Have you ever flown across country with your whole family, to meet someone you didn’t know? We did, this Thanksgiving. And this is how it all went down:
In the early 70’s, my husband was adopted by a wonderful mom and dad who couldn’t have kids of their own. Adopted by people who gave him a great life, full of encouragement, confidence and the tools needed to be the great man that he is today.
At 36 years old, and 4 kids of his own, he began thinking about what it would be like to meet someone in this world that looked like him. Probably more curious than anything, he began a quest that would connect him with people from all over the country: from private investigators, and Catholic Charities, to loving nuns who took a personal interest in his story. Those nuns loved my husband so much, they called him after hours, sent emails and letters to make sure he found his birth mom.
This search, like a crossword puzzle across America, sent us to St. Paul, MN, a place neither of us had ever been. I’m from the South, he’s from the West and with one phone call from our sources, we knew her name, address and that he had 4 sisters. Wow!
My heart pounded for him. I was nervous to finally have the answers. But in cool fashion, my husband took it all in stride, was neither too excited or worried, just had a subtle smile on his face.
What would they be like? Had they wondered about him over the years? What were the circumstances behind his adoption? The questions were endless. Did they know they had 4 grandchildren?
Once we discovered her name, we found more than we expected on Facebook. It was amazing. We discovered they had a huge family, much bigger than mine or his, which he now brags about. One sister is a missionary in Africa, the others, quiet independent and successful in their own right. We even found his Grandma on Facebook.
They come from a long line of Farmers, who drive huge combines, with GPS Satellite systems and laptop computers. This was not the farming I knew, hoe-ing peas and bailing 100 acres of hay, when I was a kid. These guys farm 20,000 acres and sell their sugar to Pepsi and Little Debbie, their Yeast to Pizza Hut and McDonald’s. This is a smart man’s business. They have degrees in Agricultural Engineering with Master’s in Business. And I wanted to discuss 100 acres . . . the length of their driveway.
It was all I could do to not Facebook them and add them as a friend, but my husband had not contacted anyone, so he made me swear not to do anything crazy, just yet.
After sitting on this information for 3 months, we prayed, my husband wrote an incredible letter and with a big gulp, placed a stamp on it and dropped it in the mail. That’s it, no turning back. The letter started out . . . My name is John and I was born May 1973. Whoever opened this letter would for sure, take a pause, reliving that moment, as if it were yesterday. Waiting for a reply was grueling. Two days seemed like two weeks, and the letter had not even arrived. Would they be receptive of the letter? Did the husband know? Did the kids know? Would this turn their world upside down? Would it turn our lives upside down? The questions were much longer than the answers.
Within a day of the letter arriving, the sister who was the missionary in Africa emailed to say they had known for several years and always wanted a brother. Wow. All guards down, they were receptive of his letter. A couple of days later, his birth mom wrote and said “I always hoped you would find me.” Her husband and kid’s had known. She has 7 brothers and sisters, there are 25 cousins, many are successful farmers in North Dakota and invited us to come up for Thanksgiving to meet everyone.
Oh, Good Lord! This was exciting news. Really the best you could hope for. It’s amazing how God’s timing is greater than ours. He worked everything out for HIS glory. Because it was Thanksgiving, many of the family members were able to attend. One of the sisters agreed to fly in from Arizona. We booked our flights and chatted via email for weeks, getting to know each other. It’s funny because my husband is a quiet man, fairly reserved. The family members had so many questions, he found himself emailing one, while face booking another and chatting with still another, all at the same time. While he was answering questions on email, the one chatting would say: Are you still there? It was hilarious. He’s never had so much attention in his life. It was fun to see.
The mom’s husband sent an interesting email, a tale that seemed too far fetched to be real, like a story you would only see on the LifeTime network. He began to tell us that years after living in another city, they moved back to their hometown to have their 1st child together. They signed up for a lamaze class and turns out, across the room from the them was the birth father and his new wife who had also just moved back to their hometown. They were all 4 in lamaze class on that random Winter evening. Uncomfortable in this awkward situation, they headed for the door. And to make matters even more unbelievable, he said the day mom went into labor, the other couple was in the hospital room next door, having their first born, on the same day!! That’s amazing. He said, “The entire experience made us think of you.”
It was time to pack our bags, board the plane and fly to Minnesota, home of the Twins, Mall of America and cold weather in general.
4 kids, 2 adults, 8 pieces of luggage and a partridge and a pair tree. My 6 year old announced to everyone on the plane that he was going to meet his grandma for the first time. We had gasps from people sitting near us who thought our kids were a little old to be meeting their grandparents for the FIRST time; but after a little explanation, we were getting congratulatory offers from the crew and other travelers.
Upon arrival, it was like going to meet neighbors, people we didn’t know, but had a fondness for, until 6:30pm arrived and we were heading over to their house. My hands were sweating. I began video taping my husband, who thought I was going to upload it to Youtube or something; he didn’t seem to like the added pressure. I totally understood. Instead, I took that nervous energy and choose to remind the kids of their manners. Ok, remind . . . slash threaten them. As we pulled up to their house, the neighbors must have known the story too, because they were standing as spectators on the street, waiting to see the reaction. Her husband, quiet the comedian, helped us all out of the car.
As we walked into the house, the mom and sisters were standing at the door waiting to give everyone a hug. His mom’s first reaction was: “Wow, you’re tall.” He is: At 6. 5″ he’s very tall. I tried to imagine what it was like to meet one’s mom for the first time or mom meeting a grown son like that.
She was very kind, accommodating and just an interesting person to be around. It was like we had all known each other forever. The questions he had regarding the adoption, suddenly didn’t seem to matter so much. Everyone goes through tough times and while the reasons are private, they were validating and it was all water under the bridge.
Thanksgiving day was full of great conversations, board games, football, eating, drinking and laughing. There were accents of all kinds, melded together that day, from Southern and Mid-Western to the International students they housed from China, Africa and other parts of the world.
The mom said a few years ago she lost her wedding her ring and her husband replaced it with a 5 diamond “mother’s ring.” She said she thought: Ok, this represents my husband and 4 girls, until her son came into the picture; “now it represents my 5 children.”
The trip was a success. Everyone was so welcoming. We were even invited back. Mom discovered she had 4 grandchildren, her only grandchildren. She probably wasn’t prepared for that one. She went from a mom of 4 to grandma of 4. The kids enjoyed their new aunts and cousins, especially the older sister who chased them, took them to the park and the Holiday parade in 29 degree weather. The kids threw around the football with an aunt and played foosball with cousins. It was a treat for everyone. The grandma, was spunky and fun, full of life and sharp as a tack. She reached way up, touched my husband’s face, (her first grandchild’s face) as if she was figuring out who he looked like. I’ve never seen such acceptance and heartfelt love. We flew into their lives as strangers, but we left as family.
Thanks to all our Family members (old and new), you’ve invested in our hearts and enhanced our lives forever. And for those who may be adopted, we pray that your experience is equally as great. Celebrate Family – Wherever and however it comes!