I was adopted at two years of age. I grew up knowing this. But, I knew nothing else about my birth family or my first few years. In 2001, I reunited with my biological family. For various reasons, some having to do with my readiness and others having to do with the circumstances of adoption law, it took over 30 years for that reunion to occur.
At the time of my reunion, I thought it was the end of that journey. However, it turns out that it really was the continuation of what reunion had meant for me. It also signalled the beginning of a new journey, or, rather, journeys. Journeys into genealogy, relationships, family dynamics, self-discovery, and adoption itself.
My Reunion Story
Reuniting with my biological father and the large family that comes with him was pivotal in me discovering me. Self-discovery is never easy. And reunion is the proverbial emotional rollercoaster. But, the journey of learning who I am, what matters to me and what directions are right for me never seemed to get off the ground until I made that step to reunite. This is where that began.
My parents married when they were very young. When they separated about a year later, they realized the limitations in each of their lives for raising a child, and decided on adoption for me. They went to an adoption agency in San Francisco. I was 13 months old.
Many years later, my father tried to get information about my welfare. But, no information was available to him. Very little information was available to me, as well. My amended birth certificate made no mention of my mother and him as my biological parents. My first and last names had changed. As is the practice in adoption, only my adoptive parents’ names and my new names appear on my state issued, altered birth certificate. Even though it is the legal record of my birth event, it does not contain all factual information regarding my birth. The original birth record that holds this information is sealed by the state. It is not available even to me.
I grew up believing that my natural parents had abused me. The adoption agency had told my adoptive parents stories of being thrown from a motorcycle, tied to a bed and regularly left alone. A social worker from the adoption agency later told me these abuses weren’t true. She stated she didn’t know why my adoptive family was told this. But, I was not a newborn when I was relinquished. I suspect that the adoption agency tried to drum up some sympathy for me in an attempt to increase the odds of an adoption.
Gathering Information and Courage
My reunion story began about a decade before I reunited. That’s when I first reached out for information. I obtained non-identifying details about my birth family from the adoption agency in 1991. This gave me the first names of my parents, along with physical descriptions and a bit of family background for each of them. That was enough for me for a while.
In my mid-30s, I married for the second time. My new husband brought up the matter of looking for my first family. Although I hadn’t been considering it at this point, I gave it some thought. I felt ready to move forward. My husband encouraged me every step of the way. I hired someone to find last names for both my parents, then took it from there myself.
At the time, I had no experience with the Internet. In fact, I had very little meaningful experience with computers at all. But, I knew that this was my best bet. I bought my first PC specifically to search. I set it up, fired up the included AOL disk, and I was on my way. Sort of. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I did learn a lot as I muddled through. (At the time, I would have never guessed that years later I’d be enjoying a career in IT. You never know what useful new skills you may pick up while conducting a reunion search.)
It took about six months, but one day in September of 2001, I got up from my computer, walked into the living room and said to my husband, “I found him. My father.”
Meeting Again over Three Decades Later
The next day we drove to the two addresses I had found. There were no phone numbers in the listings. The first house turned out to be a home he used to own. The present owner knew him, though, and confirmed that the second address I had was correct.
Shortly after, we arrived at the second address. Approaching the front door, I felt terrified. My mouth was dry. My head was reeling. A woman answered the door. This must be his wife. I had thought several times on the way up, “What if his wife doesn’t know about me?” My attempts at speech were unintelligible. Finally, my husband told her that I was Russell’s daughter. She put her arms around me and said they’d looked for me, too.
My father was a work that day, so we sat with his wife for a bit. We learned about their attempts to locate me, or at least find out if I was okay. She gave us some background on their lives over the past decades. I met one of her daughters. At one point, she called my dad and asked him to come home. He was reluctant without a reason. But, she’d wanted it to be a surprise. So, she put me on the phone. Unsure at all what to say, I blurted out “Uh, dad, it’s Laurie and I’d like you to come home.” Dead. Silence. Then, “My Laurie?” I responded with a yes. I heard him mumble something about being on the way home, then the phone went quiet.
Face to Face
Soon afterward, my father and I looked at each other again for the first time since I was a bit over a year old. We hugged and we cried. He expressed how he had experienced sadness over the years, feeling a deep loss. My fear that he wouldn’t want to know me was now relieved. But, I realized that he, too, had dealt with similar fears about meeting me.
Today, my father and I continue a good relationship. And, my adoption reunion story continues to be written as it leads me to new relationships and directions. I’ve met an entire family, some who remembered me as a small child and others who never knew of me. Over the years, those numbers have grown. I now have relationships with biological family members across the country.