In God’s Time
The year of 2009 is another ‘monumental year’ in my life. What began as a very normal year ended up being one of the most significant years of my life.
After being adopted I spent 10 years in a little town in the midwest called New Sharon in the State of Iowa and that is where I grew up. I graduated from high school at 17 years of age as one of the younger students in my class. I had no aspirations of going to college and quite honestly was just ‘drifting’ through life for the next year. I travelled during the summer & fall of 1973 with America’s only remaining tent theatre called the Schaffner Players Toby & Suzie show. In the spring of 1974 I married and that fall we moved to Tulsa, OK so that I could attend Rhema Bible Training Center for the next year. Prior to moving to Tulsa my new bride and I made an unannounced visit to the American Home Finding Association in an attempt to determine the whereabouts of my siblings. I thought that after I had reached adulthood I would have some leverage in my pursuit to find my brothers & sisters. This quest had been a desire of my heart from my earliest memory after being adopted. I was disappointed to learn that this information was not available unless one of the family members contacted the AHFA with a similar inquiry. I asked that they ‘flag’ my file so that if another family member contacted them I would be notified. I talked about looking for my siblings off & on for several years. But in those days information was difficult to acquire when looking for lost relatives.
Suddenly, after a full 23 years from my adoption I received a letter in 1986 from the AHFA stating that a grandparent had made contact with them and a meeting was arranged. [more detailed information can be found on the 1986 page]
After making contact with my grandfather and youngest sister Sally I was in continuous contact with her and her daughter Amiebrook for a full six months following our reunion in March of 1986. After Sally’s death in November of 1986 and the death of the grandfather in December of 1988 I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue my quest to find the other siblings. I had met my two half-sisters as a result of locating Sally. I had also met her parents (my aunt & uncle) and my grandmother. I sent Christmas cards to the two half sisters for a few years after Sally’s death, but none were returned. My assumption was that they didn’t really care anything about me, so I discontinued sending Christmas cards. Then out of the blue in the year that one of the half-sister’s daughter was to graduate from high school, I received a graduation announcement for her upcoming graduation in Columbia, MO which was the home of my half-sister. I responded by sending her a graduation gift which she graciously acknowledged. I also received a short letter from her mother (my half-sister) saying that she was sorry for not staying in communication with me. That was the last I have ever heard from her to this day.
Then again, 23 years after meeting Sally and grandpa Albertson, I received a telephone call from the American Home Finding Association stating that they had information for me and that I was to call within the next couple of days.
Reunited with John!
Just when I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would no longer pursue looking for the un-located of my siblings, I receive a message on my voice mail stating that the American Home Finding has information that might be of interest. Upon hearing that message I had a fair idea what the call may be concerning. I had a decision to make…… after losing Sally 23 years ago and being rejected a 2nd time by the other members of my biological family during that 8 month period of time, I had to ask myself: do I really want to do this? The natural questions of what will I find, what kind of lifestyles are they living, and other questions had to be over-ridden. Those were momentary thoughts, but thoughts none-the-less that I had to resolve quickly. I had pondered them from time to time and reasoned that it might be best for everyone involved if I went no further in that pursuit. I had already felt the silent rebuke of my adoptive family after meeting Sally as they acted as though they couldn’t care less about my desire. I certainly received no congratulations, or, we are so happy for you. Only a cool response was felt when I informed them that I had found Sally. That response really was an indication to me that they really didn’t care about me or my happiness. I was concerned that my adoptive dad & mom would feel shunned or at least feel badly that I wanted to reconnect with my natural family, so the decision was made to avoid contacting anyone as long as they were living. My adoptive father had passed away in November, 2003 but my mother was still living. I intended to keep my personal vow….. it is interesting to note that just prior to this series of events that my mother had made a comment to me about feeling badly that she had not encouraged me to pursue this action. I blew it off at the time, telling her that it really didn’t matter, and now I wish that I had listened more carefully to how she worded what was said. All I recall is the jest of it now.
Well, instantly the decision was made to call the American Home Finding Association. So, on Friday, July 31st, 2009 I returned the call and spoke with Tom Lazio who had been the director of the AHFA for over 40 years. Tom told me that the adoptive father of my brother John had called him seeking medical information about my biological family. Tom pulled our family file and gave him whatever information that was available. He also told John’s dad about the flag that was placed on the file stating that a brother of John’s had left word with them that he had an interest in contacting any family members that inquired regarding his siblings. Tom gave me the telephone number of John’s dad and informed me that he was willing to talk to me if I called him.
I called John’s dad immediately after talking to Tom and left a message in his voice mail asking him to return my call. Around 3:14pm or so John’s dad called and we talked at length about John and his family. That’s all that I will say about what that conversation contained. If at some point John wants to share his story I have created a page for him to do just that. Toward the end of our conversation I told John’s dad to let John know that I had called and if he wanted to re-connect I was willing to do that. I told him that John was my ‘buddy’ and about the little parting gift that John had given me prior to my leaving the home. I was told that John would be over to mow his lawn the next day and he would relay the information to John at that time.
A couple of days had passed since I spoke to John’s father and at this point I was beginning to think that John had decided against re-connecting with me. I was fine with that, it was totally his choice and I wasn’t going to force myself into his life against his wishes.
On Monday, August 3rd, 2009 I had an incoming telephone call on my personal cell phone from the same area code as John’s father’s call. I was at work and didn’t want to pick-up while I was working. No message was left and I chose to not return the call thinking that it would be better if they called me. After getting home from work that evening I received another call from the same number at around 5:11pm. I immediately answered the phone and the male voice on the other end of the line said ‘Richard’? I said ‘yes’ and he replied, “This is your little brother John”. After a brief exchange he said to me “I never thought that I would see you again”. He said that he had thought about looking for his siblings from time to time, but he didn’t think anyone really cared or they would have found him by now. I explained to him that I had made the first contact with the AHFA in 1974 shortly after being married and at that time attempted to locate my biological family.
We had a very pleasant visit that lasted roughly 23 minutes or so. I did a lot of the talking and shared quite a bit of information about what I knew of our family including my contact with Lawrence Albertson in the spring of 1986, contact and reunion with Sally (Elaine), her loss of life, etc. I spoke briefly about talking to our dad Richard and mom Marilyn Joyce.
John told me that Shirley (our sister) had been adopted into the same home that he had, but she was later returned to the American Home Finding Association.
The remainder of our conversation centered around a potential date for a meeting with John & his wife. We called each other frequently and finally decided upon August 16th, 2009 for our reunion. We selected Granite City Food & Brewery in Davenport, IA because Davenport was most likely the best place for a meeting before getting into Illinois. My oldest son Joe was going to be part of that meeting with John because we had been taking care of his dog while he and his family were out east looking for a house to buy due to a relocation of his job responsibilities. Planning out the timing and logistics of our first meeting was a challenge due to John’s job which required him to work 72hrs that particular week. Sunday was the only day available without postponing this event much longer. We agreed to meet in Davenport at Granite City at 11:00am.
The day finally arrived and we headed out on an overcast day with moderate temperatures. We arrived around 10:45am and chose a parking place. I was concerned for the dog’s sake, but as it worked out the sky remained overcast during most of the day. The sun came out after leaving the restaurant and after we had handed off the dog to my son. I thought that since I had arrived early I and had a little buffer of time on my hands, I was a bit surprised to find John and his wife already waiting inside the front door as I entered the restaurant. I was slightly surprise by the height of John when he stood up, he stood about 4″ taller than me! That’s NOT how I remember him. There was absolutely no doubt who he was because we had exchanged pictures prior to our meeting.
In preparation for this meeting I had compiled a lot of archived information that I had accumulated over the 23 years since my meeting with Lawrence and Sally. Some of those items included a document that I created shortly after Sally’s death that highlighted our meeting and the times that we had spent together. There was also a 90 minute cassette tape that I had received from Dick Bush and his 3rd wife, Marian. It was a rambling compilation of various topics of interest. And one of the most important things that I had held on to for years was a brochure that the American Home Finding Association has used as promotional literature for many years since the time of our adoption. The images of this brochure can be viewed on the 1962 page.
We had a very nice lunch which actually was a breakfast buffet. It didn’t really matter what we had to eat, the important thing was that I was getting the chance to visit and learn more about my little brother that I had not seen in 47 years. That is nearly one half of a century! Here is the picture of that meeting. We asked our table server to take this picture for us which she was very willing to do after we informed her of the circumstances surrounding this meeting.
After spending about 2 hours in the restaurant we left and met in the parking lot to decide where to go so that we could visit longer. We decided on a park that was fairly close. After arriving at the park we spent another 3 hours getting reacquainted and reminiscing about things that we remembered from those early years. We had a great time together. My wife & I felt so accepted by John and his wife. We believed that this meeting would develop into a life long relationship.
We exchanged a lot of personal information about our family’s, how we were raised, and the effects that the adoption process has had on each of our lives. The parallels in each of our lives was quite amazing. I explained to John that I was adopted due to my parents inability to have children of their own. My adopted mom had lost her 1st husband when she was 7 months pregnant with my new sister. Two months later mom gave birth to my sister and when the sister was around 2 years old mom remarried. After several years of being unable to conceive a child together they decided to adopt. That is where I came into the picture. My parents had gone to American Home Finding and after having watched the children playing in the courtyard had chosen a boy that they wanted to adopt. It wasn’t me that they wanted however. I told John that my dad had later told me on several occasions that I was not his first pick, but rather JOHN was the one that they wanted. They were told however that the oldest had to be adopted first, so they settled for me. Then, 3 years after I was adopted my mother became pregnant with my younger brother (10 years younger that I was). So the way it shook out was that the older sister belonged to my mom naturally and my younger brother belonged to both parents naturally. I was sandwiched in the middle not having a natural connection to either. In John’s case he was adopted into a home that had no children and was the only child for the first seven years. John said that his mother passed away and some time after that his father married again. His dad’s new wife brought three other children into the home and as time passed they had one child between them. Again, somewhat similar to my situation, the three children brought into the family with the second marriage of his dad belonged naturally to his new wife and the new sister belonged to both his mom and his dad.
Obviously there was a LOT of information exchanged between us, too much to document and too personal to share in a BLOG. What a wonderful reunion and I was so happy to be able to re-connect with someone who actually understood me and accepted me for who I was. I hadn’t really been anywhere he hadn’t been himself, we just took different paths. I am very proud of my little brother and grateful that God allowed this day to happen.
Part of our conversation revolved around our desire to re-connect with our sister Shirley. As it turned out, Shirley was brought into the same home as John, however several months afterwards she was returned to the American Homefinding Association to later be adopted by the family that had taken the youngest member of our family, David, into their home. I will let Shirley share this piece of the story . . .
On Sunday, September 6th, 2009 John and his wife as well as my wife and I met at my home and then drove on to Ottumwa where we had arranged to meet with Tom Lazio, director of AHFA, on a quest for any information that we could obtain about the circumstances surrounding our adoption. Tom was an extremely gracious individual who came in on his day off to meet with us. We had a lot of questions and Tom graciously answered what he could. We asked Tom to contact the adoptive parents of Shirley and ask if they would let Shirley know that John and I had met and we had asked that they notify Shirley of that fact as well as communicate to Shirley our desire to re-connect with her.
Reunited with Shirley!
Well, after waiting several weeks, the prospect of hearing from Shirley was growing dim…… then suddenly, on Wednesday, September 30th I received an e-mail from Tom Lazio stating “Just a note to let you know that I talked with David and Shirley’s parents this week. They will let both of them know of your interest in sharing information and possible contact. It will be up to each of them to contact me and express their interest as the parents did not want to give out any information without their permission. I feel certain that we will hear from them at some point in the future. I will keep you posted, signed TOM LAZIO”
Then it happened…… On Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 I received one of the most exciting e-mails that I could have possibly received. I was at work and during one of my breaks I logged into my personal e-mail account only to see an e-mail from Tom Lazio stating that he had been contacted by my sister Shirley and that she wanted to make contact with me.
Tom said in part: “I just got off the phone with Shirley who was in tears and thrilled to hear of your interest in “reconnecting”. “She has prayed for this news for years.” I told her that you would contact her and visit directly with her. I offered to send a picture of the two of you…”
It was all that I could do to restrain myself from calling her during my lunch break later in the morning…. but I knew that it would NOT be a short conversation, so I withstood the urge to call until after I had left work that day. After work that afternoon I called Shirley from my cell-phone while on my way home around 2:30pm that day. We talked approximately 47 minutes. I wanted to send her a few pictures and a document listing the places of birth, birth dates, and names of all of the siblings. We talked about a wide variety of subjects ranging from the Catholic nuns coming to the row house in Chicago, IL and picking me up for school, as well as experiences that we shared when we were still a family. At this point I asked her if she would mind my terminating the call so that I could send the pictures and other information. I told her that I would call her back right away after I had time to upload the pictures and other information. As it turned out, it was Shirley that called me back around 4:00pm and we talked another 68 minutes. The content of the conversation was totally random but incredibly informative. I cannot explain how wonderful it was to actually have met my brother and now only two months later having been able to re-connect with my little sister! We had a LOT of memories of each other to reminisce about.
During my conversations with Shirley (nearly every day for a couple of weeks) she stated that her husband Mike and her were planning to drive to Iowa in order to meet both John & me. That was an 888 mile trip! In follow-up calls that I had with John throughout the weekend he stated that Shirley wanted to spend a day with us and a day with John and his wife rather than meeting us jointly. In later communications with Shirley the dates had been set. They would be driving from Tennessee on Thursday, October 15th and arriving in Iowa on the 16th. The plan was that they would arrive at my home on Saturday morning and spend the day with us. Then they planned to spend the day with John & his wife on Sunday. After their brief visit they intended to head back to Tennessee! That was going to be a two day drive to get to see both of us and then turn around and drive two days back! That was an incredible desire on their part to see the ‘boys’. What else would you expect from a little sister.
SIDE-NOTE: I am extremely grateful to God for allowing me to have contact with both of my parents and Sally in 1986 as well as both maternal grandparents. That was 23 years ago. And now, 23 years after that reunion I am privileged to meet my brother John & sister Shirley as well as being able to make telephone contact with the youngest of our family, David. Unfortunately David has never re-established contact since the initial contact with him on October 9th.
Shirley & Mike arrived at our house sometime around 10:10AM on Saturday, October 17th, 2009. As they stepped out of their big Chevrolet crew-cab pickup truck and made their way to the house I walked out on the porch to meet them and give my little sister a long awaited hug. Mike had his cell phone in hand and took the first picture. After arriving inside the house I had Becky take another picture so that I would have this memory to look at from now forward.
Shirley was a little nervous as you may expect, but that nervousness melted away very quickly after we began our conversation with them. My first impression of Mike was quite favorable and this impression was only reinforced as the day wore on. Little SIS did good…
I had placed a file folder on the coffee table before them that was full of cards, documents, & letters that I had saved through the years. I made a point of handing Shirley a card that I had prepared in advance, written especially for her. I handed Shirley the cassette tape that I had dubbed off of the tape that I received from Dick & Marian Bush back in 1986. I also gave Mike a lapel pin from the Secret Service that I had as my gift to him.
I had brought a portable projector home from work in order to project pictures that I had on my laptop. We enjoyed those together as well as taking a look at my daughter Jennifer & my son Joe’s personal BLOGS. We also took a little time to take some pictures of each other in order to preserve the memory of their visit. Around 3:00pm we took a brief (10 min max) tour of New Sharon where I showed them the house that I grew up in as well as the high school that I attended and the trailer park that I lived in briefly after leaving home. I told them the story of the 1974 trailer fire that destroyed all of my belongings. We then headed to Pella, IA where we toured the Pella Corporation campus where I work and took time for a photo-op in front of the Corporate offices. After that we headed to Smokey Row (coffee shop) and visited for another hour or so before leaving to just walk through downtown Pella. We walked through the sunken gardens as well as downtown to see the store fronts (most businesses were closed) and ended up near the canal that runs beside the Royal Amsterdam Hotel and Monarch restaurant where I had made a 6:00pm reservation for dinner. We ate a nice Prime Rib/Shrimp buffet and we were served by a well mannered young Australian waiter.
After dinner we drove back to New Sharon and toured the church facility that was the new home of New Sharon First Christian church which was under construction. It had formerly been the New Sharon Care Center and I explained to them that this is where my adoptive father spent the last five years of his life. We got back to the house around 8:00pm and after a short conversation with Mike & Shirley we had a season of prayer with them and saw them off around 8:20pm or so. They were going to spend Sunday at John & Sandy’s home.