It’s been almost a year since “Aunt Donna’s” appearance as a close match on my DNA results solved the birthfather mystery. She enthusiastically broke the news of a long ago doorstep baby to her older brother who knew nothing of a pregnancy or a baby girl. “Give her my contact information and tell her I’ll write back,” he said. The ball was now in my court.
I struggled to put together a brief email message. His response was quick and accepting of the situation and me. My loss-for-words condition remedied itself as we exchanged many get-to-know-you messages in the days that followed. He didn’t shy away from my questions which required him to sort through long ago memories and try to fit new pieces into a puzzle that he didn’t know had holes.
Despite how unexpected and messy the situation, he was very welcoming. “You’re a secret to no one,” he declared and gave his blessing for the news to make the rounds within the extended family.
Email messages continued to flow between us. In an attempt to be unassuming and considerate of his feeings, yet brave and transparent, I asked if he was interested in us meeting. “Of course I want to meet you,” he answered. Knowing he was alive and well was one thing. Him knowing I existed was another thing. But meeting each other in person would bump the situation to an entirely new plane.
I wasn’t looking for a father. There was no “father hole” in my life because I’d been blessed with an awesome dad. But I still wanted to meet the man responsible for me being here. Anticipation and excitement built when, less than two months after that phone call from his little sis, plans came together for a trip to Hawaii, five months down the road, for father and daughter to meet.
me at 3 months with my dad
Fast forward to September 18, 2017
In less than thirty minutes, our plane will touch down in Hawaii. Not only have we never experienced the vacation-paradise-beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, we’ve also never met the man who’s picking us up at the airport.
“Are you nervous?” inquires my husband.
I shrug. “A little.” I am but I’m not. I’m kind of numb. Kind of going through the motions in a fog.
When he asks again five minutes later, I frown. “Would you stop? Are YOU nervous?”
“Yeah, a little,” he admits.
Last night was short, and today has been long. I think fatigue is contributing to my lack of emotion. And I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
There’s no playbook for this kind of thing. Meeting the man who both you and he discovered just seven months ago is your biological father.
I walk off the plane into semi-darkness on shaky legs. Just because I’ve been sitting for so long, right? It’s warm and breezy and humid. My hair that already looks bad blows in my face. I glance back at my husband to find him juggling his carry-on bag while recording my descent from the plane with his phone. Are you kidding me??
He shakes his head at my obvious disapproval and motions for me to get/keep going.
The airport resembles the open-air, outdoorsy setting you’d expect to find on the beach. People mill about in a much less frenzied manner than at any of the other airports we’d traveled through today. Fewer signs to direct unfamiliar, numb-minded passengers where to go. But I locate a bathroom and spend two minutes in front of a mirror trying to repair the damage of being up for twenty hours and on a plane for twelve plus hours.
And while my husband visits the facilities, I trade my socks and good-for-walking-long-distances tennis shoes that look dreadful with my outfit for a pair of comfy-but-less-supportive sandals that “go with” my now wrinkled attire. Because first impressions matter, right? Not that I have reason to believe this kind of thing is important to my newly-discovered family, but it makes me feel better.
I draw in several deep breaths, and we resume our search for baggage claim and our driver. My birthfather.
We spot each other from a distance. He smiles and points my direction. He’s tall and looks younger than his 75 years. The moment I’ve envisioned for months is just seconds away. It seemed the long-awaited reunion would never get here, but now I’m grateful for the months spent getting to know each other via dozens of email messages and two phone calls. At least we’re not complete strangers.
Those first moments are warm and fun, full of smiles, happy greetings, and a big hug. The very first words we exchange are not overwhelmingly memorable, but his expression and the sincerity of the welcome are undeniable. It’s comfortable, not awkward. And no tears. I didn’t think I’d cry. But who knew? There’s no playbook, remember? What could possibly prepare a person for such a moment?
We move on to the business at hand—retrieving the luggage that thankfully did not get lost despite the last-minute rerouting of our trip due to mechanical issues. We hustle it to the car, and soon we’re cruising down the highway in the deep darkness typical of Big Island nights. My numbed emotions have recovered a little, and my nerves that weren’t all that frazzled considering the occasion have calmed. But surreal doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of sitting next to this man I should have known all my life. The man who hasn’t shied away from making a connection with the daughter he had no idea existed.
I glance toward him as we exchange small talk. The resemblance I’d noticed in pictures is a bit stronger in person. Not as striking as the resemblance with my bio mom, maybe, but definitely noticeable. My entire life, I never looked like anyone, and now I look like both sides of my biological family. Awesome and amazing.
He gets us settled in at the hotel, and after another round of hugs, he leaves us with the reminder, “Your sister will be here any minute.”
My half-sister and her husband also live in Hawaii. I’m less nervous about this meeting but very excited to connect with her, the sister I never knew I had. Neither of us had a sister growing up. Three brothers for each of us but no sister. Until now.
Our dual-purpose vacation is off to a promising start. Oh, did I forget to mention? In addition to a once-in-a-lifetime family reunion, we’re also celebrating our 35thwedding anniversary with ten days in beautiful, sunny Hawaii, 4363 miles from home.
Up next, Chapter 4 — Finally a Sister
And then MUCH more about the family reunion and the Hawaiian adventure.
If you’re just tuning into my adoption search/reunion story, catch the beginning of the story here.