On a Tuesday about three weeks before the big trip to Hawaii to meet my birthfather, his wife, and my sister and her husband, a half-bro from that side of the family, from the opposite side of the country asked, “Is your schedule full up this Thurs – Sat?” Our schedule was far from empty that week, but there was no way I was going to say no. He was willing to use the last few days of his vacation time to travel from Maine, over a thousand miles, to meet us. So, I answered with an excited, “We’ll make it work.”
After months of long, late-night Facebook chats, we had yet to talk on the phone, but we’d covered a lot of ground and were well on our way to getting to know each other. And now he would be the first paternal family member I’d meet in person.
I guess it’s fitting that brothers were the first birth family members I met on each side since brothers are the family relationship I have the most experience with. The first was one of three older brothers. Now I was about to meet one of two younger ones, a brother born fifteen months after me.
I was surprised and I guess a little humbled that Alan would go to the trouble of booking a cumbersome itinerary to our out-of-the-way location, make a hotel reservation for two nights, and rent a car to visit the half-sister who’d blipped onto the family radar just six months ago. Would he like us? Or be disappointed he’d wasted time, money, and vacation days on a trip to the state he’d visited once and hated because it was so “so flat, no hills, no scenery . . .” We have other relatives who feel the same way. And they were born here.
Admittedly few people come to Indiana for a vacation. To see someone they know, yeah sure, but otherwise, not so much. We’re nice enough people, I think, but not very exciting to be sure. We’re ordinary. And practical. The doorstep detail is seriously the most interesting fact about us. Yet he wanted to come to Indiana. And I hadn’t even begged or twisted his arm.
The next day Alan’s confirmed flight plan sealed the deal. He would be here the NEXT day. As long as hurricane Irma didn’t interfere with his round-about itinerary. There was no time to get nervous. We were excited.
He too seemed excited when he announced to his Facebook friends our upcoming meeting. Another reminder of how the situation differed for this side of my birth equation. Finding out Dad fathered a child he never knew about was an entirely different story than learning that Mom had a secret pregnancy that resulted in a baby left on the neighbor’s doorstep.
The first night we had dinner and two plus hours of conversation, just the two of us. Then I stretched the tour of our small town to almost ten minutes before we said goodbye for the evening. I sent the picture the waitress took of us to our mutual father who immediately wrote back, “I see the family resemblance.”
The next night it was a family cook-out at our house where he met my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. “You’re not company, you’re family,” I commented, referring to the no-frills meal set-up. It felt like he belonged there. Like we’d known him a while. Not fifty some years, but it didn’t have the we-don’t-know-you-from-Adam feel a situation like this could have produced. All those late-night chats had rubbed the awkard, new edges off the relationship.
I was thrilled when Alan pulled out pictures of him and his siblings growing up. We pieced together from the age of the pictured children that some of the photos were taken very near the time I was born. I pored over the old snapshots—some yellowed, others with ragged edges—looking for resemblances to me, mentally fitting myself into the pictures. Alan strolled down memory lane, sharing a lot about his growing up years, as it corresponded with the history spread out on the coffee table in front of us. I drank in every detail, every word, imagining what it would have been like to grow up with him and our older brother and sister. He urged me to tuck some of the photos into my Hawaii-bound suitcase to share with the family there, including some pics from his, err, our dad’s younger days.
From our very first conversations, every time I would say “your dad,” Alan would correct with our dad. When I referred to him by his first name, as I usually did and still do, Alan would say, “You mean Dad?” He was more than willing to “share” our mutual parent with me. Something not all adoptees encounter.
People would have never questioned us growing up together as siblings because there’s a definite resemblance. He’s a hard worker, well-spoken and articulate, cares a lot about family and family connections, a people person who’s tuned into details. Words and phrases I’ve heard others use to describe me over the years. Many of these qualities can be traced back to our mutual father.
Alan sold us on the idea of a visit to Maine in the fall of 2018 and tasked me with getting “Dad” on board when we visited him in a couple weeks. The too-short, just under forty-eight hour visit ended with lunch at a local diner before he headed to the airport. But not before we took more pictures and shared one last hug.
Dates are penciled in on the calendar for a big trip to Maine this fall—a part of the country we’ve never visited—where we’ll meet more extended family. Thanks for the warm welcome to the family, Alan.
Next, Meeting the Bio Family: Chapter 3 — Birthfather