sometimes that's the way these things turn out." "I really appreciated your call," I told her. "You don't have to worry about me. I'm handling things okay." It wasn't true, but I didn't want to make her feel responsible for causing me any pain. It was certainly not her fault. Susan continued. "I do have some news for you. I spoke to my supervisor and she said I could call your uncle. I need your verbal authorization to make the call and to give him your name and phone number." "You have my permission to do whatever it is you have to do," I said without any hesitation. "If you contact him, tell him I would at least like to talk to him on the phone about my mother." "I will do everything I can to help you," she said. "I'm optimistic about this one. Your uncle seems like a real nice person and he was very willing to help when I called the first time. This time I'll tell him the truth about who I am and what I'm doing. I'll call you when I make contact, no matter what the outcome."
I felt better after talking to Susan. I tried to put the thought of my mother's death away. I put on a brave front for the kids. Thanksgiving was coming up and I didn't want to ruin it for them. As the rest of the day passed, I still cried. I thought more and more about the mother I never knew and now would never know. I thought about my uncle as well. Once again, control of my life was in someone else's hands. It would be his decision about whether or not he wanted any contact with me. I was at his mercy. He could control my fate and I was having to rely on the good nature of a man I had never met. I thought about how I would handle it if he rejected me. I let that thought slip back into a deep corner of my mind, at least for the time being. I began to fantasize about how the meeting with my uncle would go. I imagined meeting him at the agency. I couldn't put a face on him. Like my fantasy about meeting my mother, it was only a shadowy apparition I met. I envisioned meeting in different locations. I thought meeting at the agency would be the most probable. Meeting at his home would be a less likely possibility, but it was the one I wanted most. I envisioned him giving me a picture of my mother. I could see myself and feel myself crying as I looked at her face. Again it was a face without any substance. It was just a shadow. I was sure that all of this was an illusion; none of it would ever come true. I had reached the end of the road. My search would end without finding my Holy Grail or the Golden Fleece. I was trapped in a ring of frozen hell. I could only sit and wait for the inevitable.
On Thanksgiving Day I was very down. I hadn't heard from Susan and I knew I wouldn't that day. I also figured I wouldn't hear from her the following day or through the weekend. At my mother-in-law's for Thanksgiving dinner, one of her nieces and her family stopped to visit. We were sitting in the living room, and her niece started to make small talk about some family issues. I was only half paying attention. Suddenly, I heard the word adoption. Hearing that word I immediately became interested in the conversation. Nancy's cousin related a story about how a friend of hers had had a child and given her up for adoption. She found her after twenty-five years. Listening to that story I almost started crying. I had to get up and leave the room. I just couldn't deal with hearing that, especially knowing that my mother was dead and I would never see her. Driving home I told Nancy I was going to call Susan on Monday to see where she was in her attempts to contact my uncle. Waiting until then was terrible. I was becoming depressed and withdrawn. I made it through Thanksgiving and the weekend. On Monday morning I called the agency. The woman who answered the phone said Susan was out sick, but would probably be there the following day. I didn't leave a message.
I was frustrated again. I went home Monday with an air of resignation. I was so tired of waiting. I was tired of crying. How long would this take? Would it all be worth it? I already had a mother and a father. I had aunts and uncles, too. Who needs more? I thought I should just call Susan and tell her to give up. There comes a time when you have to face up to things. My mother was dead and nothing could change that. Face it Mike, I told myself, she's dead. Be a man and face life head-on. You will never hold your mommy. You will never see her face. . On Tuesday morning I left for work. I was determined not to let what was happening affect me or my family any longer. I was going to call Susan and see if she could expedite things. I didn't get an opportunity to call her until after lunch. "Hi, Susan. It's Mike." "Hello, Mike," she said. "I haven't been able to get in touch with your uncle yet. I assume that is why you're calling?" "Yes, it is." "I tried calling your uncle last week, but he wasn't home," she explained. "I didn't want to leave a message on his answering machine. I felt that this kind of message isn't the sort of thing you leave on a machine."
I agreed with her and told her that if she contacted my uncle I wanted her to call my wife at home and tell her what the outcome was. I was going to be in a class until ten that evening. I went to class that night and tried not to think about things. I was able to do so because the instructor was particularly interesting that night. After class I went out to my car and the thoughts immediately began to creep back into my head. I couldn't shut them out. Driving home I began the same litany of negativity that I had beat myself over the head with a thousand times before. I wasn't going to get anywhere with my search. It was all a waste of time. The same old thoughts I had been having for weeks. I started to cry again and I wondered how many gallons of tears I had shed. Was there a scientific method for measuring that quantity? I parked the car in the driveway. The outside lights were still on and so were the ones in the kitchen. It looked as if Nancy was still up. Had there been some news?
I went into the house and Nancy was waiting for me the kitchen with tears in eyes. My first thought was that David had done something to upset her or else he had gotten into more trouble. She didn't even wait for me ask before she started talking in an excited voice. "Honey, I have the greatest news for you." Nancy was so excited she literally pulled me over to a chair. I thought she was going to push me down into the seat. Something really had her wound up. "You better sit down for this." I pulled out one of the kitchen chairs and sat down. Nancy started to speak in a very excited voice. "Susan called at eight-thirty. She talked to your uncle." My heart nearly stopped and I could hardly breathe. Nancy paused to take a deep breath. "Your uncle is ecstatic and he can't wait to meet you!" Hearing those words, I broke down. I began sobbing so loudly I woke David up. I couldn't believe my ears. After all these years I was going to meet someone who knew my mother. I was going to meet a blood relative, someone who shared the same genes. He would tell me about my mother and maybe even give me a picture of her. I would finally know my past. I cried tears of happiness and relief. "Mike, you have to hear the rest," Nancy said. "You won't believe it." I looked up and tried to control my emotions. "Your uncle lives right here in town, less than three miles from here!"
This was incredible. I hadn't really ever thought about where my uncle might live. I knew from Susan it was somewhere in Maine. His living in the same town was unbelievable. Nancy said that Susan had talked to my uncle for a while. He told her that my mother had been an airline stewardess for an international airline. She had flown all over the world. My mother apparently had quite an exciting life. This was all the information Nancy had been given. She showed me a piece of paper with a name and address on it. My uncle's first name was Jim. The address was in an area I was familiar with. David's girlfriend from last summer lived right around the corner from my uncle's street. I had a phone number. I wanted so badly to call right then and there. Nancy said Susan wanted me to call her in the morning before I did anything. I agreed that was the sensible thing to do. I was so overjoyed. I cried and hugged Nancy. David came into the kitchen. "Are you going to be happy now, Dad?" he asked. "Yes Dave, I'm going to be happy. We are all going to be happy again."
The nightmare was coming to an end. I told Nancy I couldn't sleep and I was going to have to take the day off from work tomorrow. There was no way I could go to work in that condition. I went down to the basement recreation room to sleep on the fold-out couch. I slept on and off. I finally woke up at five in the morning and stayed up. I decided to drive to work and tell my friend who was working the midnight shift the good news. I was still awed. I was happy and upbeat. I was excited. As tired as I was, I was chock full of energy. I couldn't wait to call Susan to find out when I could meet my uncle. I had coffee with my friend Randy. I told him the story and how excited I was about seeing my uncle. By the time I got home it was still only eight in the morning. I knew it was too early to call Susan. I tried to take a nap to make the time go faster. That didn't work. At nine o'clock I called Susan. I was nervous and full of anticipation. When she greeted me, her voice was upbeat and happy. "I just got off the phone with your uncle," she said. "Wow. I guess he couldn't wait either," I said. "Your uncle is very anxious to set up a meeting with you, Mike. Do you want me to arrange a meeting here at the agency?" "Really, Susan, I'm so excited I don't care where we meet as long as we meet somewhere soon. What does my uncle want to do?" "I'm not sure," she told me, "He didn't say." "Maybe I should just call him and let him decide what he wants to do." "That's a good idea," said Susan, "Why don't I call him first and tell him that you're going to call him shortly? Then I'll call you back." "Perfect. I'll be right here waiting for your call," I said. I hung up. My palms were sweating as I waited for Susan to call me back.
The phone rang. I rushed to grab the receiver. "Mike, it's Susan. Your uncle is expecting you to call right away. He's getting ready to go out, so you have to call now." "Okay," I said. "I call you afterwards." "Fine. I wish you the best of luck in this." "Thanks, I appreciate it very much and I need the luck." I went into the kitchen and got the piece of paper with my uncle's number on it. I was ready. I had waited so long and gone through so much for this day. Here goes nothing. I dialed the number. The phone rang twice before a man answered. "Hello?" "Hello, Jim?" There was a pause which seemed to last forever. "Yes, this is Jim." "Jim, this is Mike." "Hi Mike, I have waited forty years to hear your voice."
With these words, expressed so simply and genuinely by my Uncle Jim, I knew I was not going to be rejected. I had found my Kansas. "I have waited forty years to hear your voice too." My voice cracked with emotion. I tried to gauge the person I was talking to. He had a soft yet firm voice. He spoke slowly and deliberately. "I used to work at an insurance company in Portland. Whenever we hired new employees I would check out all the new men to see if any of them looked like my sister, your mother." "My sister, your mother!" More simple words loaded with emotional dynamite. I couldn't hide the fact that I was crying. I wanted to hug this man who I had never seen right through the phone lines. "When would you like to meet?" he asked. "I have to go to York. In fact, I'm on my way out the door right now. I'll be back by late this afternoon. How about meeting at six-thirty at my house?" "Yes, that sounds good," I said. "Great! I'll be looking forward to it." "So will I. I'll call Susan back and tell her we have set up our own meeting." "That's fine with me," he said, "I can't wait to see you." Everything had gone so smoothly and naturally. After I got off the phone with Uncle Jim, I called Susan back and thanked her for all her help.
I went back downstairs and cried. The tears I was crying this time were happy tears. I couldn't believe all that had just taken place. It all happened so fast. The phone call had lasted only a couple of minutes. It was almost anti-climactic after all that had preceded it. I collapsed and took a nap. I couldn't wait until that evening. I finally fell asleep for a few hours. Nancy called me at noon from work. I told her about my conversation with my uncle. She was very excited and happy for me. She couldn't wait to meet my uncle. She would be home by four. She was crying on the phone she was so happy. I felt a strong surge of love for her. I was so grateful and lucky to have this woman. After the way I treated her it was more than wonderful that she was still by my side. I blew her a kiss through the phone. David and Julie came home from school and I informed them both about the events of the day. Both of them were happy and seemed to take the whole thing in stride. Neither one of them said too much. I supposed it might be even more overwhelming for them than it was for me, so I left the subject alone.
There would be time in the coming days to sit down and talk all this over. There was no need to rush things. I didn't want to overburden them with too much all at once. They needed some space, as I did. I got back to finish my nap. I was exhausted, and this time I didn't dream or think about anything. I let my mind rest as I slept the peace of the contented child.
Credits: Michael Avallone